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The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Cities of God and Man," March 27, 2010

Nigerian attack

Hours after rampaging gangs of Muslims viciously attacked three Christian villages in central Nigeria on March 7, bereaved survivors wailed, sang hymns, and began burying their dead. A Nigerian official said the attackers killed as many as 500 people in the predominantly Christian region. Details were brutal: Witnesses said men with machetes swooped into the villages in the pre-dawn hours and began hacking to death the most vulnerable people: women, children, and the elderly.

Mark Lipdo of Stefanos Foundation, a Nigeria-based Christian organization that helps persecuted Christians, confirmed the reports to the BBC: "We saw mainly those who are helpless, like small children and then the older men, who cannot run, these were the ones that were slaughtered." Witnesses said one victim was a 4-day-old baby. An Associated Press reporter described a morgue filled with the bodies of children, including a diaper-clad toddler. The bodies were mutilated.

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Officials said the attacks were likely retaliation for January fighting on the dangerous north-south border that killed both Muslims and Christians. The violence often stems from conflicts over natural resources. Other sources are religious, including growing Islamic extremism targeting Christians.

As the new acting President Goodluck Jonathan seeks to quell tensions before more violence breaks out, the Christians continued to bury their loved ones. "Jesus said I am the way," many of them sang at a mass funeral. "Jesus, show me the way."

Pakistani attack

As many as 15 armed militants stormed a World Vision office in northwest Pakistan on March 10, killing at least six staffers and wounding several others. The gunmen opened fire and lobbed grenades, seriously damaging the World Vision office in the district of Manshera. The Christian aid organization indefinitely suspended all operations in the country.

World Vision had been operating in Manshera since an October 2005 earthquake killed some 73,000 people in the region. The organization says it distributed food to more than 95,000 quake victims and worked in 87 Pakistani villages around the country to provide access to healthcare, education, and agricultural programs.

Extremists have targeted other aid organizations in the region. Dean Owen of World Vision told The Christian Science Monitor that the four men and two women killed in the March attack were all Pakistani Muslims.

'Political pep rally'

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts doesn't seem too keen on attending another State of the Union address after President Obama upbraided the court in his speech this year, condemning its ruling in the Citizens United case concerning campaign finance. Roberts spoke publicly about that speech for the first time recently when he took questions from law students at the University of Alabama. "To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I'm not sure why we're there," he said. Roberts added that he welcomes criticisms of the court and its decisions. "On the other hand," he said, "there is the issue of the setting, the circumstances, and the decorum. The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court-according to the requirements of protocol-has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling." In response, the White House's Robert Gibbs reiterated the president's criticisms of the court's decision.

Hiring spree

While the economy overall is still losing jobs-36,000 last month-one government project is on a hiring spree. The U.S. Census Bureau plans to hire about 1 million temporary workers this year to help with its once-a-decade population count. In February, the bureau hired 15,000 and will expand those ranks more aggressively this month, paying employees anywhere from $10 to $25 an hour. The Commerce Department estimated that the census hires could cut the unemployment rate by several tenths of a percent. Right now the unemployment rate is holding steady at 9.7 percent. When the last census was taken in 2000, the unemployment rate was at a record low of 4 percent.

Limited focus?

Vice President Joe Biden made a high-level visit to Israel just 48 hours after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas agreed to resume indirect talks with Israel-the first formal negotiations in over a year. During meetings in Jerusalem, Biden declared there is "no space between the U.S. and Israel." But few Israelis are holding their breath for a U.S.-brokered breakthrough in their long battle with Palestinian extremists. Israeli officials leaked a classified report from the Foreign Ministry last week, warning that the Obama administration's focus on peace in the Middle East will be "limited" due to what it called Obama's "focus in the coming year on domestic issues that are expected to determine the results of the congressional elections." In the latest round of peacemaking, "proximity talks" will be headed up by U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, who plans to spend the next four months carrying out separate talks with each side in hopes of bringing both together over a formal agreement surrounding border and security issues.

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