Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "The Obama era," Feb. 14, 2009

Tainted sentencing

Chinese courts handed down death sentences Jan. 22 to two men involved in the tainted-milk scandal that killed at least six children and sickened thousands more last year. Authorities allege that Zhang Yujun and Geng Jinpin intentionally produced or sold dairy products laced with melamine, a toxic chemical used to inflate the milk's protein levels. Several others also received sentences, including dairy executive Tian Wenhua, who will serve life in prison for continuing to produce and sell the contaminated milk even after her company, Sanlu Group, learned it was dangerous.

The sentencing brings little satisfaction to Chinese families who say the perpetrators are scapegoats. More than 20 companies sold the tainted milk, but thus far the government has prosecuted only Sanlu's executives. Some parents allege that officials, in an attempt to avoid embarrassment, covered up the scandal ahead of the summer Beijing Olympics and others question why government officials and health inspectors have yet to face scrutiny for their glaring oversight.

Mi casa es su casa

Author and pastor Rick Warren has reportedly told a number of Anglican leaders that he is willing to aid dissident Episcopal churches "who need a place to meet, or if you want to plant a new congregation," according to EP News, by sharing facilities on the campus of Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

About 100 Episcopal church congregations have split from the mainline church hierarchy over orthodoxy issues, and last month the California Supreme Court ruled against a Newport Beach parish, saying departing churches have to give up their property.

Free speech now

Yuba Community College permitted free speech on its Sacramento, Calif., campus-but only for an hour at lunchtime on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And then only with a permit secured two weeks in advance. So last year police threatened student Ryan Dozier with arrest and expulsion for engaging in evangelism in a park-like area of the campus. But in a settlement reached Jan. 23, Yuba officials agreed to correct the school's speech code and clear Dozier's record.

Little blue book

The Jan. 12 release of a new pocket book anthology of quotations from President Barack Obama's speeches and writings is generating controversy for its likeness to Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, the "Little Red Book" that was required reading during China's Cultural Revolution. According to the History Company's website, Pocket Obama "is an unofficial requirement for every citizen to own, to read, and to carry this book at all times." Company spokesman Jeff Turback told WORLD the book has been pretty popular-it has already sold out once on Amazon.com. "We've gotten a lot of positive comments and an amazing amount of negative comments [about the book]," Turback said. "It was done with a good spirit but people are really polarized about Barack Obama."

Man knows not his time

Simultaneously called one of the most theological American novelists and one of the most sexually and otherwise explicit, John Updike died Jan. 27 at age 76 of lung cancer. The author of dozens of novels, short stories, and other works was a Pulitzer and National Book Award winner and a favorite of critics. Updike died with a collection of short stories set to be published in June.

"My subject is the American Protestant small-town middle class," Mr. Updike said in a 1966 interview for Life magazine. "I like middles," he continued. "It is in middles that extremes clash, where ambiguity restlessly rules."

Haggard

As HBO prepared to premiere The Trials of Ted Haggard, a documentary about the fallout from the former pastor's 2006 sex and drug scandal, more trials surfaced. A former volunteer at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., where Haggard, 52, was pastor, revealed that Haggard performed a sex act in front of him in a hotel room in 2006 and sent him thousands of explicit text messages. Grant Haas, who was 22 at the time of the incident, also provided KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs documents that showed he was to be paid $179,000 by New Life through this year. Haas claims he is coming forward now because the church did not follow through on promises to pay for his counseling and medical treatment.

Haggard, who headed the National Association of Evangelicals from 2003 to 2006 and was listed by Time magazine as one of the top 25 most influential evangelicals in America, said in a statement released Jan. 26 that he met with Haas two years ago-after the first allegations came to light-and asked him for "forgiveness for our inappropriate relationship."

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