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Ivory Coast crisis

"Ivory Coast crisis" Continued...

Issue: "Clutching two, dropping four," April 23, 2011

Choice for taxpayers

The Supreme Court has upheld a government program that allows tax credits for donations to scholarships to religious schools. For the past 13 years, the state of Arizona has allowed taxpayers to get a $500 tax credit for contributing to "school tuition organizations" (STOs) that provide scholarships for schools. The program's critics claimed that it constituted government support of religion. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on April 4 that the plaintiffs did not have the right to challenge the program. Taxpayers generally do not have the right to challenge the way their tax dollars are spent, although a 1968 Supreme Court case allows taxpayers to contest government money that is spent for religious purposes. In the Arizona case, the Court determined that the plaintiffs did not have standing because individual citizens, not the government, make the decision to contribute: "When Arizona taxpayers choose to contribute to STOs, they spend their own money."

Choice for parents

The House of Representatives revived the D.C. voucher program for low-income students March 30, passing a measure along party lines to reopen and expand the program after Democrats had closed it to new students in 2009. The White House issued a statement before the vote saying it "strongly opposes" the program but didn't threaten a veto. The program has a staunch backer in House Speaker John Boehner, who choked up when he spoke of it on the House floor: "Let's give these kids in our capital city a real chance at success and a real shot at the American dream that they don't have," he said. The D.C. public schools, though improving, are still bottom-ranked in the country. The voucher program succeeded in raising students' reading scores and graduation rates in the first five years of its existence, but Democrats, including President Obama, have continued to say that it has no record of success. The measure now faces its real test in the Democratic Senate, where it has only two vocal supporters from the Democratic caucus: Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The $20 million program would provide $12,000 scholarships to low-income students.

Al-Qaeda attacks

Two suicide bombers who carried out the deadliest attack in Iraq since October 2010 were senior al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders who previously had been detained by U.S. forces but released. The March 29 bombing, which killed 58 Iraqis and wounded nearly 100, took place in Tikrit, 90 miles northwest of Baghdad and the hometown of executed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Militants swarmed into the Salaheddin Province council building after a suicide bomber cleared the entrance. When security reinforcements arrived 20 minutes later, they were met by a car bomb. Then, during a five-hour standoff, the gunmen executed three members of the provincial council and set fire to their bodies in a brutal and defiant display.

Of the reported five militants who carried out the attack, authorities identified via DNA samples two who were wanted because they were senior leaders of al-Qaeda and had committed terrorist acts, said Salaheddin security director Jassem Jabara. "They had been arrested by U.S. forces, then released," he added, without specifying when they were detained or giving other details. It was the worst single attack in Iraq since al-Qaeda militants attacked a church in Baghdad last fall in a bloody hostage siege that left 68 dead. In March, 128 Iraqi civilians and 43 Iraqi Security Forces personnel were killed in continuing attacks by militants.

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