DIED: Conservative writer Irving Kristol, 89, died of lung cancer complications on Sept. 18. A leftist turned conservative intellectual-a "liberal mugged by reality"-Kristol became the father of neoconservatism, championed anti-communism, and criticized liberal social programs like the "Great Society." He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002 and founded The Public Interest, an influential public policy journal. Ten years ago, liberal commentator Eric Alterman gave Kristol credit "more than anyone alive, perhaps . . . for reversing the direction of American political culture."
RETIRING: Jerry Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board, announced his retirement on Sept. 16. During 17 years of leadership, he shifted the mission's focus from targeting countries to targeting people groups, growing the IMB from 2,000 churches and 4,000 missionaries in 1993 to nearly 27,000 churches and 5,500 missionaries today.
HIRED: On Sept. 14, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton inducted Farah Pandith to fill a new office, Special Representative to Muslim Communities. Pandith, a Muslim immigrant from India, has worked on the National Security Council and with the U.S. Agency for International Development. When asked how she would engage extremist Muslims, she emphasized dialogue: "I think it's nuance. I think it's respect. I think it's listening. I think it's being creative."
DIED: Time magazine religion editor, John T. Elson, died at age 78 on Sept. 7. Elson, a Roman Catholic, penned the controversial 1966 Time cover story, "Is God Dead?" In the article, which sold the most copies of Time in 20 years and prompted a historic 3,500 letters to the editor, Elson explored the secularization of America: "The basic premise of faith-the existence of a personal God, who created the world and sustains it with his love-is now subject to profound attack."
RELEASED: On Sept. 15, the Iraqi government released Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the 30-year-old journalist who threw his shoe at former President George W. Bush during a news conference last December. Al-Zaidi originally received a three-year sentence, but it was reduced on appeal and for good behavior. He accused guards of beating him even as Bush's news conference continued and of torturing him with cables, pipes, and electricity. Still unrepentant, he told reporters, "I got my chance, and I didn't miss it."
DIED: A 20-year-old Christian man, detained in a Pakistani prison on blasphemy charges, died in his jail cell on Sept. 15. Police claim Robert Fanish committed suicide, but human-rights groups say they believe he was killed by authorities, and that his case is part of a pattern of increasing violence toward minority groups.