Muscovites did not panic; they bought flowers, according to Russian novelist Olga Grushin. "Flowers in Moscow are very expensive," she wrote in The Wall Street Journal after female suicide bombers killed 39 and injured dozens more in two separate March 29 attacks, "but both stations are drowning in flowers, and there are flowers on the streets above as well: Every passerby carries at least one flower." But there is little popular sentiment for Moscow's government, as calls for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's resignation have increased since the attacks, and respected pundits like the Hudson Institute's Andrei Piontkovsky warn that the bombings may lead to further government oppression, and could even have been staged to counter growing street demonstrations against the government.
Past and prologue
The United States once had 6,000 peacekeepers in Kosovo-a now mostly forgotten conflict. But on March 29 U.S. peacekeepers patrolled Kosovo's border with Macedonia for the last time, handing over the task to the local police force. The region was a scene of clashes during ethnic Albanian uprisings of 2001-10 years after gaining independence from the former Yugoslavia, whose breakup launched the 1992-95 Bosnian Civil War. Serbs took a further step toward closure March 31, when the Serbian parliament narrowly passed a resolution apologizing for the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica. The resolution "strongly" condemned the incident, when Serb militants kidnapped and killed about 8,000 mostly Muslim men and boys from the city in eastern Bosnia, which had been a UN safe haven.
Breach of peace
American evangelist Shawn Holes was preaching to a crowd in Glasgow, Scotland, when some same-sex couples asked what he thought about homosexuality. Holes said he answered, "Your homosexuality is the least of your problems. Your problem is your heart." He added that homosexuality is a sin deserving of hell but that all sinners, including himself, deserve God's wrath but are offered salvation. Afterwards, police officers arrested him and took him to jail-a surprise since his fellow preachers had just hours earlier asked a duty officer if it was acceptable to preach freely and to answer questions about homosexuality. The officer told them yes.
Holes spent the night in a damp cell with only a mat for sleeping on the hard floor. The next day he pleaded guilty to breaching the peace by "uttering homophobic remarks" that were "aggravated by religious prejudice," choosing not to fight the charges so that he could come back to the United States to care for his ailing father. The court fined him £1,000 pounds (about $1,500)-the highest fine ever levied against a street evangelist, according to Christian Institute's Simon Calvert on Christian Premier Radio. A prominent gay-rights activist, Peter Tatchell, defended Holes' freedom of speech and called the fine disproportionate.
In a state facing a $20 billion deficit, officials worry that California will limit resources for the next earthquake. On April 4, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake shook Mexico and Southern California, damaging water storage facilities and water mains, disrupting telecommunication, and buckling roads. A recent study by the state's Emergency Management Agency found that many residents are unprepared: Fewer than 20 percent had structurally reinforced their home or purchased earthquake insurance, and less than 40 percent stored the recommended minimum of three gallons of water. The state recently cut its emergency preparedness budget to $1.4 billion.
Tea Partiers can be a diverse group, not simply the right-wing fringe as they are portrayed: 40 percent of those surveyed in a recent Winston Group poll identified themselves as either independents or Democrats-13 percent called themselves Democrats and 28 percent called themselves independents, while a majority still identified themselves as Republicans. Most said they rallied to the movement over concern about the economy and government spending.
Americans may be more impatient for Iraq to form a new government than Iraqis: "We mustn't sacrifice the quality of the government in consideration of the time it takes to form that government," Qubad Talabani, a spokesman for the Kurdish Alliance in Washington, said recently. That could change with the recent rise in violence, as lead political factions scramble to form a winning coalition. Election officials announced March 26 that challenger Ayad Allawi had defeated incumbent Nouri al-Maliki by two parliamentary seats in last month's elections. The close finish set the stage for jockeying among parties who represent Iraq's minorities, like the Kurdish Alliance, and the radical Shiite movement led by Moktada al-Sadr. While Kurdish leaders met with both sides to shore up their role in an eventual coalition, Sadrists went the other way, rejecting both leaders in an informal April 7 poll. Insurgents are taking advantage of a perceived power vacuum, exploding at least seven bombs in Baghdad on April 6, killing more than 30 people and wounding 140 others. It was the latest in a series of attacks that killed more than 100 people in five days.
"Ocean State Under Water" read The Providence Journal's website April 1. This was no April Fool's prank. Record New England rainfall for March culminated in a storm of 8.8 inches of rain for Rhode Island, forcing the closure of portions of Interstate 95 along the normally busy Northeast corridor and the evacuation of at least 500 families along the flooded Pawtuxet River. CVS pharmacy, headquartered in Woonsocket, announced that flooding had knocked out power to a national computer system affecting prescription services in all 7,000 of its drugstores nationwide.
"It has been the worst, worst flood in our state's history, and more people have been affected than ever before,' Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri said at an afternoon press conference at the state's National Guard headquarters. Rhode Island saw a record 16.34 inches of rain in March, according to Neil Strauss, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. River flooding overwhelmed not only bridges but sewage plants, and Carcieri predicted that Narragansett Bay would be polluted for some time, and that it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to repair flood-damaged roads, bridges, and businesses.
Spend to save
Using maternal deaths to argue that the world needs to double the amount it spends on family planning, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Guttmacher Institute released a joint report called "Adding It Up," arguing for $6.7 billion in family planning funding-more than double the $3.1 billion currently spent. UNFPA claims more funding would reduce unintended pregnancy rates by two-thirds and avert 70 percent of maternal deaths. Using the term "unsafe abortions" to redefine "illegal abortions," the report claims that more family planning would reduce the world's 20 million "unsafe" abortions to 5.5 million.
Catch and release
Authorities released Iranian pastor Wilson Issavi on bail March 28 after 54 days in prison for "converting Muslims." Farsi Christian News Network reported "that he is in good spirits and thanks the Lord for his freedom" but awaits further investigation and a court review of his charges.
Arrests of Christian leaders continue, reports the network and Barnabas Fund. On Feb. 28 officers handcuffed Hamid Shafiee and his wife, Reyhaneh Aghajary, at their home in Isfahan and conducted a search, they claimed, on orders from the local court. When Aghajary protested, officers assaulted her and shot her with pepper spray. They also confiscated Bibles, books, CDs, and computers.
Authorities are holding Aghajary in the political security wing of the Dastgard prison, and reports say she has started a hunger strike in protest against her treatment. Shafiee's location and condition are unknown. Both are converts from Islam to Christianity and for 10 years have been active in ministry in Isfahan.
A law making primary education compulsory in India went into effect April 1. All states in the country must now provide free schooling to every child aged 6 to 14. Currently, an estimated 10 million children do not go to school in India-despite the government's spending 3 percent of its annual budget on education and building schools-and many are forced to work instead.
A federal appeals court in March ordered the father of a Marine killed in Iraq to pay $16,510 in legal fees to a church leader who protested his son's funeral. The notorious head of Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps Sr., won the judgment despite a Supreme Court case pending: Justices have agreed to review the case brought by Albert Snyder, the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, in the next term. Snyder sued Phelps and his church after members held up signs reading, "Thank God for dead soldiers," "Semper fi fags," and "Matt in hell" outside his 2006 funeral. Snyder initially won, but an appeals court overturned the decision and argued that Phelps' speech is protected under the First Amendment.
All in a name
A group of students at Trinity University, led by Muslims, is lobbying trustees to drop a reference to "Our Lord" on diplomas. "A diploma is a very personal item," said Sidra Qureshi, president of Trinity Diversity Connection. "By having the phrase 'In the Year of Our Lord,' it is directly referencing Jesus Christ, and not everyone believes in Jesus Christ." Qureshi, who is Muslim, led the charge to change the wording, winning support from student government and a campus commencement committee at the San Antonio school, with trustees slated to consider the request at a May board meeting. Just one problem: Even if they win, they'll still be left with "Trinity," a reference to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.