Dispatches > News

Freed Shalit

"Freed Shalit" Continued...

Issue: "Beyond the body count," Nov. 5, 2011

Freedom on hold

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in danger of shutting down Sept. 30, was saved at the last minute in the continuing resolution Congress passed to fund government services until Nov. 18. But the commission is still in danger of shutting down after Nov. 18 because of a holdup in the Senate. In September the House overwhelmingly passed stand-alone legislation reauthorizing the commission, but a Democrat in the Senate placed a secret hold on that legislation, effectively killing the commission. Now, thanks to the addendum to the continuing resolution, the Senate has a few more weeks to reauthorize the body, a watchdog that reports to the State Department. A single senator can place an anonymous hold to prevent legislation from coming to the floor for a vote, a block that the Senate majority leader can heed at his discretion.

Finding Chen Guangcheng

More than a year after Chinese officials released prominent human-rights activist Chen Guangcheng from prison, the blind attorney's supporters are worried about his whereabouts. During a one-week period in October, Chinese authorities aggressively blocked two dozen outsiders from visiting Chen, and Voice of America (VOA) reported that villagers said the activist was dead.

Chen served four years in prison after exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in his province. Authorities confined the activist to house arrest after his release in September 2010, along with his wife and 6-year-old daughter. Officers have reportedly beaten the attorney, who already suffers from frail health. Chinese newspaper reporter Shi Yu said that officers beat, robbed, and detained him after he tried to visit Chen's village in October. Hu Jia-another activist who spent four years in prison-said authorities told him they would arrest him if he tried to visit Chen. His response: Hu posted a photo of himself on Twitter wearing black sunglasses like the blind attorney, and wrote a message: "Free Chen Guangcheng."

One red cent

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) announced that the price of first-class postage-the 44-cent Forever Stamp-will increase by one cent to 45 cents on Jan. 22, 2012. USPS also has proposed 2 percent rate increases for periodical and package delivery to deal with what Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe calls the service's "current financial crisis." USPS contends it overpaid some $75 billion in retirement prepayments since becoming semi-independent of the federal government in 1970. But a recent Government Accountability Office report found no errors in the arrangement, and pointed out that Congress had no control over postal pay raises, which contributed to pension liability.

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