For refugees living in South Sudanese camps, a heavy rainy season has brought a deluge of misery. The UN estimates at least 160,000 refugees have fled bombing campaigns in northern Sudan since last year, and many have settled in camps just over the border in South Sudan.
WORLD reported on harsh conditions for some 20,000 refugees living in the Yida camp this spring (see "In the shadow of war," May 5, 2012). Since that report, the refugee population in Yida has more than doubled to nearly 55,000. Aid workers say bombing campaigns in the nearby Nuba Mountains are driving hundreds to the camp each day.
Heavy rains have restricted aid flow to the area, which was already running disastrously low on food and supplies. The World Food Program airdropped 32 metric tons of food to camps across the region in August, but the need continues to grow.
Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders reports that child mortality rates have raced past emergency levels: An average of five children die every day in Yida from illnesses like diarrhea and infections.
The medical aid agency is one of several groups, including the Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, working to offer aid in the camp. UN spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the rising mortality rates and escalating number of refugees make the work an urgent task: "This is a race against time."
Help now wanted
Thousands of Iranian earthquake victims looked for help from an unexpected source in mid-August: outside countries. Two days after denying that the nation needed help after a pair of earthquakes killed 300 and injured more than 3,000 on Aug. 12, Iranian officials reversed course. "We would welcome help by any country," said parliament speaker Ali Larijani.
The 6.4 and 6.3 magnitude quakes left some 50,000 Iranians homeless in the country's rural northwestern region, and caused an estimated $600 million in damage. Iran sits on seismic fault lines that have led to far worse damage: A 2003 quake in the southeast killed some 26,000 people.
It wasn't immediately clear which countries Iran would ask for help. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the country hadn't accepted an American offer to help, but "our offer stands on the table."
How much power does newly elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi aim to amass? The Muslim Brotherhood stalwart offered a clear answer on Aug. 12: more than Hosni Mubarak-Egypt's former dictator.
After a militant attack killed 16 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula on Aug. 5, Morsi used the moment to overhaul the military and the government: The president ordered the retirement of the military's defense minister and chief of staff, and installed officials expected to support his agenda.
Morsi also issued a constitutional declaration that gives him more power than Mubarak held during his 29-year authoritarian rule: The leader gains nearly complete control of both the executive and legislative branches until the next parliamentary elections, and asserts authority to appoint the writers of Egypt's new constitution. A week earlier, Muslim Brotherhood members of parliament appointed 50 new editors of state-owned publications.
Officials in the Obama administration downplayed the power grab that gives Morsi and the Brotherhood dramatic control over the country's military, laws, constitution, media, and foreign policy. Experts and writers in independent Egyptian newspapers were less optimistic. "We are now rid of a state run by the military," wrote columnist Mohammed Amin. "What is left for us to do is rid ourselves from the state of the Brotherhood."
Making it legal?
Thousands of illegal immigrants lined up with paperwork at workshops set up by immigration advocates around the country on Aug. 15, the first day the federal government would accept applications for a deferred deportation program created by President Obama. The new program implements many of the immigration policies Democrats have failed to pass through congressional legislation called the Dream Act. Obama in June bypassed Congress by issuing an executive order that accomplished many of the Democrats' immigration goals without a vote on Capitol Hill.
Illegal immigrants ages 15 to 31 who were brought to the United States as children are now eligible for temporary residency and work status if they have lived here continuously for five years or more. To qualify for the two-year deferment, applicants also cannot have serious criminal convictions and must be in school or have earned a high-school diploma or its equivalent. Officials estimate that about 1.7 million immigrants, or 15 percent of the nation's illegal immigrant population, are eligible for the program.
The move by the Obama administration comes as Obama is trying to shore up the growing Hispanic voting bloc ahead of this November's election. But not all states are complying fully with Obama's amnesty effort: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, on Aug. 15 issued an executive order of her own that prevents immigrants who are given the reprieve from getting public benefits or obtaining driver's licenses. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, also a Republican, announced a similar policy on Aug. 17: "President Obama's deferred action program to issue employment authorization documents to illegal immigrants does not make them legal citizens."
Akin and abortion
If both presidential campaigns had hoped to avoid a pointed discussion of abortion, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., changed their plans a week before the Republican National Convention was set to begin in Tampa.
The six-term congressman apologized for comments he made during a television interview on Aug. 19 when responding to a question about whether abortion should be legal in cases of rape. Akin said that scenario is rare, and that if it's "a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
A firestorm erupted, and top GOP leaders called for Akin to drop out of his Senate race against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill. They worried that if Akin lost in November, the Republican Party could lose a chance to regain the Senate. Akin apologized for his comments: "I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize."
A handful of pro-life advocates supported Akin, and noted his impeccable pro-life voting record. Still, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Akin's original comments "insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong." A campaign statement added that "a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape."
Many pro-lifers have opposed Romney's support for abortion in the case of rape, and say what Akin could have stated succinctly in his interview: The violent tragedy of rape doesn't justify the violent tragedy of abortion.
Pro-lifers hope Republicans will continue to support compassionate care for victims of sexual violence, but also draw attention to the 1.2 million unborn children aborted in America every year-the vast majority outside of the context of rape.
Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), a large consumer cooperative and national outdoor recreation chain, has thrown its weight behind efforts to redefine marriage in a move that may prove divisive among its 4 million members.
REI posted its new policy in an obscure corner of its website (rei.com/content/dam/documents/pdf/Marriage_Equality_Policy.pdf), and CEO Sally Jewell announced the news to staff through a post on an employee-only blog on Aug. 13. The cooperative has in the past limited its public policy statements to those that deal with issues of interest to members, but Jewell said "it became clear to me that not taking any position would likely be construed as sending a signal that was inconsistent with our commitments to creating an inclusive environment at the co-op."
The new policy, however, has had the opposite effect for some Christian employees who feel their previously good working environment has turned hostile. "It's created a very uncomfortable situation," one REI store manager told WORLD on the condition of anonymity. (At least some employees received an email warning them not to speak with the press about the new policy.) Jewell said in her blog post that employees should feel the freedom to disagree, but the manager who spoke with WORLD said, "I don't feel like I can comment on this or respectfully disagree because my future is at stake."
Although other large companies have endorsed same-sex "marriage," REI's status as a cooperative renders it different, since its members have a stake in the company. Member Lance McCaskill, who lives outside Washington, D.C., said he's uncomfortable with the position because it is irrelevant to the company's mission and members had no say: "A position on either side is divisive."
West Nile virus is on track to have a record year in the United States, with about 700 cases reported by mid-August, and around 30 deaths. Nearly half the cases were in Texas: In Dallas, Mayor Mike Rawlings declared a state of emergency and twin-engine planes flew 300 feet above city neighborhoods to spray aerial pesticide for the first time since 1966.
Some residents worried about breathing the pesticide, called Duet, although the EPA has declared it safe for use in residential areas. Dallas resident Vanessa Van Gilder, who started a petition at Change.org to stop ground and air spraying (it had about 2,000 signatures by Aug. 20), told the Los Angeles Times she found some of her honeybees dead the morning after the first flights.
The virus spread in other states as well, including Pennsylvania, California, and Illinois. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four out of five people infected with West Nile virus never develop symptoms. The rest usually experience mild symptoms such as headache, fever, or rash. In less than 1 percent of cases, the virus can cause tremors, coma, or death.
West Nile virus first appeared in the United States in 1999. This year, an early spring and hot summer made favorable breeding conditions for mosquitoes, which pass the virus to humans with their bites.
The amount of carbon dioxide the United States releases into the atmosphere dropped to a two-decade low earlier this year, thanks to warm weather, the sluggish economy, and an evolving energy sector. The Energy Information Administration, tallying CO2 output from electricity generation, residential and commercial heating, transportation, and industry, reported that January through March 2012 saw fewer emissions (1.3 billion metric tons) than any first-quarter period since 1992.
Natural gas played the main role: With hydraulic fracturing technology making the gas abundant and cheap, many electric companies have switched to natural gas for power generation. Natural gas releases less CO2 than other fossil fuels.
The EPA is a player, too: The regulator set rules last year requiring coal plants to install expensive pollution scrubbers. Power companies have opted to shut down dozens of plants instead. Coal generated about half the nation's electricity in 2005, but this year has produced only a third.
Nellie Gray, tireless pro-life advocate and founder of the annual March for Life, died of natural causes on Aug. 13 in her Capitol Hill home at age 88. Gray, a Catholic, was a lawyer who worked for the State Department and then the Labor Department until 1973, the year the Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision forcing states to legalize abortion. Gray left her government job and organized the first March for Life in 1974: The first march drew thousands and she used a pickup truck as a platform and spoke through a bullhorn.
Gray continued to organize the annual marches, and every year on the January anniversary of the Roe decision the marchers have gathered on the National Mall and walked to the steps of the Supreme Court. The March for Life has become the largest annual protest in Washington.
Gray, who was found dead the same day as female sexual liberation icon Helen Gurley Brown, became an important female leader for a movement depicted as "anti-women." Gray's motto on outlawing abortion was "no exception, no compromise," but in one of her last emails to Father Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, she expressed the need for unity among pro-life Americans: "We shall unify and stop the evil of abortion because it is evil."