Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

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


In a May 1 report the World Bank acknowledged that overemphasis on AIDS treatment and prevention has "stalled" many other programs to improve health, "pulling away" medical personnel and resources, and also hampering nutrition programs. It said only 29 percent of World Bank AIDS projects (and only 18 percent of AIDS projects in Africa) had a satisfactory outcome.

Presses stopped

The staff of Cedarville University's student newspaper Cedars did not publish the final issue of the year in a calculated move aimed at protesting the school's new policy requiring public-relations staff to review the newspaper prior to printing. University trustees and administrative officials reportedly directed the public-relations department to begin approving the content after controversial editorials appeared in the publication. Students say the review process breaks the paper's 2006 operating model and "undermines our ability to think critically and engage culture." The student newspaper will reportedly disband until spring 2010, at which time it will return under a new journalism program.

Banned Witness

The U.S. military last week made clear that the Great Commission cannot be part of any soldier's mission in Afghanistan. U.S. Central Command reported last week that it had confiscated Bibles in local languages from an evangelical soldier and destroyed them.

Controversy erupted earlier in the week when the Al Jazeera television network showed footage of a Bible study at a U.S. base near Kabul, during which a chaplain encouraged soldiers to witness for Christ. "You can't proselytize, but you can give gifts," said a chaplain's assistant during the discussion. (Centcom's General Order Number One prohibits troops from proselytizing.) A church in the United States had mailed local-language Bibles to a soldier.

Former prime minister Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai told the Reuters news service that the footage represented "a direct attack on our religion," and the U.S. military was quick to deny that it allowed soldiers to try to convert Afghans. "I can now confirm that the Bibles shown on Al Jazeera's clip were, in fact, collected by the chaplains and later destroyed," Centcom spokeswoman Major Jennifer Willis told Reuters. "They were never distributed."

Transparent motives

"Transparency" has been a watchword of the Obama administration-but it recently rolled back financial transparency rules for labor unions, according to a report by The Washington Times.

The Labor Department rules, intended to guard against corruption of union leaders, required officials to report detailed compensation and travel expenses. The agency's explanation of the repeal said the rules that govern union officials' conflict-of-interest reports were not a "good use of resources." However, the Office of Labor-Management Standards at the department has restored $91.5 million in misused dues to union members since 2001.

Deborah Greenfield was a lawyer for the AFL-CIO last year who sued the agency to repeal the rules, and she is now a high-ranking official at the Labor Department, appointed by President Obama. Agency spokespeople declined to explain Greenfield's role in the decision but said she followed ethical guidelines.

Thug politics

Jestina Mukoko's supporters wept as a Zimbabwean judge ordered the prominent human-rights activist jailed on May 5, along with 18 other activists charged with sabotage and terrorism against the regime of President Robert Mugabe.

The ruling came two months after officials released the activists from a maximum-security prison known for its brutal conditions. The defendants-including several members of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC opposition party-say officials tortured them into confessing a plot against Mugabe in December.

Some of the activists say jailers beat them, locked them in freezers, and hung them by their wrists to force confessions. The defendants appeared in court with bloodied and swollen faces late last year and remained in jail for three months before a judge issued bail. From the capital city of Harare, Magistrate Catherine Chimanda said she revoked the bail this month because the court issued formal indictments against the defendants.

Mugabe's opponents denounced the arrests as attempts to stamp out dissent. Tsvangirai-who visited Mukoko in jail on his first official day in office in February-said the ruling threatened the new unity government.

Mukoko heads the Zimbabwe Peace Project, a humanitarian organization that tracks human-rights abuses by Mugabe's government in the languishing country. During a nine-month period last year, the group reported 20,143 abuses, including 202 murders, 463 abductions, 41 rapes, 411 cases of torture, and 3,942 assaults.

Light out

After a 72-year run, CBS will pull the plug this September on the soap opera Guiding Light. Ranked as the longest-running television drama by the Guinness Book of World Records, Guiding Light began in 1937 as a 15-minute radio serial before making its television debut on CBS in 1952. The show's departure may signal the fate of other soap operas, which have faced slowly declining ratings since their primary audience-women-are often working outside the home.


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