The North Carolina legislature voted earlier this month to override Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of a state budget bill that redirects $343,000 in family planning funding from Planned Parenthood to county health departments. "This budget adjustment does not cut a dime of family planning funding," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. "It does protect the consciences of pro-life taxpayers by sending funds to county health departments which do not perform abortions."
A different path?
When the head of Libya's transitional government described the country's future after the downfall and death of dictator Muammar Qaddafi last year, he declared: "We are an Islamic country. We take the Islamic religion as the core of our new government. The constitution will be based on our Islamic religion." Eight months later, Libyan voters may be trying to take a different path. The country held its first elections in decades on July 7, and preliminary results indicated a surprising tally: A coalition of secularists looked poised to make a strong showing against Islamist political groups.
That's striking in a country that's 97 percent Islamic. But secular-based politicians may have prevailed by focusing on the dynamic most pressing for many voters: rebuilding the country and the economy after 42 years of Qaddafi's corrupt rule.
Appendages no more
Republican governor-led states are jumping on the Supreme Court's healthcare ruling, which said states will not be required to expand their Medicaid rolls. The 2010 healthcare law required states to expand their Medicaid rolls or face the prospect of losing all Medicaid funding, and the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that states should have the option to refuse the expansion without losing all funding. Republican governors from Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and Wisconsin have said they will not only decline the Medicaid expansion, because they're concerned about how it could balloon their budgets, but also will refuse to administer the insurance exchanges required under the law, leaving that job to the federal government. "I stand proudly with the growing chorus of governors who reject the Obamacare power grab. Neither a 'state' exchange nor the expansion of Medicaid under this program would result in better 'patient protection' or in more 'affordable care,'" said Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a July 9 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "They would only make Texas a mere appendage of the federal government when it comes to healthcare."
Let it end
After a photo of a forced abortion victim in China went viral last month, discussion of the country's one-child policy has moved from the blogosphere to academic circles.
First a government-affiliated think tank recommended that China relax its one-child policy and consider a two-child option, pointing to the growing elderly population and shrinking workforce. In the 2010 census, 13.3 percent of Chinese were over the age of 60, compared to 10.3 percent in 2000. At the same time only 16.6 percent of Chinese were under 14, compared to 23 percent in 2000.
A few days later, a group of prominent Chinese scholars penned an open letter challenging the one-child policy, speaking not just of its economic implications but its human-rights violations. It specifically mentioned 23-year-old Feng Jianmei, whom authorities forced to abort her baby at 7 months because she could not afford to pay the 40,000 yuan ($6,300) fine for a second child. "From an economic perspective, the one-child policy is irrational," signatory and Chinese internet entrepreneur James Liang told The Wall Street Journal. "From a human rights perspective, it's even less rational."
Iranian Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani marked 1,000 days in prison on July 8, nearly three years since officials arrested the 34-year-old pastor and charged him with apostasy. Iranian judges may level new charges against him, including blasphemy and crimes against national security, reports the U.K.-based group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). A new conviction could give judges more reason to carry out a death sentence he already has received, following a trial date CSW says is set for Sept. 8.
Back to the future
After spending two years launching protons inside the world's largest particle accelerator, physicists in Switzerland announced July 4 they'd finally found evidence of the Higgs boson, an elusive, elemental particle first hypothesized in 1964. Two independent teams found signals pointing to the Higgs boson in the aftermath of 800 trillion proton collisions. The chance of those signals being false is 1 in 3.5 million, the scientists said-although it's possible they represent some other, undiscovered particle.
Physicists believe the Higgs boson, sometimes nicknamed the "God particle," is responsible for giving atoms their mass. Some hope the particle will help explain the beginnings of the universe, or illuminate other mysteries, such as the invisible "dark matter" that pervades space.
By the numbers
President Barack Obama on July 9 proposed extending Bush-era tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year-in exchange for raising taxes in 2013 for everyone above that threshold. Mitt Romney responded: "To add a higher tax on job creators and on small business is about the worst thing I can imagine to do if you want to create jobs."
The people's money
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced July 3 that his state ended the 2012 fiscal year with a $500 million budget surplus and more than $2 billion in reserves. The numbers are large enough to trigger an automatic tax refund of at least $100 per person, returning to taxpayers about $300 million when they file this year's tax returns.
When Daniels became Indiana's first Republican governor in 16 years in 2005, the state had a biennial budget process-and the two-year deficit ran to $800 million.
Daniels, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director under President George W. Bush, set up an OMB for Indiana and gave it real power. Spending slowed, causing Democrats to howl. But Daniels was a bipartisan offender: A temporary tax increase upset fellow Republicans. But results came quickly, and Indiana has repaid more than $750 million to schools, universities, and local governments, and has taken dramatic steps to fund the state's currently unfunded pension liability.
Will the budget bona fides put Daniels on Romney's short list for veep? Unlikely. Daniels is slated to become president of Purdue University when his term as governor expires in January 2013. He told Fox News in May that the vice presidency is "not an office I want to hold, expect to hold, have any plans to hold. If I thought that call was coming I would disconnect the phone."
Abortion? Yes. Spanking? No.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) meeting this month approved a resolution calling for "an end to the practice of corporal punishment in homes, schools and child care facilities." Fifty-one percent of the church leaders meeting in Pittsburgh voted for the measure, while 47 percent opposed it. The General Assembly also affirmed and expanded the PCUSA's support of abortion. In 1992 the PCUSA said abortion can be "morally acceptable" under certain circumstances. This year, it said the church supports "full access to reproductive health care for both women and men in both private and public health plans."
Such positions are why churchgoers are fleeing the PCUSA in droves. The church has seen a precipitous decline in attendance-more than 10 percent in the last five years alone. Today the PCUSA has less than 2 million members, down from a high of more than 4 million in the 1970s, and the average PCUSA church has less than 150 in attendance on a Sunday.
Made in Japan
An independent Japanese commission published a remarkably blunt conclusion about the Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011: "It was a profoundly man-made disaster-that could and should have been foreseen and prevented."
The July 5 report by the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission challenged the claims of officials in both the Fukushima plant and the Japanese government. Officials had insisted that the tsunami-not the earthquake-caused the massive damage at Fukushima that led to the worst nuclear disaster in 25 years. The tsunami, officials said, was a once-in-millennium event that no plant could withstand.
The commission rejected that idea, and said the earthquake might have caused the damage. That's significant because it means the plant may not have been as secure against quake damage as officials thought, and that other nuclear plants could be in danger if another major quake hits.
Commission head Kiyoshi Kurokawa wrote that government officials made the disaster worse by interfering with the response. And in a candid rebuke of Japanese society, Kurokawa wrote that the tepid disaster response stemmed from the culture: "our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to 'sticking with the program': our groupism; and our insularity." The author concluded: "This was a disaster 'Made in Japan.'"
'Nothing is left'
Torrential monsoon rains triggered massive flooding in parts of Bangladesh and India, killing some 200 victims and forcing millions from their homes. The floods swept through mostly rural villages during the last week of June and destroyed tens of thousands of acres of crops.
Throngs of hungry and exhausted villagers began trekking back to their communities in early July to survey the damage. Officials estimated the flooding destroyed thousands of homes.
The U.K.-based Barnabas Fund reported that it was providing emergency aid to Christian families struck by the disaster. The report said families would likely need help for the foreseeable future "as they will have to rebuild their lives from scratch."
Meanwhile, in Russia flooding on July 6 killed at least 171 victims and devastated the southern mountain town of Krymsk. Residents of the town of 57,000 said warnings from local officials came too late, and many in the town were sleeping when the flood waters hit. "Nothing is left," resident Ovsen Torosyan, 30, told the Reuters news service. "We are like tramps."
On the morning of June 29, a powerful "derecho"-a wall of powerful, fast-moving thunderstorms-was born over Chicago and swept across Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The storm's hurricane-force winds killed 24 in its path and left millions without power in the midst of one of Washington's all-time worst heat waves. The 100-plus temperatures made the storm especially violent, and then heat burned on for more than a week as cities set up cooling stations for those still without power.
Some meteorologists used the weather as evidence of man-made global warming: "It's very consistent with what we'd expect in a warming world," Deke Arndt, chief of climate monitoring at the National Climatic Data Center, told The Washington Post. Just over two years ago Washington was under record-setting snow and experiencing one of its coldest winters, which some saw as evidence against global warming. Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told NPR then, "It is important that people recognize that weather is not the same thing as climate."