Dispatches > Human Race

Human Race

Issue: "2012: The Year Ahead," Jan. 14, 2012


A French court on Dec. 15 found former President Jacques Chirac guilty of embezzlement during his tenure as mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995. The court, which found that Chirac had used public funds to support his political party, gave the ailing former leader a two-year suspended sentence. Chirac served as president of France from 1995 to 2007.


Pakistani woman Mukhtaran Bibi, who generated international attention after she successfully prosecuted a group of men responsible for gang raping her a decade ago, gave birth to a son in December. A tribal council had ordered the 2002 rape in response to accusations that Bibi's brother had sex with a woman from a higher caste. Bibi, 40, who is now married to one of the police officers assigned to protect her, fought back. A Pakistani court sentenced six of the men to death, although a higher court later acquitted or commuted the sentences. Bibi used the money she received from the trial to start schools and shelters in her city.


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A Virginia man, accused by authorities of helping Lisa Miller flee the country with her biological daughter Isabella, surrendered Dec. 6 to face charges of aiding in international parental kidnapping. Kenneth Miller, 46, allegedly helped arrange Lisa Miller's 2009 flight to Canada and then Nicaragua so she wouldn't have to hand custody of her daughter over to her former lesbian partner, Janet Jenkins. Last year prosecutors dropped similar charges against Timothy Miller, the American Mennonite missionary who helped Lisa Miller reach Central America, after he agreed to cooperate with the investigation. (None of the Millers are related.)


A 14-year-old American used his wits to outsmart and escape suspected al-Qaeda-linked militants who had kidnapped him five months earlier. Kevin Lunsmann, his mother, and a cousin were vacationing on an island in the Philippines when they were snatched over the summer. The captors eventually released Lunsmann's mother after his father paid an undisclosed ransom; the cousin also managed to escape a few weeks before Lunsmann.


Author and journalist Christopher Hitchens died on Dec. 15 from complications of cancer. A leftist and socialist as a young man, Hitchens, 62, came to embrace a range of policies to the point, as he put it, that he was "accused of being a neoconservative and not always thought of it as an insult." With regard to religion he was unswerving: Calling himself an anti-theist, Hitchens in 2007 wrote God Is Not Great.


Cardinal John Patrick Foley, who headed up the Vatican's press office, died Dec. 11 at age 76. Foley was also a former Philadelphia priest who for 25 years served as the American narrator for the pope's annual midnight Christmas Mass.


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