Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Profiles in effective compassion," Sept. 26, 2009

Being blunt

At a recent UNFPA-sponsored forum on sexual and reproductive health, activists stripped away euphemisms and were plain about goals: more funding and more access to abortion. The Berlin "Global Partners in Action" conference trained 400 NGO representatives, many from abortion-rights groups, to lobby their countries for more reproductive health funding. Purnima Mane, deputy executive director of the UN Population Fund, urged activists to "enlarge the pot" of $11.1 billion given to population-related programs in 2008. The conference promoted "safe abortions" (i.e., legal) but one group passed out stickers telling women how to perform do-it-yourself abortions by lying to pharmacists. Another group distributed pamphlets that said, "I need an abortion" in six different languages, directing women in countries without "safe abortion" to doctors who can provide them. A final document was especially startling in its bluntness, said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America: "The world is facing a global economic crisis but their response is essentially, we need more money."

Time served

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford once considered the daytime "a ceremonial waste of time," according to former spokesman Will Folks, who says his boss found evenings more conducive to working the phones, pounding out emails, and managing state policy. Embracing the daytime may be Sanford's only hope after confessing to adultery and lying about a trip to visit his Argentine mistress in June. Sanford has spent the summer on a forgiveness tour: The conservative-once considered a 2012 presidential contender-has been hitting diners, civic clubs, and political luncheons to ask South Carolinians for another chance. But his famously frugal image suffered with reports that Sanford purchased expensive, business class tickets for travel. Now, 61 of 72 South Carolina House Republicans have asked Sanford to quit, and state lawmakers are mulling whether to move to impeach him when they reconvene in January.

Blazes

More than two weeks and over 2,000 firefighters later, fire officials said they were containing over half-62 percent-of a blaze that had burned more than 250 square miles and destroyed 78 homes.

Two Los Angeles County firefighters were killed Aug. 30 in the fire and about a dozen have been injured. Authorities believe the blaze was started intentionally and local officials set rewards for information leading to who was behind it.

"We're changing the pace and treating this as a marathon," said U.S. Forest Service commander Mike Dietrich on Sept. 5 as firefighters battled high winds and high temperatures. "If it were a 26-mile race, we'd only be at mile 6."

Historical tweets

One might call John Quincy Adams the founding father of micro-blogging. A perspicacious graduate student noticed that Adams' journal entries were no longer than a maximum tweet on the micro-blogging site Twitter-140 characters. So the Massachusetts Historical Society ran with the idea to tweet Adams' concise diary entries each day, beginning exactly 200 years after he embarked on a boat across the Atlantic Ocean as an envoy to Russia. One entry (Aug. 31) points out that Adams "read ten or fifteen chapters in the bible" each morning. Other entries leave much tantalizingly untold, like this one from Aug. 15, 1809: "This afternoon I found the Caboose on fire."

Working backward, as Twitter does:

9/1/1809: Friday. My wife unwell. Calm and light winds. Lat: 59-40. Long: 15-54. Nicias and Crassus. Cards.

8/28/1809: Total calm all day. Lat: 58-19. Long: 22-10. Philiopoemen and Flaminius. Saw a Whale. Cards in the Eve.

8/18/1809: Charles two years old. Fair wind and thick fogs. No obs: Lat: 46-32. Long: 48-50. Pericles & Mrs. Grant's Letters.

Space to remember

A 16,000-square-foot 9/11 memorial quilt is hidden in a tractor-trailer in Atlanta, Ga., because New York City says it doesn't have room. When Corey Gammel, founder of United in Memory, asked for quilt squares in memory of each 9/11 victim, over 3,000 people sent in squares from across the world. Until recently the quilt traveled to cities across the United States. But efforts to display the quilt in Manhattan have met a dead end, said Dennis McKeon, executive director of Where to Turn. While it's difficult to find 10,000 feet of open floor space in Manhattan, McKeon thinks the memory of 9/11 has faded: "We want the people who died to be remembered. People forget that 3,000 human beings were killed that day, and you know, they need to be remembered."

Big families, big headache

North Carolina's Department of Revenue is making a special demand of families reporting five or more children: Prove it. The agency sent letters to some 6,700 families that claimed five or more exemptions on their state tax returns, requesting multi-tiered documentation for each child or dependent. If families don't comply, they won't get their refund. Some large families say they feel unfairly targeted, but agency officials say they are trying to root out fraud. The agency has saved $2.6 million from taxpayers who improperly claim exemptions, Linda Millsaps, the department's chief operating officer, told the News and Observer in Raleigh.

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