On April 15 thousands of protesters donned their three-cornered hats, hung tea bags from their American flags, and gathered in nearly 900 cities across the 50 states for Tax Day Tea Party protests. Lucy Walker, a New Yorker carrying a sign that said "D.C. pirates are hijacking America's wealth," called Obama "the pirate president." In Washington children joined in with signs like, "Save some money for me. I'm 10 years old." Conservative talk show host Mike Church told the rain-soaked audience, "This is not civil disobedience. This is constitutional obedience."
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told the New York crowd to give their legislators an ultimatum: "If you vote against America's future, we're gonna fire you."
Of the grassroots movement. Julia Hayden, spokeswoman for the San Antonio Tea Party Committee, said, "It's a very loose organization. . . . We all seem to be moving more or less in the same direction and thinking along the same lines, but it's not systematic." But Rebecca Wales, lead organizer for the Washington D.C. tea party, said databases are growing and "everybody who has signed up has gotten at least one email with a 'next step.'" Those next steps include local forums, more rallies on the Fourth of July, and a September march in Washington.
Thursday (April 16), Cuban president Raoul Castro: "We are open, whenever they want, to discussing everything: human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners-everything they want to discuss."
Friday (April 17) President Barack Obama speaking in Trinidad at the Summit of the Americas: "I am prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues-from drugs, to migration and economic issues, to human rights, free speech and democratic reform."
Saturday (April 18) White House spokesman Robert Gibbs: "We will continue to evaluate and watch what happens, we are anxious to see what the Cuban government is willing to step up to do."
Although Obama ordered the lifting of travel restrictions and financial remittances with Cuba, he did not, as many presumed, formally lift the U.S. economic embargo in place against the island nation since 1962. But a significant thaw in relations has come alongside an April report by the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), once the strongest proponent of the embargo, advocating direct diplomatic engagement and lifting of the aid and travel restrictions. CANF was founded by a leader of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, and for over 25 years lobbied to keep the embargo in place.
Meeting in London in April, the one-year-old organization of biblically orthodox Anglican primates known as GAFCON voted to formally recognize the emerging province of conservatives on this side of the Atlantic, the Anglican Church in North America. The action is significant because it is the first time a majority of the church's archbishops worldwide is, in effect, disassociating itself from the Episcopal Church.
Warnings and releases
Confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad remains on U.S. soil, technically, at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. But of the 71 Pakistanis imprisoned at the facility, 63 have been sent back to Pakistan. Eight are still in prison: Abdul Rehman, Ali Abdul Aziz, Majid Khan, Saifullah Paracha and Muhammad are among those eight-all linked directly to the 9/11 attacks against the United States. Only 241 of almost 800 total detainees remain at Guantanamo following President Barack Obama's decision to close the facility within the year.
Repatriating the suspected jihadists continued even as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued her strongest warning yet over al-Qaeda and Taliban bases in Pakistan. In April 22 testimony before a House panel she warned of advances "now within hours of Islamabad, that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state, a nuclear-armed state."
`Computer spies have broken into the Pentagon's $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project, the Defense Department's costliest weapons program-according to current and former government officials who spoke to The Wall Street Journal. But while some officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the intruders were able to copy and siphon off extensive data, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman and Chief Financial Officer Bruce L. Tanner of Lockheed Martin, which makes the aircraft, said such attacks are not uncommon and have not involved sensitive information related to design and weapons systems. Similar break-ins have also breached the Air Force's air-traffic-control system in recent months. Some defense analysts say officials are drawing more attention to cyber-attacks ahead of an Obama administration report due this month that is likely to call for a "cyber-security czar" and increased spending on cybersecurity. Pentagon officials said they traced the latest intrusions with a "high level of certainty" to known Chinese internet protocol addresses. If true, it would be the most recent in a series of cyber-attacks linked to China.
A $1.85 trillion deficit projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for fiscal year 2009 is nearly triple the actual deficit for fiscal year 2008 and is $100 million more than White House projections.
The U.S. Supreme Court on April 20 declined to review the case of a death row inmate who claimed jurors violated his rights when they consulted the Bible. In March 1998, Khristian Oliver, 31, of Waco, Texas, and three accomplices broke into the home of Joe Collins, 64. Oliver shot Collins to death and also bludgeoned him with the barrel of a gun. Oliver's co-defendants drew sentences of from five to 99 years in prison, but the jury sentenced Oliver to die. In appealing a 2008 5th U.S. Circuit Court decision upholding Oliver's sentence, defense attorneys argued that jurors were unduly influenced by non-evidentiary factors, in particular, Numbers chapter 35, which says, "But if he struck him down with an iron object, so that he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death." Oliver's attorneys claimed jurors consulted the passage during sentencing deliberations, but prosecutors argued there was no evidence jurors voted based on the Bible or any religious discussion. At a lower court hearing, jurors testified variously concerning the presence and use of the Bible, including how many volumes were present and when jurors read them. One juror said the reading occurred only after the panel had made its decision.
A group of storms that swept through the Southeast just days before Easter claimed the lives of five people and left a trail of destruction. Within hours of the storms, Samaritan's Purse dispatched a disaster relief unit to Mena, Ark., where a tornado created a 40-mile path that destroyed 300 homes April 9 in the town of 5,000. Samaritan's Purse volunteers worked alongside other relief groups like God's Pit Crew to clear away debris and to help families sort through the rubble. The Convoy of Hope also provided two tractor-trailers filled with 80,000 pounds of water, nonperishable food, and cleaning supplies. Meanwhile in Murfreesboro, Tenn., where a tornado killed a 30-year-old woman and her infant daughter on Good Friday, area churches sprang into action to provide clean-up aid as well as food, water, even portable toilets to storm victims.
A total of 750 Christians have been murdered in Iraq in the past five years, according to the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, Louis Sako. The number includes the archbishop of the Chaldean church in Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, who was kidnapped and killed in 2008. Last month four Iraqi Christians were killed in Baghdad and Kirkuk within 48 hours of one another. Church officials said they did not know if the killings were related, or whether random gunmen, armed gangs, or Islamic jihadists carried them out. On April 1 one man was gunned down in Kirkuk, and the following day three were killed in Dora, a historically Christian neighborhood in Baghdad that has been systematically emptied in the last two years by insurgent violence. The killings "put a renewed fear in our hearts," said Julian Taimoorazy, president of Iraqi Christian Relief Council, speaking to International Christian Concern. "What we need is a more safe and secure Iraq for all Iraqis, especially for the Christians who have faced ethno-religious cleansing."
Casualties of violence remain down in Iraq but officials are concerned about recent apparent targeted attacks against specific groups. On April 20 a suicide bomber struck at an army post south of Baghdad where members of the Awakening Council were waiting to collect paychecks-killing 9 and wounding 31. The council fighters are themselves former insurgents who switched sides to support Iraqi and U.S. forces for pay.
The Massachusetts House on April 15 released a budget that axed $850,000 in funding for pro-homosexual programs in public schools. The line-item zero marks the first time since the early 1990s that a state budget contained no money earmarked for pro-gay school programming. Such programs have included an elementary school curriculum that normalizes homosexuality, campus-based gay clubs, and a transgender prom. The House action followed a full-court press by state conservatives: MassResistance, a pro-family group, lobbied the statehouse while citizens, angered over a March 2008 statement by the Massachusetts state commission on homosexuality that "homophobic parents are the problem," phoned legislators and wrote letters. The state budget now passes to the Senate where, MassResistance warns, liberal lawmaker Therese Murray and others have in past years succeeded in reversing cuts to homosexuality-related public-school programs in the name of "student safety." And in the House one hurdle remains: Pro-gay legislators have introduced amendments that could shoehorn the funding back in. On April 20, MassResistance held a meeting to organize people in House Speaker Robert DeLeo's district "just to make sure the amendments don't go through," said MassResistance president Brian Camenker. "The district is very conservative, but since he was elected Speaker, Deleo had appeared at some fundraisers for the homosexual lobby. I don't think that's sitting very well in his district. We still think we're going to win this fight."
Man knows not his time
Ben Edwards, 77, for 35 years the CEO and chairman of A.G. Edwards & Co., died April 20 of prostate cancer. The company was one of the 10 largest brokerages in the country, and for most of its history the only one not headquartered in New York. Edwards was a counter--cultural manager and known to all who worked with him as a committed Christian with an executive formula embodying simple adherence to the Golden Rule: Clients first, then employees, and then shareholders. The plan worked: Under Edwards' leadership, the company grew from 40 offices to more than 700 nationwide. After his retirement in 2001, in a move he vigorously resisted, the company was sold to Wachovia Bank and all but dismantled in Wachovia's 2008 meltdown-and with it most of Edwards' personal estate. He remained indomitably cheerful: "I am the most blessed man I know," he told WORLD last November.