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Down to business

"Down to business" Continued...

Issue: "All tied up," Sept. 24, 2011

When members of the Taman Yasmin congregation tried to occupy a new building in the town of Bogor in 2008, local residents protested and authorities blocked access to the facility. Though the Indonesian Supreme Court ruled in the church's favor in December, Mayor Diani Budiarto refused to comply, saying he's pushing for a national decree to ban churches from meeting on streets with Islamic names. (The congregation's building is on Jalan Abdullah bin Nuh, a street named after an Islamic cleric.) Nearly 40 places of worship belonging to religious minorities have faced closure in recent years, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and an Indonesia-based human rights group reports that attacks (including physical violence) against religious minorities tripled in the last two years. For now, members of Taman Yasmin continue meeting outside their building, where they've held weekly outdoor services for three years.

Eviction notice

In a stinging development for Anglicans in Zimbabwe, the nation's chief justice awarded control of all Anglican Church properties to Nolbert Kunonga, an ally of President Robert Mugabe excommunicated in 2008 by the Anglican Church. Even as the diocese of Harare appealed the judge's Aug. 4 ruling, Kunonga moved quickly: The ex-bishop by the end of August had forcibly evicted 27 Anglican pastors and their families from their church-owned homes. The ruling follows Mugabe's ongoing crackdown on political opponents that increasingly is falling on churches. Diocese official Clifford Dzavo told The Zimbabwean that Kunonga's agents severely beat one pastor during a sudden eviction. Meanwhile, Bishop of Harare Chad Gandiya said diocese leaders were trying to find new homes for evicted pastors, and wondering who would live in the church-owned properties: "This is not going to be easy at all. ... God help us."

Closed

The Washington Monument will remain closed indefinitely as water leaks from Hurricane Irene appear to have compounded cracks to the 555-foot-tall monument made by last month's East Coast earthquake. That 5.8 magnitude quake, centered in Mineral, Va., created several fissures, some four feet long, in the obelisk, which first opened in 1888. Workers sealing the cracks discovered water pooled inside the stairwell following Irene's heavy rains in the nation's capital. National Park Service officials have declined to say when the popular landmark will reopen.

Cover-up

Two top Justice Department officials lost their jobs Aug. 30 over the controversial Operation Fast and Furious, a botched investigation into gun smuggling that culminated with federal agents losing track of 2,000 guns sold under the program at the U.S.-Mexico border. Some of the guns ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels-with two of the weapons discovered last year at the scene of an Arizona shootout that left U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry dead.

Kenneth Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, received reassignment to the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy. Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke resigned. In a Sept. 1 letter to the acting U.S. attorney in Phoenix, lawmakers said the office's role "in the genesis and implementation of this case is striking," and sought extensive documents in what they say is an intensifying investigation. Federal prosecutors there urged a judge not to confer victim status on the Terry family, which allows family members to be notified of court proceedings in the case, confer with prosecutors, testify at sentencing, and receive restitution. "I think it's pretty bold of the government to take a position on this," George McCubbin, president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents 17,000 Border Patrol agents, told reporters last month. "It's the government trying to cover its backside and minimize the embarrassment over a failed gun investigation."

What is Boko Haram?

Boko Haram began in northern Nigeria in 2002 under the radical Islamic cleric Mohammad Yusuf. The fast-growing terror group's name colloquially translated means, "Western education is sin," and its Aug. 26 car bombing of the UN compound in Nigeria's capital, Lagos-the largest ever on a Western target in Nigeria, killing 23 and injuring over 80-highlighted its intent. In 2009 the group upped its jihadist strategy against Nigeria's Christian population, and experts now worry that it is linking arms with AQIM, the al-Qaeda affiliate in northern Africa, and Somalia's al-Shabaab terrorists.

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