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.
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.
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.
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.
When Chevrolet touts itself as an American Revolution, this may be what the embattled car line is talking about. GM CEO Fritz Henderson claims that its November 2010 offering, the Chevrolet Volt, could earn a 230 miles per gallon city rating under Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. The eye-popping figure has a lot to do both with how the EPA calculates fuel efficiency and how the gasoline-electric engine on board the Volt operates. Unlike hybrid rivals like the Toyota Prius (51 mpg) or Honda Insight (41 mpg) that use batteries to assist the gas-powered engine, the Volt will be an electric car with a gas-powered generator that kicks in after 40 miles. And while power from the grid may be only a fraction of the cost of gasoline, don't expect the Volt to come cheap. GM expects the first models to be priced near $40,000.
Three men previously acquitted of involvement in the 2006 shooting death of journalist Anna Politkovskaya are facing a retrial after a Moscow court refused to halt the proceedings and open a new probe. In a letter published in Novaya Gazeta, Politkovskaya's former paper, her children write that the retrial is "a farce whose goal is to distract the public's attention from the main question: 'Who ordered the murder?'" They allege that the Russian government is "covering up for the real killers."
The controversy follows the abduction and murder last month of outspoken human-rights activist Natalya Estemirova, 50. Her execution-style death coincided with the release of a Human Rights Watch report she helped research that called for Russian officials, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, to be held accountable for crimes in Chechnya.
On Aug. 10 activists Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband, Alik Dzhabrailov, were abducted by five gunmen from the Save the Generation office and later found shot to death in the trunk of their car. The charity works with children affected by the violence of war-torn Chechnya.
Family-based poverty fighting
New York is buying homeless families one-way tickets out of the city. Since it costs $36,000 to house a homeless family for one year in New York, city fathers are paying transportation costs of over 550 homeless families, sending them where they want to go and where they have a relative who can take them in.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg said the program "saves the taxpayers of New York City an enormous amount of money."Florida mayor Richard T. Crotty wrote Bloomberg and said he didn't appreciate the influx of homeless from other states: "All this does is shift someone else's budget problems onto our already cash-strapped shoulders."
But Ed Morgan, president of the Bowery Mission, one of New York's oldest homeless shelters, said reuniting families is a worthy goal. Ethnic Dominicans and Asians, for example, have less of a homelessness problem because families take care of their own, he said. While his program works on making homeless men become self-sufficient in New York City, one of its goals is to connect them with families: "You can be cynical and say [Bloomberg's] just solving his problem by shipping them out, but if it's family-connected that's something different. I support that. I really do."
UN and U.S. first
The U.S. delegation to the UN signed on to the first binding UN treaty to include the phrase "sexual and reproductive health." While the UN has never officially defined the phrase to include abortion, in debates the phrase has been a buzzword for "abortion," and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said it may include abortion. The treaty, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006, condemns discrimination against the disabled and affirms their rights to life, accessibility, and full participation in society. It also requires states to provide the disabled with equal healthcare, "including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programs." The Bush administration refused to support the treaty, saying it would weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The not freed
While North Korea's state media has hailed the pardon and release of U.S. journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling as a sign of the country's "humanitarian and peace-loving policy," tens of thousands of political and religious prisoners continue to languish in the country's gulags.
According to South Korean human-rights activists, North Korean authorities executed Ri Hyon Ok, 33, for distributing Bibles in June. The Investigative Commission on Crime Against Humanity reports that the day after Ri's public execution, her parents, husband, and three children were sent to a prison camp, a tactic the regime frequently uses to eradicate the "traitor's" bad influence. Meanwhile, the fate of another Christian woman, Seo Kum Ok, 30, is unknown after North Korean authorities arrested and tortured her on spying charges. Her husband also has been arrested and their two children have disappeared.
Man knows not his time
W. Jack Williamson, attorney, churchman, and long-time chairman of the board of the company that publishes WORLD magazine, died Aug. 8 in Greenville, Ala., at the age of 90. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Alabama and of the law school there, Williamson established a small-town law practice with an international reach. A military pilot in World War II, he was shot down over Austria and was held by Russians for six months as a prisoner of war. As an elder in his local church, he became a leader in the movement in the 1960s and '70s to leave the mainline Presbyterian denomination in the South and to form the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). He was the moderator of the PCA's first General Assembly; as chairman of the PCA's foreign missions committee, he regularly visited the Far East and other fields.
Williamson was a leader on the board of the Presbyterian Journal, an independent magazine founded in 1942 by L. Nelson Bell. Publication of that magazine gave way in 1986-7 to the launch of WORLD magazine, whose board he chaired for most of the next decade. An enthusiastic backer of Christian worldview thinking, he told the story of sitting in late 1973 in the front seat of his car with Francis Schaeffer, discussing the crisis in the church and the devolving state of American culture. "Why did you let this happen?" Schaeffer asked Williamson. "What do you mean, why did we let it happen?" Williamson asked. "You're a lawyer, aren't you?" Schaeffer replied pointedly. "Why did your profession let things get away so badly?"
"He wasn't just blaming the legal profession," Williamson stressed. "He was saying that each of us Christians has a responsibility, not just in our church relationships, but in the specific context of our various vocations, to define issues in a God-centered manner. I was never the same after hearing him say that."