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The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Homegrown terror," Dec. 5, 2009

Bilateral stall

President Obama's trip to China in mid-November put the awkwardness of the China-U.S. relationship under bright lights. As Air Force One landed in Beijing, Chinese officials arrested dozens of dissidents and human-rights activists. Obama stated the United States' support of universal human rights several times publicly but didn't address the arrest of dissidents. The two countries plan to meet on the topic of human rights next year.

China is nervous about what's happening to the dollar because the country owns $800 billion in U.S. debt and receives about $50 billion a year in interest. But the United States is worried that China might dump its debt, devaluing the dollar. Obama urged Chinese President Hu Jintao to base Chinese currency on market value. Hu didn't comment-except essentially to tell the United States to tend its own garden.

Red October

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The federal budget deficit for October, as reported on Nov. 12 by the Treasury Department, was one for the record books. At $176.4 billion, it was the largest deficit ever for the month of October, the fifth-largest ever for any month, and a record-breaking 13th straight month to run a deficit. The Obama administration reported earlier that the fiscal 2009 deficit was a record $1.42 trillion, and that the nation would run a deficit of $9 trillion over 10 years. October was the first month of fiscal 2010.

Ugandan crime

Homosexual activity is illegal in Uganda but the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 would make it an offense punishable by life imprisonment. Some homosexual acts-defined as "aggravated homosexuality"-would be a capital offense. The bill also would require authority figures to report homosexuals within 24 hours of discovering their behavior, punishing the leaders with up to three years of imprisonment if they fail to do so. Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology at Grove City College, said its passage would put ministry leaders in a quandary: "Do I go to jail or do I help this person?" According to a statement by Exodus International, it would make Christian ministry to homo­sexuals "a difficult if not impossible task."

Uzbek crackdown

In Uzbekistan a court has convicted three Baptist leaders of tax evasion for nonprofit summer camps they run for hundreds of children each year. They were also charged with teaching religion to children without parents' permission. Pavel Peychev, president of the Baptist Union of Uzbekistan, along with two other Baptist leaders, Elena Kurbatova and Dmitriy Pitirimov, will have to pay a fine of approximately $17,000, which amounts to about 260 times the average monthly minimum wage.

Uzbekistan has a record of making life difficult for Christians. Churches are required to register with the government, which controls religious activities. Many churches operate underground. The State Department has Uzbekistan on a short list of "countries of particular concern," the most egregious violators of religious freedom.

Abandoned property

The company that was going to rejuvenate the economy of New London, Conn.-the site of the Kelo v. City of New London case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that it was legal for a government to use eminent domain to seize property for private economic development-is pulling out of New London and moving on.

Pfizer, Inc. has merged with Wyeth and just announced that it is moving most of its 1,400 employees to nearby Groton. Opponents of eminent domain are pointing to the move as proof that the development project was ill-conceived from the beginning. Scott Bullock, co-counsel for the case with the Institute for Justice, called Pfizer the "very lynchpin of the project" and said, "All of this really just demonstrates the folly of government abusing eminent domain and granting massive corporate welfare to corporations and to developers." Project supporters argue that the economy is to blame for the development halt.

Footnote

A federal appeals court in New York says the CIA did not violate Valerie Plame's free speech rights. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on Nov. 12 upheld a 2007 lower court decision that barred Plame from revealing the length of her tenure with the CIA in a memoir, agreeing that the agency made a good argument to keep the information secret. Plame sought to capitalize on her notoriety after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, began criticizing the war in Iraq, and it was revealed that Plame had fed him intel.

Blackout

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva launched an investigation into a Nov. 10 blackout that left a third of Brazil's population without power. The blackout hit 18 of Brazil's 26 states-leaving major cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, home of the 2016 Olympics, looking like ghost towns. It left 7 million people without water service after energy from the massive Itaipu Dam, the source of one-fifth of Brazil's power, went completely offline. Some 60 million people lost power in the nation of more than 190 million. The blackouts raised questions about whether Brazil is prepared to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games.

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