Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Hurtling toward havoc," Aug. 1, 2009

Damage control

Weeks after confessing to a secret trip to Argentina to visit his mistress, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford left the state again in mid-July-this time, with his wife. "The governor remains committed to repairing the damage he's done to his marriage, and so it shouldn't be any surprise that spending personal time with his wife is a part of that process," said Joel Sawyer, Sanford's spokesman. Continuing to face the damage he's done to the GOP and to his career, Sanford looked set to keep his job: State law enforcement said the governor didn't misuse state funds on trips to South America, and the state's GOP voted to censure the governor but didn't ask for his resignation. Political observers credit the support of Sanford's wife Jenny in helping the governor survive the scandal: "Forgiveness opens the door for Mark to begin to work privately, humbly and respectfully toward reconciliation with me. However, to achieve true reconciliation will take time, involve repentance, and will not be easy."

China unrest

Tensions ran high in western China amid tight security more than a week after the regional capital of Xinjiang, Urumqi, erupted in riots that the government says claimed 184 lives. Until last month ethnic Uighurs were known mostly to Americans for the controversy over 17 Uighurs held at the Guantanamo detention center as suspected terrorists. Chinese authorities have used that connection to name Uighur riot leaders as terrorists, though activists contend that China cracked down violently on what were peaceful demonstrations. In Washington Rabiya Kadeer, the Uighur activist who once spent six years in jail and is now accused of sparking the unrest, appeared at a news conference with Democratic lawmakers. She also met with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom July 15. Commission chairman Leonard Leo called on the Obama administration to impose targeted sanctions of exports from Xianjiang Province and travel restrictions on government officials. He blamed "Beijing's repression" in the sparsely populated region of 10 million mostly Muslim Uighurs and compared it to persecution in Tibet.

Drug regimen

Planned Parenthood researchers report in the New England Journal of Medicine that a revised method of conducting drug-induced abortions has reduced by 93 percent the risk of contracting a serious infection. The 2005 deaths of four American women from bacterial infections spurred Planned Parenthood to conform to FDA recommendations for administering RU-486 (now called Mifeprex), followed by a precautionary round of antibiotics. Experts say the latest research will likely spark an increase in drug-induced abortions: According to the Associated Press, about 184,000 U.S. women used Mifeprex. But Family Research Council spokesman Chris Gacek said, "It's hard to know whether this increases the (total) number of abortions."

Ending protection as we know it

Faith-based groups say there is reason to wonder about religious exemptions in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 (ENDA) introduced by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., June 24. Unlike a version which passed the House in November 2007, it seeks to prevent employment discrimination not only on the basis of sexual orientation but also of "gender identity," or transgendered workers. Both bills apply to employers of 15 or more people.

The new bill, H.R. 3017, includes the same exemption for religious organizations as did the 2007 bill, and also applies to employers of 15 or more people, but may not be adequate to protect some businesses. "It covers religious organizations, but not a religious person who owns or controls a nonreligious business or corporation no matter how deeply held the religious scruples of that person," according to a press statement from the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance. These could include for-profit religious publishers, bookstores, retirement homes, child care facilities, broadcasters, or summer camps.

No body here

Hawaii became the first state to ban the exhibition of human bodies popularized in the traveling "BODIES . . . the Exhibition" show. State lawmakers determined that even the possibility of profiting off executed Chinese prisoners was not acceptable in a state where many residents come from Asian backgrounds. Premier Exhibitions, which puts on the show, says none of the bodies used in its displays are from executed prisoners, but a 2008 ABC 20/20 report uncovered evidence to the contrary.

Sore loser

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has suffered the worst annual membership slide since its formation a quarter-century ago. The 2008 active membership of 2.14 million was nearly 70,000 below the 2007 figure. One factor: 25 congregations quit for other denominations, mostly Evangelical Presbyterian Church recruits upset by changes that open the door to actively gay clergy. While conservatives believe doctrinal confusion causes shrinkage, liberal Presbyterian pastor/blogger John Shuck blames it on such "baggage" as "creeds, boring hymns, bashing gays, superstition, and the general nausea caused by Christian 'evangelism.'"

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