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London fights back

"London fights back" Continued...

Issue: "Back to School," Aug. 27, 2011

Totaled recall

Wisconsin Democrats and labor unions have very little political momentum going into the 2012 elections after they failed to capitalize on six attempted recalls of Republican state senators. Four of the senators survived, ensuring the Republican majority in the Senate, and of the two whom the Democrats knocked off, one was in a liberal district and another was under a cloud of marital scandal. Barack Obama won all six districts in 2008, showing that now, despite a flood of money from national labor unions and Democrats, as well as the prolonged fight over limits on public unions, those voters largely remain in the Republican camp. State Democrats said they still hope next year to recall Gov. Scott Walker, the Republican behind the bill that cut state employees' pensions and collective bargaining power. But Walker has already won a large political battle. On the day of the recall elections, he signed redistricting legislation that the Republican legislature passed in July, putting in place new maps that will likely make it tougher for Democrats in 2012. The maps are subject to court challenges.

Restart with Russia

Good news for children living in Russia's overcrowded and underfunded orphanages: A new adoption agreement with the United States could mean more orphans find permanent homes in the West. Leaders from the two nations signed an adoption accord last month that ends 15 months of tension between the two former superpowers: After a Tennessee woman returned her adopted Russian son alone on a Moscow-bound plane last year, Russian authorities threatened to halt U.S. adoptions but instead pressed for a formal agreement with more oversight.

The accord mandates Russian approval of U.S. agencies operating in the country and requires U.S. agency workers to track adopted Russian children until age 18. Tracking could include occasional home visits to monitor for signs of abuse or neglect. (U.S. State Department officials say the agreement doesn't give Russian officials direct authority over U.S. families after they finalize adoptions.) The accord requires Russian officials to provide more information on orphans' social and medical histories-a step designed to ensure that U.S. families have a better understanding of children's needs before they adopt. Adoption advocates hope the agreement will boost a slowed process: U.S. families adopted 5,800 Russian orphans in 2004 but only 1,092 in 2010. But the need hasn't diminished: An estimated quarter-million children live in Russian orphanages.

Iraq's continued toll

Deaths of Iraqi civilians have dropped-121 in July compared to 497 for July 2010-but insurgent attacks across the country continue to claim a daily toll: An Aug. 2 car bombing of a Catholic church in Kirkuk wounded 20 and nearly destroyed the building. With violence widespread, Washington and Baghdad are considering keeping as many as 10,000 U.S. troops in the country beyond the year-end departure deadline. Five U.S. military personnel died in Iraq in July, compared with 15 in June, the highest number in two years.

Names change

Campus Crusade for Christ has changed its name to Cru. The ministry Bill and Vonette Bright founded in 1951 said its former name presented obstacles to the group's mission because the word campus does not represent all of its ministries and the word crusade now carries negative associations. "Our surveys show that, in the U.S., 20 percent of the people willing to consider the gospel are less interested in talking with us after they hear the name," the Cru website states. "We are changing the name for the sake of more effective ministry." Coral Ridge Ministries, the ministry D. James Kennedy founded in 1974, also announced it has changed its name to Truth in Action Ministries to reflect the organization's mission of "not just educating people on social issues and biblical worldview, but motivating and activating them to make a difference for the Kingdom."

Enemies unite

Despite sectarian divisions between Shiite Iran and Sunni al-Qaeda, the U.S. government declared what many long suspected: The Iranian regime and the global terrorist network are working together. The U.S. Treasury Department reported in late July that Iranian officials are allowing al-Qaeda operatives to use the country as a base to transport money, arms, and fighters to operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Though the two groups maintain stark differences, they share a common goal: opposing U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Iranian officials denied the accusations, but the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned six al-Qaeda members it said run an Iran-based operation. Since the al-Qaeda members likely don't have assets in the United States, the move is largely symbolic. But Treasury undersecretary David Cohen said establishing the link is important: "By exposing Iran's secret deal with al-Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran's unmatched support for terrorism."

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