Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "2010 The Year Ahead," Jan. 16, 2010

Backfire

Out of a 1984 UN population conference in Mexico City grew a U.S. policy limiting the work of abortion advocates that receive federal funds. That policy ended with the start of the Obama administration, but a new "Mexico City policy" may be taking its place. One year after Mexico's Supreme Court upheld a Mexico City law allowing abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy-a decision abortion advocates expected to bring greater access to abortion across Mexico-the opposite has happened. In 17 states, pro-life groups have won changes to local constitutions declaring that life begins at conception and explicitly granting legal rights to the unborn. When Veracruz last month became the most recent state to do so, it also called on the Mexican Congress to consider a similar amendment to the national constitution.

Healthcare recap

'Twas the morning before Christmas, at 7 a.m., when U.S. senators began their 25th day of debate on healthcare overhaul. In the first Christmas Eve vote in nearly 115 years, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accidentally voted against the very bill he'd been driving through the Senate. Reid quickly changed his "nay" to "aye." Other confused Democrats headed home for the holidays with their stockings sufficiently stuffed in exchange for their votes: Senators from 11 states got billion-dollar goodies for also voting "aye." The Senate and the House next meet to iron out significant differences in their two versions. The government-run insurance option (House-approved, Senate-rejected) is likely on its way out. But the abortion issue remains unsettled: Pro-life House Democrats succeeded in inserting tough abortion restrictions while pro-abortion Senate Democrats engineered a compromise that, despite support from Catholic hospitals, still leaves the door open for taxpayer-funded abortions and fails to protect medical professionals who refuse to perform certain procedures on moral grounds.

North Korea

Korean-American Robert Park's disappearance in North Korea on Christmas Day is just the first part of a new campaign aimed at drawing attention to conditions in the closed communist nation, according to activist leader Norbert Vollertsen. "Flooding North Korea with more human right activists coming from China, crossing the DMZ at the inner Korean border, hunger strikes in front of every NK mission worldwide" are some of the follow-up efforts Vollertsen mentioned in a Dec. 29 email. Park, 28 and a Tucson resident, crossed a poorly guarded stretch of the frozen Tumen River that separates the North from China around 5 a.m. on Dec. 25, according to a member of the Seoul-based group Pax Koreana. "I am an American citizen. I brought God's love. God loves you and God bless you," Park reportedly said in Korean as he crossed over the border near the northeastern city of Hoeryong, according to onlookers who watched his crossing and filmed it. "We Refuse to Allow the North Korean Holocaust to Continue Any Longer," he wrote to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and other world leaders in a letter distributed to media outlets (including WORLD) prior to his disappearance. No information emerged in the days following the crossing. North Korea's state-run media was silent, and the U.S. State Department said it was aware of the incident but had no details.

Changing sides isn't easy

Just before Christmas, Blue Dog Democrat Parker Griffith announced he was switching parties to join U.S. House Republicans. The pro-life congressman said he wanted to be in a party that is "more in tune with my beliefs and convictions." Sen. John McCain won 61 percent of votes in the Alabama district in the 2008 presidential campaign, so Griffith should have a good chance of reelection as a Republican. But as 2009 came to a close, contenders from his new party began lining up and lobbing tomatoes. Republican challenger Les Phillips released mailers attacking Griffith's donations to Howard Dean and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Another Republican, Mo Brooks, plans to challenge Griffith as well. While Republicans try not to cannibalize each other, Democrats are still casting about for a strong candidate after the state agriculture commissioner Ron Sparks, who is running for governor, declined to enter the race.

Walk out

Sudan's two main political parties averted a crisis on Christmas Eve, saying that parliament would review a hastily passed law that favored the North and drew international criticism. Officials in the country's Northern-based National Congress Party in mid-December passed a referendum on the South's 2011 vote on independence. The problem: Southern officials had just walked out of the meeting in protest of the referendum's provisions.

After harsh criticism from U.S. officials, Sudanese officials announced the parliament would revisit the law, with both parties present. But the country's peace remains fragile three months ahead of nationwide elections that could affect the stability of the entire region (see "Countries to watch," Jan. 16, 2009).

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