Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Profiles in effective compassion," April 24, 2010

Enough rain

"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.

India

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.

Payback

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.

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