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Under control?

"Under control?" Continued...

Issue: "A second chance," Nov. 20, 2010

ACORN falls

Just as voters were repudiating much of its political agenda at the polls, embattled left-leaning community organizing group ACORN filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 2. The group's chief executive blamed "a right-wing media blitz" for the financial problems. It was a swift downfall for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now: In 2008 it had 400,000 dues-paying members and more than 1,000 staffers. But, amid a litany of allegations, election officials began launching numerous investigations into voter registration fraud last year. Among several guilty pleas, one ACORN worker admitted to filling out phony voter registration cards while sitting at home smoking marijuana. Congress last fall voted to defund ACORN, which had received more than $54 million in federal funding since 1994. A report last year by a House committee concluded that ACORN "has repeatedly and deliberately engaged in systemic fraud." The group, likely snowed under by legal defense fees and abandonment by donors, is set to go on trial at the end of November in yet another case. This Las Vegas case centers on allegations that ACORN illegally attached incentives to its voter registration drives during the 2008 presidential election in a program it called "Blackjack," or "21."

Under attack

Christians in Iraq are reeling after a militant siege of a Catholic church in Baghdad ended with at least 58 dead and 75 wounded. Members of the terrorist group al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the massacre at one of the most prominent Catholic churches in the capital city.

The assailants-armed with grenades, suicide vests, and AK47s-invaded the congregation of more than 130 worshippers during Sunday evening Mass at Our Lady of Salvation Church on Oct. 31. Witnesses said the attackers detonated explosives that killed churchgoers, including handfuls of women and at least two priests. Dozens of survivors hid in a barricaded room.

The siege ended after four hours when Iraqi forces stormed the building. Iraqi officials said they were trying to determine if some victims died in the crossfire. Conflicting reports said that between three and eight militants died in the attacks, and that authorities arrested several assailants.

A worker in Baghdad for Open Doors USA-a California-based advocacy group for persecuted Christians-reported that three priests died in the attacks: "I'm very confused and shocked-two of the pastors were my friends." Other Christians lamented the deplorable conditions for Christians in Iraq: Militants have harassed, attacked, and killed Christians for years. Local church leaders say the government doesn't provide adequate protection, and many Christians have fled the country looking for safety. After the October attacks, more will likely flee.

"We have nothing left here," a member of the church told The Washington Post. "We are the minority. We cannot defend ourselves. We cannot stay in this country anymore."

Looking for work

The week before the election saw a jump in the number of Americans applying for jobless benefits, according to the Labor Department. The number of first-time filers for unemployment benefits was 457,000 for the week that ended Oct. 30, up 20,000 from the previous week. Meanwhile, in October the National Federation of Independent Business reported that its index of small business optimism was stuck at recession levels. "The downturn may be officially over," the NFIB report said, "but small business owners have for the most part seen no evidence of it."


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