Dispatches > News
Santosh Verma/Genesis Photos for WORLD

Mumbai massacre

and more news briefs

Issue: "Orphaned no more," July 30, 2011

Santosh Verma, a veteran news photographer whose work has been published by The New York Times, Bloomberg, and WORLD, rushed to the scene after hearing "a huge bomb blast" near his home in Mumbai July 13. "I pushed against the tide of humanity rushing out from the scene and saw something I have never seen in my whole life-a whole mass of bodies, completely maimed, dismembered, one dead and another trying to use his cell phone to call for help," he told WORLD later.

Verma was an early witness to a triple bomb attack that killed at least 17 and wounded more than 130 (other estimates said 21 and over 40 were killed). For Mumbai, India's largest city and its financial hub, it was the third major terrorist attack on the city in five years.

Verma said when he heard one of the bombs-apparently hidden beneath an umbrella between two motorcycles-he knew that terrorists had once again picked a time, rush hour, to maximize casualties: The streets were their most crowded with commuters heading home, buying food from roadside vendors, or taking tea just before sundown. The bomb near Mumbai's Opera House exploded in an area of diamond merchants, prominent and well-to-do targets.

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Verma's images show the horror of what have become commonplace attacks: men just seconds earlier in suits and white business shirts nearly naked, their clothing shredded down to their underwear by the force of the explosion; severed limbs, stray shoes, busted tires, and crushed vehicles mingled in a bloody street.

Abuse of charity

Illinois in July informed Catholic Charities-which handles 20 percent of the state's foster care and adoption cases-that the state was cutting its foster care contracts with the organization as a result of a new same-sex civil unions law that went into effect June 1. Catholic Charities, an arm of the Catholic Church, provides foster care and adoptions only to heterosexual married couples. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services informed Catholic Charities of the contract terminations in a letter, noting, "[Y]our agency has made it clear that it does not intend to comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act." Catholic Charities from several major Illinois dioceses had already filed a preemptive lawsuit claiming specific legal protections for religious adoption agencies. A few days after the letter's arrival, a county judge issued a temporary injunction against the state, preserving the contracts of the major dioceses until another hearing in mid-August. If the state succeeds in ending the contracts, Catholic Charities will need to find foster care providers (likely non-faith-based) to take over the cases of some 2,000 children under the group's care.

Nigeria's greater danger

A peaceful July 10 church meeting turned deadly at All Christian Fellowship Mission in Suleja, Nigeria, when a bomb ripped through the church building after a Sunday morning worship service: The blast killed at least three churchgoers and critically injured seven. Church member Blessing Uwagbuwa described the scene after fleeing with his wife and child: "I couldn't hear anything, and I was just seeing red."

Post-election violence has grown increasingly worse in the largest West African nation, split evenly between Muslims and Christians. Muslims rioted after the April election of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, and killed hundreds. Boko Haram, an Islamist terror group seeking to establish Islamic rule in northern Nigeria, has claimed responsibility for much of the violence-six bombings in June and July alone- including at a police headquarters and a crowded outdoor market.

Churches may grow more vulnerable as police tighten security in urban areas. Stuart Windsor of Christian Solidarity Worldwide said if Boko Haram sees churches as soft targets, "Christians are in greater danger than ever."

Record levels

Though International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) reported a $16 million drop in total funding last year-an 11 percent decrease-UN agencies increased funding to the organization-by 34 percent.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) gave IPPF $1.6 million-up from $1.3 million in 2009 and $783,000 in 2008-after President Barack Obama resumed contributions in 2009 cut by the Bush administration. A new UN agency, UN Women, gave IPPF $331,000. UNAIDS gave IPPF $112,000, and the UN Foundation provided $30,000. The World Health Organization gave $50,000 and partnered with IPPF to do abortion clinic seminars on "safe abortion care."

Last year Canada cut its $5 million in contributions to IPPF. But even with the overall loss of funds, IPPF reported providing a record number of "abortion-related services," totaling over 1.4 million.

Expensive stem cells

After proponents of embryonic stem-cell research pleaded with California voters to approve a $3 billion ballot measure to establish the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in 2004, the agency's latest figures may raise hackles: The group announced it would pay Los Angeles investment banker Jonathan Thomas $400,000 to serve as the board's part-time chairman. That pushes the combined annual salaries of the agency's top two officials to nearly $1 million. Opponents of embryonic stem-cell research may find the fulsome salary ammunition for their case that the industry doesn't need government funding to survive. But the California foundation said it does need more public funds-and plans to ask the state's voters to approve another $3 billion within the next few years.

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