Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Schock factor," Jan. 31, 2009

In the latest Dec. 31 ruling, Bucks County Judge C. Theodore Fritsch Jr. agreed that the York County decision was too narrow: "To interpret 'church' as merely a physical place of worship would limit persons who are authorized to perform a marriage in the Commonwealth to only those religious officials who preside over a group of worshipers in a specific building."

Hate mail

"If I had a gun, I would have gunned you down along with each and every other supporter." After some Proposition 8 donors received that and other threats via postcards sent to their homes and businesses, the conservative Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) took legal aim at California's Political Reform Act of 1974. The law requires public disclosure of some political donors' personal data, including their full names and home addresses. For people donating more than $100, the law also requires the disclosure of each donor's employer's name and business address. In a class-action suit filed Jan. 7 in U.S. district court, ADF contends the law unconstitutionally chills free speech and participation in the electoral process since groups such as CalifornianAgainstHate.com have used Prop 8 donors' personal data to threaten and/or harass them. At least one donor lost her job after her employer learned she had supported the measure, which reversed a state Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage. In Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court ruled that in certain cases, the government's interest in open records may take a back seat to free speech if a group can show that such disclosure caused "economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercion, and other manifestations of public hostility."

Lost in translation

The release of a new study claiming that abstinence pledges make little difference in preventing sexual activity among teenagers (see WORLD, Jan. 17) created a firestorm when news outlets seized upon the findings as evidence that abstinence education is pointless. But according to U.S. News & World Report health editor (and former head of the Red Cross and National Institutes of Health) Bernadine Healy, the media reports misled. Healy discovered that it was only when the study's researchers compared virginity-pledging teens with non-pledging teens from similar religious and conservative backgrounds that the two groups' sexual behaviors were similar. She noted that "-virginity pledging teens were considerably more conservative in their overall sexual behaviors than teens in general-a fact that many media reports have missed cold." Also overlooked was the fact that the more sexually restrained teens exhibited certain traits, such as a higher level of religious belief and involvement with religious activities, participation in a weekly youth group, fewer friends who drink or use illegal drugs, and a strong sense of guilt about having sex before marriage.

Dawn treading

Reports since Christmas that Disney had opted out of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader film production had fans of the Narnia series wondering if the third installment promised in the Walden Media/Disney deal would ever happen. Walden, originally planning to begin filming this spring for a May 2010 release, now must find a new business partner.

That hunt is well underway, according to sources connected with the production, and the filming schedule appears to be on track, with pre-production and subsequent filming set to take place in Australia and other locales. Michael Apted, who directed Walden's William Wilberforce production, Amazing Grace, will direct the third installment based on the seven-book C.S. Lewis classic. Disney cited "budgetary and logistic reasons" last month in announcing that it would not exercise its option to co-finance and co-produce Dawn Treader.

John Doe letters

The Army owes 7,000 people an apology-and admits it. The service branch is sending personal apology letters to family members of 7,000 fallen soldiers after its Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center in December sent letters addressed to "Dear John Doe." Meant as a helping resource, the letters contained information about groups that assist surviving families. But a printing contractor failed to replace the "Dear John Doe" placeholder with specific names and addresses, the Army said. The Pentagon learned of the error when families called to complain. In a Jan. 7 statement, Army adjutant general Brig. Gen. Reuben D. Jones said, "There are no words to adequately apologize for this mistake or for the hurt it may have caused."

High seas, high stakes

Shippers afflicted with Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden may have found a deterrent better than any navy. Pirates in Somalia released two foreign-owned ships, a Turkish chemical tanker and a bulk carrier from Japan, and promised to release a Ukrainian vessel after five Somali pirates who hijacked a Saudi supertanker drowned with their shares of $3 million in ransom delivered in cash Jan. 9. Three pirates survived but also lost their bounty. Locals recovered over $150,000 when one body washed ashore along the Somali coastline Jan. 11.


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