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The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "'To stay is to be killed'," Nov. 29, 2008

Miracle?

German doctors are reporting that a bone-marrow transplant meant to treat leukemia has left an HIV-infected patient without any signs of the AIDS-causing virus. Physicians Gero Hütter and Thomas Schneider intentionally sought out a bone--marrow donor with a genetic mutation known to resist AIDS. Now, more than 20 months after the procedure, no observable traces of the leukemia or HIV remain.

But Hütter and Schneider are reluctant to declare their 42-year-old American miracle patient cured. HIV is notoriously tricky, often lurking in the body at undetectable levels. Cocktails of HIV-suppressing drugs have long achieved similar results but have never succeeded in completely removing the virus from the body. The doctors also stress that bone-marrow transplants are an unlikely candidate for standard HIV treatment given their high risk for complications or even death.

Single-minded

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Exit polls showing that the majority of Catholic voters pulled the lever for Obama were barely in when the Roman Catholic Church redrew battle lines. At a strategy session of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore one week after elections, Cardinal Francis George challenged president-elect Barack Obama to rise above his party's position on abortion: "The common good can never be adequately incarnated in any society when those waiting to be born can be legally killed at choice." He also said Catholics do not have to "put aside some fundamental Catholic teachings on a just moral and political order." On Nov. 12, the conference issued a "single-minded . . . single-hearted" statement cautioning Obama against supporting the Freedom of Choice Act, saying it would remove state limits on abortion and coerce voters into supporting it with tax dollars. The bishops also ended their customary $1 million grant to ACORN, the community organizer group now under investigation for voter registration fraud and embezzlement.

The bishops' statement noted that voters were driven primarily by economic concerns, and the election did not represent an ideological referendum on abortion. The Catholic bishops were vocal throughout the election, with St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke saying the Democratic Party risks becoming "a party of death." But about 54 percent of Catholics still voted for Obama, up from 47 percent for Sen. John Kerry in 2004.

Voted out

The Fort Worth Episcopal diocese became the latest to vote overwhelmingly Nov. 15 to secede from The Episcopal Church over its views on sexuality and Bible interpretation. Covering 19,000 members in 24 Texas counties, it follows the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Quincy (Ill.), and San Joaquin (Calif.) to join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, part of the worldwide Anglican Communion that includes Argentina, Bolivia, and other South American countries. Severed ties may lead to messy legal battles over millions of dollars worth of church assets, as they have with other departing dioceses. But the move comes as a federation of more than 100,000 former Episcopal-ians is set to unveil a draft constitution Dec. 3 for the emerging Anglican Church in North America-"an important concrete step toward the goal of a biblical, missionary and united Anglican Church in North America," according to moderator and Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh.

Virus alert

Google will join this winter with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track flu outbreaks around the nation. The Google Flu Trends online tool will monitor users' internet searches for flu-related terms and then use that data to create a map of flu-affected areas. The search engine giant says the tracking system has the potential to detect influenza outbreaks up to two weeks earlier than traditional surveillance systems and could help health officials respond faster to cut the spread of disease.

KKK again

The leader of a Ku Klux Klan group shot and killed an Oklahoma woman Nov. 9 after she tried to back out of her initiation into the Louisiana-based chapter. Officers arrested Raymond Foster, 44, on second-degree murder charges and are holding seven other members who allegedly helped cover up the murder, which took place at a remote campsite north of New Orleans. According to investigators, the white supremacist group recruited Cynthia Lynch, 43, over the internet to participate in the ritual and then to enlist other members.

Fast freeze

From a nation of spenders to savers in record time, Americans say they are making serious personal cutbacks as third-quarter declines in GDP indicate the United States has entered a recession. In record percentages they are cutting back on:
Holiday travel: 63%
Eating out: 81%
Entertainment: 72%
Household services: 37%

Source: USA Today/Gallup Poll

Backlash

If democracy doesn't fall your way, try anarchy. That seems to be the message among some gay marriage supporters around the country after voters in three states-California, Florida, and Arizona-affirmed traditional marriage on Election Day. Vandals spray-painted Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, which served as an official collection point for petitions to get Proposition 8 on the California ballot. In Palm Springs, an angry crowd gathered outside city hall to protest Prop 8's passage, and when an elderly Prop 8 supporter walked in front of the crowd carrying a large styrofoam cross, dozens of men surrounded her shouting, "No! No!" One man knocked the cross from the woman's hand and stomped on it. On Nov. 8, a group calling itself Bash Back stormed a Sunday service at Mt. Hope, a 4,000-member mega-church near Lansing, Mich. Demonstrators marched outside the church then poured into the sanctuary, shouting gay slogans, throwing leaflets, and pulling a fire alarm.

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