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Associated Press/Photo by Hanif Shoaee

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "The ABCs of C Street," Aug. 29, 2009

Tehran crackdown

Caught in a wave of "anti-government activist" show trials in Iran are two women arrested by Iranian security forces in March for activities related to their Christian faith. Authorities have held Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad, 30, and Maryam Rustampoor, 27, in the infamous Evin Prison with bail set at $400,000. Tehran's Revolutionary Court brought the pair, who are Muslim converts, to trial Aug. 9 and informed them they would be charged with apostasy unless they renounce their faith. "We will not deny our faith," they told the prosecutor, according to a report from East-West Ministries. They have been sent back to prison, the group said, where both have been sick and have lost weight.

Iran put on trial about 100 reformists on Aug. 8 in an ongoing effort to stifle the protest movement following the June election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The trial included French citizen Clotilde Reiss, 24, and two Iranians employed by the British and French embassies. All three "confessed" to spying and aiding a Western plot to overthrow the government and apologized for their involvement in the unrest. Meanwhile, U.S. hikers Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 30, and Josh Fattal, 27, have been moved to a Tehran prison where they remain in custody after authorities arrested them July 31 for reportedly straying into Iran while hiking along the poorly marked Iran-Iraq border.

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St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa says slugger Albert Pujols is "a complete player and person." The verbal love came after Pujols, a perennial all-star, was first on the scene when a fan fell face-first from the stands trying to snag a foul ball during an Aug. 7 game in Pittsburgh. Hurt in the fall, the man, who was reportedly trying to secure a baseball for his Down syndrome son, was urged by the star first baseman to stay down and wait for medical attention. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the man suffered cuts and hurt his nose in the fall, but managed to strike up a conversation with Pujols: "This is not the way I wanted to meet you," the man said.

Wanted dead or alive

A newly appointed spokesman of the Pakistan Taliban confirmed the death of Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and announced a 15-day mourning period. Pakistani authorities first reported the leader of the Taliban's Pakistan forces killed in an Aug. 5 attack by U.S. drones. Mehsud, who was believed to be behind the 2007 attacks on Islamabad's Red Mosque, leaves the largest Taliban faction in Pakistan leaderless, and infighting among his adherents has spread, with approximately 90 Taliban killed in attacks Aug. 13.

In Indonesia police thought they also had killed a top terrorist mastermind. But the Islamic militant was not Noordin Mohammad Top and he is still at large, police said Aug. 13, announcing that the manhunt continues for the militant believed to have planned the suicide bombings at two luxury hotels in Jakarta last month.

Indebted nation

Early this month the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 43 percent from the 12-year low hit in March to finish Aug. 7 at 9370.07, its highest close since last November. But investment experts warn that the five-month surge could represent more wishful thinking than actual economic recovery. The reason? Debt. Total household indebtedness peaked in 2007 at 132 percent of disposable income; now, with a slight boost in family savings and debt repayment it has fallen to 124 percent-heading the right way, says The Wall Street Journal, but nowhere near the 69 percent level, for instance, where it stood coming off recession in the 1980s.

Morakot mud

Typhoon Morakot, which dumped 83 inches of rain on parts of Taiwan before moving on to mainland China, has claimed dozens of lives from flooding and massive mud slides and displaced more than 1 million people. Hundreds more residents from small, isolated farming villages remain missing. Initial reports estimate farm-related losses in Taiwan alone at $275 million.

Yet many stories of mercy emerged from some of the hardest-hit portions of Asia. Rescue crews discovered scores of surviving villagers initially thought lost in seas of mud and rock. Many scrambled to higher ground even as the rushing rivers of liquefied earth engulfed their homes. Chinese officials have confirmed just six deaths, despite devastating property damage. Aid workers are distributing food, clean water, and supplies, often by helicopter, to remote areas cut off from ground access due to destroyed bridges and roads. World Vision Taiwan is seeking to raise $750,000 for relief efforts.

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