Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Northern light," Sept. 20, 2008

9/11 OK, just no terrorism

Only days before the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, UN leaders rallied to fight terrorism-only they couldn't agree on how to define it. The UN's 192 member states pledged to address the conditions that spread terrorism, but describing a "terrorist" has stymied the UN's four-year effort to draft a counterterrorism accord. A planned Sept. 9 symposium was in question because some nations demand an exemption for "freedom fighters," including Hamas militants who battle Israel.

Out of Anbar

The U.S. military in Iraq on Sept. 1 reached a major milestone, handing over control of once-violent Anbar province to Iraqi forces. The transfer of security responsibility is significant for a number of reasons. First, Anbar, the birthplace of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was once a terrorist stronghold and feared lost for good. Second, Anbar is not an outlying or remote province, but borders Baghdad, signaling U.S. confidence in Iraq's newly trained military. Finally, the transfer means that control of 11 of 18 Iraqi provinces has now been handed to Iraqi security forces.

"Not long ago, Anbar was one of the most dangerous provinces in Iraq," President Bush said in a statement. "Al Qaeda was in control of almost every major population center, and its leaders intended to turn Anbar province into a safe haven from which to plan and launch further attacks against Iraqis and others in the region, as well as here at home."

Deadlocked dreams

News that a U.S.-Vietnam adoption agreement expired Sept. 1 dashed the hopes of hundreds of families seeking to adopt a Vietnamese child. The indefinite suspension of all U.S. adoptions follows months of disagreements between the two countries over allegations that officials stole children from their parents and sold them to American families. Earlier this year, Vietnam stopped accepting new U.S. adoption applications after a U.S. government report accused Vietnam's adoption system of corruption and fraud. This marks the second time in recent years that the United States has shut down the adoption program due to similar concerns.

Lost letters found

Decades after a Bedouin shepherd stumbled upon the famed Dead Sea Scrolls, technological advancements have uncovered additional text never before decipherable on the ancient biblical manuscripts. Using infrared technology, the Israel Antiquities Authority recently began digitally photographing the scrolls in order to monitor their condition. After the initial scans came back, officials noticed that the images contained letters that had never before been seen. Israel Antiquities Authority head of conservation Pnina Shor told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation it was "like letters coming back to life." Once the digital scans of the scrolls are completed, the Israel Antiquities Authority plans to make them available on the internet where anyone can view them.

Eighty and counting

Anne wore a white wedding veil, and when her husband Dominick kissed her, he laid his hand on her heart. But the Cosentinos aren't newlyweds. The Clearwater, Fla., couple just celebrated 80 years of marriage. Married in 1928, Mr. and Mrs. Cosentino met when he was 18 and she was 16. Now, they're 98 and 96, and attend a Clearwater Catholic church. The secret to a lifelong marriage? Couples "shouldn't anticipate their entire marriage will be rosy," Mrs. Cosentino told the St. Petersburg Times, "but compassion and devotion can keep them together."

Sun spotting

Reports that August was the first month since 1913 without a single recorded sunspot took a hit when two leading climate watch organizations determined that one small speck on Aug. 21 and 22 should count as a spot. Nevertheless, the minimal amount of solar activity is striking given its correlation to cooling global temperatures. The eight-month stretch from January through August this year was the coldest for that period since 1994. And August alone was .22º C cooler than August 2007.

The connection of dropping temperatures to solar inactivity is not new. William Livingston and Matthew Penn, scientists at the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, Ariz., predicted in a 2005 report that sunspots would vanish completely within a decade, leading to far cooler temperatures on earth. Many scientists, especially those convinced that global temperatures have more to do with greenhouse gases than solar cycles, scoffed at the prospect of dramatic cooling. But the occurrence of a near spotless month amid falling temperatures lends credence to the Livingston-Penn theory, one that holds far greater potential for calamity than even the worst of Al Gore's warming scenarios.

Plank protection

Pro-life analysts say the pro-life plank hammered into the Republican Party's platform this year is the strongest in the history of the party. It includes the same language on babies' fundamental right to life but then adds some language that Texas delegate Kelly Shackelford introduced: "At its core, abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life. Women deserve better than abortion." The platform also opposes partial-birth abortion, and-to clearly differentiate from Democratic rival Barack Obama-supports the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.

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