Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "GOP idea man," May 22, 2010

Storm toll

The death toll rose to 31 in three states from a massive weekend storm system that devastated parts of the Southeast in May-21 people were killed in Tennessee and the same storm system killed six people in Mississippi and four in Kentucky, emergency management officials said.

Court watch

An April 28 U.S. Supreme Court decision will allow a white cross that has stood for more than 75 years on a stretch of the Mojave Desert to remain. In a 5-4 decision, justices overturned a federal judge's rejection of the cross, which honored the dead of World War I. But the ruling recalled internal divisions over the separation of church and state-just as President Barack Obama is set to select another justice.

In other cases, other places:

• The Virginia Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a dispute between The Episcopal Church (TEC) and nine Anglican congregations that split from TEC's state diocese April 13. The nine, now part of the Anglican District of Virginia, left TEC in 2006-2007 over doctrinal matters, and TEC sued for ownership of the properties. A decision is expected next month, but an automatic appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is expected-with high stakes for hundreds of churches nationwide that similarly have left TEC.

• That same day in Iran two Christians released from prison in 2009 were in court facing charges of propagating Christianity and apostasy. Maryam Rustampoor and Marzieh Esmaeilabad have been in poor health since their release, but no verdict has been issued.

• Also delayed was a verdict in Turkey, where five defendants are charged with the brutal murders of three Christian workers in Malatya three years ago. The case has been repeatedly sidetracked-this time by new evidence alleging a plot among naval officers to target minorities, including the Malatya Christians, as a way to discredit the government.

Going, going

Florida's Republican Party commissioned an oil portrait of Gov. Charlie Crist several months ago. But now that Crist has proclaimed himself an Independent-following a too-close GOP primary in his race for the Senate-the state GOP is selling the portrait on eBay. "Canvas is naturally sensitive to changes of temperature and humidity, just as Charlie Crist's political convictions are subject to fluctuations in poll numbers," the product description read. Bidding surpassed $6,000 only a day after the portrait was listed.

Power of prayer

The Pentagon dropped evangelist and Samaritan's Purse head Franklin Graham from its May 6 National Day of Prayer service under pressure from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation over his comments about Islam. Nine years ago after 9/11 Graham called Islam a "very wicked and evil religion." Following the Pentagon's brush-off, he said, "I love Muslim people . . . I want Muslims everywhere to know . . . that Christ can come into their heart and change them." The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) applauded the Pentagon's decision and tried unsuccessfully to stop Graham's appearance at the congressional Day of Prayer service. The move didn't stop Graham from attending a meeting between his father, Billy Graham, and President Barack Obama at the elder Graham's home in North Carolina April 25. It was Obama's first meeting with the ailing 91-year-old evangelist, who has ministered to 12 presidents. Both men said that they prayed for one another.

High risks' high cost

Eighteen states have said "no thanks" to the federal provisions of the healthcare law-by formally declining to set up high-risk insurance pools. These programs are designed by the law to cover those with pre-existing conditions immediately before insurance companies are barred from rejecting such individuals in 2014. The law provides $5 billion to set up high-risk pools, but some governors have argued that's too little, as such programs can be prohibitively expensive: Virginia says it would use up its $113 million federal allotment in less than two years. One alternative is that the federal government will be forced to set up the stopgap program itself-something supporters of the legislation wanted from the start.

Last battle

For South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, chapters of life keep closing: In March, Sanford agreed to pay $74,000 in fines to avoid a state hearing into whether he violated state travel policy in the wake of his adultery scandal with an Argentine woman. The same month, his marriage to Jenny Sanford, his wife of 20 years, ended in divorce. (In April, Jenny Sanford confirmed she had begun dating a Georgia businessman.) But the chapter that closed in May was likely welcome: South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster said Sanford won't face criminal charges stemming from ethics complaints.

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