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Khosro Khaleghi/Mehr News Agency/AP

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Ghost streets," Feb. 27, 2010

Going ballistic

A February report from the Department of Defense warns that the ballistic missile threat is growing as nations like North Korea and Iran develop more missiles that are "more flexible, mobile, survivable, reliable and accurate while also increasing in range." Coincidentally, President Barack Obama's new defense budget restores over half of his first budget's $1.4 billion cut to missile defense programs. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congress he is requesting $9.9 billion total for missile defense-almost $700 million more than last year. Riki Ellison, chairman of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, calls the increased funding "a positive step" in response to a growing threat.

Law review

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, surprised members of Congress by announcing recently that they personally support a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the military's policy that honorably discharges those who acknowledge themselves to be in a homosexual relationship. Others of the Joint Chiefs still oppose the policy change, and Gates has said he doesn't want to overturn the law before a year-long review is complete. The review will provide analysis of how the change could affect the military, from recruiting to its daily operations. More cynical observers on Capitol Hill conclude that the Obama administration wants to repeal the policy after this year's elections. Others have their own assessment to offer: Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, believes repealing the policy will make gays a "protected class" subject to different standards and will affect "recruiting and retention, morale, and readiness."

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New York City officials may be unraveling the federal government's plans to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow terrorists there. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that he no longer wanted the trial to take place in New York: "It would be great if the federal government could find a site that didn't cost a billion dollars, which using downtown will." Obama's budget allocated $200 million for such trials, but New York officials also worried about a strained police force, disruption of downtown living, and security. Aaron Harison, executive director of Keep America Safe, noted the trauma of holding trials near the fallen towers: "In a way it's almost another attack when you consider these guys will be given a platform right next door, and in the faces of the people they hurt. It's almost unconscionable." Early this month, anonymous White House aides began telling the press that the administration would find a different location for the trial. But in a Feb. 7 interview with CBS News, President Obama left the door open: "I have not ruled it out, but I think it's important for us to take into account the practical, logistical issues involved."

Jobs creator

Debate still rages over the number of jobs that President Obama's stimulus law has created, but one definitive job creator came from the private sector, the company headed by Steve Jobs: Apple. Apple's app store currently holds about 134,000 programs for its iPhone and iPod Touch, and each time one sells, 70 percent of the revenue goes to the person who developed it. In December alone, users downloaded 280 million apps, generating about $150 million in revenue for the 28,000 developers behind those apps, according to numbers compiled by Flurry.com. And anyone with the wherewithal to create an app can do it using Apple's platform-then it just has to sell.

Taking sides

The San Francisco Chronicle calls it the "biggest open secret" in the federal trial of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in California: Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker is gay. Walker was randomly assigned the trial and will not comment on reports about his sexual orientation. Andy Pugno, the attorney defending Proposition 8, said supporters will not make Walker's sexual orientation an issue; but the National Organization for Marriage quickly sent an email missive calling Walker "an amazingly biased and one-sided force . . . far more akin to an activist than a neutral referee." Proposition 8 supporters have long charged Walker with bias for his decision to televise the trial (later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court) and for making Proposition 8 leaders submit private correspondence as evidence. Walker has a libertarian reputation, and gay activists bear him a grudge for his part in a case that banned San Francisco gays from using the title "Gay Olympics."

Saint of a QB

For Drew Brees, the Super Bowl victory on Feb. 7 was the culmination of a journey of faith that began four years ago. "I've said before that coming to New Orleans was a calling," Brees, the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLIV told reporters. "God puts you in a place for a reason."

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