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The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Ready or not, here we go," March 28, 2009

Zimbabwe crash

His face swollen from injuries sustained in a March 6 car crash that killed his wife, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told mourners: "It will be difficult to fill in the gap. We have gone through trials and tribulations together, I know it's painful, but let's mourn with hope."

The 57-year-old leader of Zimbabwe's main opposition party for over a decade, Tsvangirai had dodged death threats from the government of President Robert Mugabe, with whom he formed a unity government only six months ago. But Tsvangirai ruled out foul play as the cause of a car crash that injured him and killed his well-regarded wife of 31 years, Susan. The Tsvangirai vehicle rolled after a truck slammed into it south of Harare on a dangerously potholed road, neglected like much of Zimbabwe in an economic crisis that has brought 90 percent unemployment, hyperinflation, and severe shortages of basic foods, medicine, and fuel.

Buyers beware

Federal investigators working to out sex trafficking across the country have long targeted pimps and prostitutes in their prosecutions, overlooking the purchasers of sex for reasons of efficiency. That may be changing. John F. Wood, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, has filed charges against three buyers under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a federal statute carrying heavy penalties. The move represents the first time since the statute's passage in 2000 that federal authorities have used it to try "johns."

"We are aggressively responding to an alarming market for child prostitution by attacking this issue on all fronts," Wood said. "We are prosecuting those who coerce children into prostitution, as well as their customers who create the demand for child sex trafficking."

That new approach is a victory for Linda Smith, founder and director of Shared Hope International ("Shame of the cities," Feb. 28, 2009). The former congresswoman has insisted for several years that stiff prosecutions of men who purchase minors for sex are as critical to undermine the industry as cases against pimps: "This is very important, because it means that instead of a slap on the wrist or john school or a fine, these men will be treated as the criminals they are for buying a slave. This is only the beginning." The latest round of Operation Cross Country, an FBI initiative aimed at liberating children from sexual slavery, included arrests of numerous buyers as well as pimps. Stings in 29 cities across the country resulted in the freeing of 48 minors and arrests of 571 buyers and sellers. Smith estimates that many dozens of johns are included in that number, though the FBI has yet to parse the figures officially.

Minority status

The Supreme Court on March 9 ruled 5-4 that the Voting Rights Act does not require the creation of voting districts that would give a minority group "swing" power if that group makes up less than 50 percent of a district's population. The case, Bartlett v. Strickland, arose after North Carolina law-makers redrew voting districts to maximize the possibility of minority voters electing a candidate of their choice, even though those voters no longer held the majority in the population following the 2000 census. The matter may now revert to Congress ahead of the 2010 census and more redistricting.


Bernard L. Madoff faces life in prison for running what federal agents call the largest fraud in Wall Street history. Madoff, 70, who pleaded guilty March 12 in New York, operated a vast Ponzi scheme that began at least 20 years ago and involved nearly $65 billion, according to federal investigators. Madoff bilked everyone from celebrities like filmmaker Steven Spielberg and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel to universities and charities.

Grad woes

College seniors face a grim job outlook when they graduate this spring. According to a new report, member companies in the National Association for Colleges and Employers (NACE) plan to hire 22 percent fewer new graduates this year than they did last year. Among those surveyed, which include employers from all sectors of the work force, 44 percent said they plan to hire fewer new graduates, while another 22 percent do not plan to hire at all. Exception: federal agencies.


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