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Yemen's 'turnover'

"Yemen's 'turnover'" Continued...

Issue: "2012 Cities Issue," March 10, 2012

But limited space isn't the only problem: Many residents in towns unaffected by the tsunami are hesitant to accept shipments of rubble for disposal because they fear the debris could be contaminated by radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant.

In the disaster zone, the piles of debris are creating more than painful reminders: They also slow down rebuilding efforts for the thousands of homeless victims who remain in temporary shelters across the countryside.

Dead end in Pakistan?

What appeared to be a breakthrough in the high-profile 2011 assassination of Pakistan's minister of religious minorities may be a dead end. With the help of Interpol, officers arrested Abid Malik in Dubai and repatriated him to Pakistan on Feb. 13. After a week of questioning, Pakistani police failed to produce any evidence that linked Malik to the minister's death and asked an anti-terrorism court to acquit the suspect. Shahbaz Bhatti, who was the only Christian member of Pakistan's cabinet, was gunned down in his car on March 2, 2011. The 42-year-old Catholic Christian was an outspoken opponent of Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws. Malik was one of two possible suspects identified by a Karachi clergyman who claimed the two men had quarreled with Bhatti over property rights. Bhatti's support of minorities made him a target among Islamist groups, and he was rarely without his security detail. As violence toward Christians in Pakistan grows, few assailants are prosecuted.

Chinese two-step

When Xi Jinping, a Communist official set to become China's next president, visited the White House on Feb. 14, President Barack Obama told the smiling leader: "I'm sure the American people welcome you." Outside the front gates, more than 200 protesters chanted and waved signs condemning Chinese policy on everything from Tibet to the country's notorious one-child policy. Some shouted: "Stop lying to the world."

It's a fitting contrast in a complex relationship: U.S. officials feel pressure to embrace China's economic might, while frowning on the country's egregious human-rights record. Talks with Xi remained mostly cordial, but several officials, including Obama, pressed the leader to allow more freedoms for dissidents and religious minorities. Xi-slated to assume leadership of China's Communist Party later this year, and the presidency next year--responded with a familiar refrain: He pointed out that America has human-rights abuses, too.

That didn't satisfy Hudson Institute fellow Michael Horowitz, who called on U.S. leaders to vigorously press for the release of six high-profile dissidents and Christians currently jailed in China: Horowitz showed symbolic solidarity with the prisoners by intentionally undergoing arrest while protesting in an illegal spot on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House during Xi's visit. Authorities released Horowitz less than two hours later, but Chinese dissidents face a longer road: Some are serving 10-year prison sentences for criticizing the government.

As if to underscore China's determination to make its own decisions, officials denied a visa to the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, Suzan Johnson Cook. White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Feb. 16 that the White House raised the issue during Xi's visit, and that Chinese officials are reconsidering granting her permission to travel there.

Corporate tax talk

President Obama on Feb. 22 shook up the nation's debate over taxes by proposing sweeping changes to the corporate tax code. The president's goal: Lower the U.S. corporate tax rate from 35 percent, which is the second-highest in the world, to 28 percent and close loopholes that allow some companies to pay very little. "Our current corporate tax system is outdated, unfair, and inefficient," said Obama in a statement. "It provides tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas and hits companies that choose to stay in America with one of the highest tax rates in the world."

While conservatives hailed the idea of cutting rates and closing loopholes, they say that Obama's plan doesn't go far enough. J.D. Foster, a tax analyst at the Heritage Foundation, pointed out that the Obama plan is effectively a tax increase since the closed loopholes more than offset the lowered rates in terms of revenue. "That's not tax reform," wrote Foster. "That's just another tax hike in disguise." GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney favors lowering the corporate rate to 25 percent as part of a broader tax reform plan. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have called for corporate rates of 17.5 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively.

Business groups were encouraged by the various proposals. "It's official: President Obama, congressional leaders of both political parties and the Republican candidates for president all support lowering corporate tax rates," said John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable. "Now let the debate begin."

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