The UN Security Council announced plans to tighten sanctions on North Korea after a failed long-range rocket launch April 13 and threatened more action if the country conducts more tests. The United States, China, and Russia had previously asked North Korea to cancel the launch, which they believed was a test of the country's long-range missile technology banned under UN resolutions.
But North Korea went ahead, claiming it would send a satellite into orbit to mark the 100th birthday of its national founder, Kim Il Sung. Pyongyang held a week of events to celebrate Kim Il Sung's April 15 birthday-but the rocket fell to the sea moments after taking off. The secluded nation had hoped to demonstrate renewed military power with the launch, and the United States promised to suspend food aid to the country-dashing hope that the new leader Kim Jong Un would improve relations between North Korea and the rest of the world.
Afghan photographer Massoud Hossaini won a Pulitzer Prize April 16, when the top journalism awards were announced, for capturing 12-year-old Tarana Akbari in Kabul shortly after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb near a Shiite shrine last December that killed over 70, among them seven in her own family.
Deadly blasts hit Afghanistan again April 15, with coordinated attacks in the capital as well as three eastern provinces. This time civilian casualties remained low, as Afghan security forces fought Taliban fighters including near parliament and NATO headquarters, killing 39 of the insurgents.
While a Democratic president wants to raise taxes on the wealthy, and a Republican Congress wants to cut taxes on small businesses, few Americans noticed a tax milestone: As of April the United States stands alone with the world's highest corporate tax rate, at 39.2 percent. Japan, which has held top billing, cut its rate to 38 percent. "Even Russia, at 20 percent, and China, at 25 percent, have lower rates than America does. The difference in tax rates means American companies are trying to compete with one hand tied behind their backs," said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.
The World Bank followed its traditional path, voting in as its next president on April 16 Korean-born American Jim Yong Kim, 52, a physician, development expert, and president of Dartmouth College. The bank's 25-member board was divided in the decision-with experts criticizing President Barack Obama's nominee as lacking credentials to lead the institution, and emerging nations seeking to break the hold the United States has on the position by supporting instead Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The United States has held the presidency since the World Bank's founding after World War II, while a European has always led the International Monetary Fund. With both European and U.S. economies growing at slower rates than BRIC nations, a growing number of board members argue it's time for that to change.
The grants go on
The Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure has kept its support for Planned Parenthood steady this year after it reversed its decision to cut funding to the group in February, a debacle that prompted a top executive to resign. The breast cancer foundation announced its annual grants in April and said it approved funding to at least 17 Planned Parenthood chapters for this year, the same number as 2011. The grants are ostensibly for breast cancer screenings, though Planned Parenthood doesn't do mammograms itself but refers patients. Registration for Komen's fundraising races has been down in certain parts of the country since the Planned Parenthood controversy.
Keeping up the drumbeat on the contraceptive mandate, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' religious liberty committee issued a statement April 12 calling for U.S. bishops to observe a "fortnight for freedom," from June 21 to July 4. The bishops will focus on teaching about religious freedom, taking "public action," praying, and fasting. "As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad," the religious liberty committee wrote. "This is not a theological or legal dispute without real world consequences."
The bishops singled out domestic issues: the contraceptive mandate, the Alabama immigration law, universities barring Christian student organizations (see "Campus divide") , the New York schools barring churches, and state and federal governments ending contracts with Catholic groups for foster care services and services to counteract human trafficking. Despite their alarm on domestic issues, the bishops noted that Christians abroad are in a "graver plight" than those in the United States.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to transfer half a billion dollars to the Internal Revenue Service this year so it can implement the healthcare law, according to The Hill newspaper. The revelation has angered congressional Republicans who tried to block funding to the IRS for the law's implementation in recent appropriations. This $500 million did not go through the normal appropriations process as IRS money, but such a transfer appears to be legal.
The 2010 healthcare law set aside a $1 billion fund for implementation, and The Hill reported that the HHS move would drain the fund by September. Under the healthcare law, the IRS has many regulatory responsibilities, such as enforcing the individual mandate and providing tax credits in certain cases. Top Republicans are now demanding more information on how the administration would pay for the law's implementation, and what is the reach of the IRS under the law.
The Department of Justice sued Apple and five of the largest publishing companies April 11 for allegedly inflating the price of e-books in an attempt to end Amazon's reign in the market.
The lawsuit claims that both Apple and the publishers were upset that Amazon lowered the price for all e-books to $9.99 because it wiped out the competition and hurt the publishing business. So they allegedly made a secret agreement to use a different revenue model that forced all e-book providers, including Amazon, to raise the price of e-books by $2 to $3.
As a result, Amazon dropped from a 90 percent share of the e-book market to a 60 percent share, and the DOJ said the price increase caused "consumers to pay tens of millions of dollars more for e-books than they otherwise would have paid."
Three publishers have already agreed to settlements.
A suicide bomber detonated explosives on April 8 in a busy street in Kaduna, the capital of northern Nigeria's Kaduna state, killing 38 people in a massive blast apparently meant for nearby churches. The blast damaged All Nations Christian Assembly Church and the ECWA Good News Church as churchgoers attended an Easter service, but witnesses said the bomb-laden car had been turned away from the churches by a security guard and street barriers.
Northern Nigeria's Christians have been the target of multiple Sunday attacks this year, and the terrorist group Boko Haram has announced its intent to bomb churches and Western targets. But U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson in a speech April 9 said, "Religion is not driving extremist violence" and dismissed calls that the State Department designate Boko Haram a terrorist group.
Crimes against order
Twelve Iranian Christians awaited a judge's verdict after spending Easter Sunday on trial for "crimes against the order" of Iran. Though the specific allegations were unclear, authorities arrested the group in connection with their church meetings and practice of Christianity, according to Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries, an organization with evangelical contacts in Iran. When the group's attorney, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, couldn't reach the courtroom because of a delayed flight, the trial went forward without him, leaving the Christians to defend themselves. Dadkhah also represents Youcef Nadarkhani, the pastor sentenced to death for apostasy. As of April 2, the American Center for Law and Justice reported that Nadarkhani was still alive, and that authorities had allowed the pastor's son to visit him on the boy's birthday. A few days later, Nadarkhani turned 35-and marked two-and-a-half years in prison.