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The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "News of the Year," Dec. 27, 2008

Playing it cool

Global warming has stopped. Carbon dioxide emissions have not decreased. And climatologists the world over are taking notice. A 231-page report that documents skepticism of climate change alarmism dropped this month citing the views of some 650 prominent international scientists. The document, an update from a 2007 U.S. Senate Minority Report that cited 400 dissenters, directly challenges the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN body warning of calamitous climate outcomes if greenhouse-gas emissions are not substantially reduced.

Among this new batch of dissenters are some former members of the IPCC, who have since come to disagree with the view that global warming is man-made. "Global warming has become a new religion," Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever announces at the document's outset. "I am a skeptic."

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Similar sentiments echo throughout dozens of other skepticism-laced statements included in the document. Japanese scientist Kiminori Itoh, a former IPCC member, dubs the inducement of fear over warming a "scientific scandal" and says that people "will feel deceived by science and scientists" when they learn the truth. Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association goes one step further in decrying the message of advocates like Al Gore: "It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don't buy into anthropogenic global warming."

NAE ouster

NAE ouster

Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals, has resigned after an interview on NPR's Fresh Air. "I would willingly say that I believe in [same sex] civil unions. I don't officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I don't think," Cizik told host Terry Gross.

Upon hearing such comments, NAE president Leith Anderson promptly asked Cizik to close his 28-year tenure with the organization. He explained to NAE board members that Cizik "made statements that did not appropriately represent the values and convictions of NAE and our constituents. Although he has subsequently expressed regret, apologized, and affirmed our values, there is a loss of trust in his credibility as a spokesperson among leaders and constituents."

For many evangelicals, that loss of trust took place years ago. Cizik's repackaging of global warming theories under the banner of "creation care" led him to champion green political causes that other evangelical groups opposed. In March 2007, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and two dozen other evangelical leaders called for Cizik's resignation.

Barrett Duke of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission reacted to Cizik's departure with a sentiment common among evangelical leaders: "I was deeply saddened, but I wasn't surprised," he said. "Rich has been traveling in (progressive) circles more. He's been closer with folks who hold to those opinions more. And sometimes our associations rub off on us."

Sin no more

Sin no more

Oxford University Press editors culled a number of religious and historical words from the latest edition of its Junior Dictionary in a move aimed at reflecting Britain's modern, multicultural, and multi-faith society. Words that got the boot included bishop, coronation, empire, monarch, nun, and sin, while new additions included blog, broadband, celebrity, MP3 player, and voicemail. Company spokeswoman Vineeta Gupta defended the company's decision, saying the size of the dictionary ("little hands must be able to handle it") limits how many words are included.

Aid approved

Aid approved

While all eyes were on the auto bailout debate last week, Congress passed a bill to provide federal aid to victims of trafficking both in the United States and abroad. The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act has been renewed now three times in Congress since it was first introduced in 2000, and has had the support of anti-trafficking groups like International Justice Mission (IJM) as well as lawmakers from both parties.

The legislation adds a provision for minor aliens to be handled quietly by the Department of Health and Human Services, giving the agency exclusive oversight of the eligibility of illegal minors to receive federal aid. HHS will inform the departments of Justice and Homeland Security when they make decisions about illegal minor victims, essentially distancing law enforcement from them. IJM argues that many victims of trafficking who are aliens are fearful of U.S. law enforcement officials, so this provision helps victims overcome their fear and seek help. Some conservative experts, though supportive of the bill, are concerned that this addition could turn every minor's case into victim advocacy, when law enforcement may have a legitimate role to play in some circumstances.

Guard duty

Guard duty

Fed up with holiday thieves, a number of churches, synagogues, and governments resorted to high-tech methods this year to protect their nativity scenes and Christmas décor: They installed hidden cameras and mounted GPS tracking systems inside the figurines. New York-based BrickHouse Security even offered up to 200 nonprofit religious institutions a free month's use of security cameras and GPS products. "It's sad," said Rabbi Yochonon Goldman, who is taking advantage of the special offer to protect property at the Lubavitch of Center City in Philadelphia, 
". . . but it's the reality we're faced with."

Priced down

Priced down

In the last 61 years consumer prices never dropped as much as they did in November. The Labor Department reported last week that prices fell 1.7 percent for the month, and that was on top of a 1 percent drop in October. Falling energy prices led the decline, as a gallon of gasoline that ran over $4 in the summer was priced under $2 by November.

Fearing a deflationary spiral, in which ever lower prices prompt companies to cut production and slash jobs, the Federal Reserve on Dec. 16 cut the federal funds rate to a range of zero percent to 0.25 percent, an all-time low. The hope is that the lower rate will spur economic activity, and the Fed panel made its expectations for future action clear in a statement: "The committee anticipates that weak economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for some time."

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