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Associated Press/Photo by Gary Tramontina

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Playing with capitalism," May 23, 2009

Man knows not his time

Jack Kemp, the former pro quarterback, U.S. congressman, HUD secretary, and vice presidential candidate, died May 2 of cancer. Self-described as a "bleeding-heart conservative," Kemp, 73, is best known for his work championing across-the-board income tax cuts, which President Ronald Reagan adopted during his 1980 campaign and later incorporated into the 1981 Economic Recovery Tax Act.

His family issued a statement saying, "Jack Kemp passed peacefully into the presence of the Lord shortly after 6 o'clock this evening, surrounded by the love of his family and pastor, and believing with Isaiah, 'My strength and my courage is the Lord.'"

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Writing in Commentary (www.commentarymagazine.com), former White House aide Peter Wehner, who worked with Kemp as policy director of Empower America, said: "Kemp was an evangelist when it came to his ideas, and Reagan was his most important convert. By 1976, Reagan had not yet embraced supply-side economics. By 1980 he had-and Kemp was the main reason.

"Jack certainly had a healthy ego. But everyone knew, without question, that he was involved in politics not because he sought power for its own sake or in order to fulfill some deep personal ambition. He was involved in it because he believed in a set of ideas he thought would change the world. . . . In the late 1970s and 1980s, Kemp helped make the GOP an exciting and appealing party, bursting with ideas, hopeful and future-oriented, gracious and without a trace of bitterness. The spirit of a party, like the spirit of a person, is at once intangible and terribly important. And Jack Kemp was a man who possessed a capacious and indomitable spirit. As far as I can tell, Jack was a man who had no known enemies, which is a fairly extraordinary achievement in politics. He seemed incapable of personalizing policy differences. There was a certain guilelessness in Jack; he approached people as if everyone in politics cared as much about ideas and possessed as much good will as he did. He was wrong about that, but he, and we, were better for it."

Nigeria on notice

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its annual report May 1, adding Nigeria to the notorious list titled "countries of particular concern," for violations of religious freedom, which also includes Iran and North Korea. The report argued that the Nigerian government's response to Muslim-Christian strife has been "inadequate and ineffectual." Two commissioners objected to the assessment, but the majority concurred that the oil-rich country "could, if it wished, muster the resources and capacity necessary to address communal, sectarian, and religious violence." By law the designation carries the threat of U.S. economic sanctions.

Abortion included

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., in Hillary Clinton's first appearance in April before the House Foreign Affairs Committee as Secretary of State, asked if the Obama administration is seeking "to weaken or overturn pro-life laws and policies in African and Latin-American countries," and second if the United States now defines the terms "reproductive health," "reproductive services," or "reproductive rights" to include abortion. Clinton said, "We happen to think that family planning is an important part of women's health-and reproductive health includes access to abortion, that I believe should be safe, legal, and rare." Promoting family planning reduces the abortion rate, she said. "We are now an administration that will protect the rights of women, including their rights to reproductive health care." And an administration that will, despite a lack of international consensus, apparently define "reproductive health care" to include abortion.

Sudan and UN

Less than two weeks after ethnic clashes in South Sudan killed at least 170 people, the UN Security Council announced it would extend its peacekeeping mission in South Sudan for another year. The 13,500-member team includes 10,000 military personnel and police. UN officials expressed concern over recent outbreaks of violence and said the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement was at "a critical stage." Since then, thousands of southerners have returned to the region after spending years in refugee camps in surrounding nations. The return hasn't been easy, but southern officials say they plan to take part in national elections next February. The UN peacekeeping mission says it will stay in the region through April.

Redefining marriage

Opponents in Maine will fight a law passed May 6 to allow same-sex marriage. Under the state's "people's veto" provision, gay marriage opponents need signatures from 10 percent of people who voted in the last governor's election to force a referendum, and they began that process the same day. In Washington, lawmakers in Congress met with near-silence a D.C. city council vote May 5 to recognize same-sex marriages from states that approve them. The mayor must now sign the bill and Congress has 30 days to review it.

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