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A radical Democratic platform

2012 Conventions | And more news briefs

Issue: "Dead heat," Sept. 22, 2012

With the Democratic National Convention underway in Charlotte, party faithful were set to approve on Sept. 4 a platform that might make Clinton-era Democrats blush. The platform does away with "safe, legal, and rare" abortion language, endorsing instead "a woman's right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay." Analysts note that puts the party in favor of public funding for partial-birth abortions.

The platform also for the first time endorses gay marriage, and opposes constitutional amendments seeking to define marriage as between one man and one woman. It states: "We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act."

Absent from the 2012 platform is a section from the party's 2008 platform acknowledging Jerusalem "is and will remain the capital of Israel" and pledging the Obama administration "to isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel's right to exist, and abides by past agreements."

Tense over Tehran

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In unblinking defiance of Western sanctions, Iran rallied support for its nuclear energy program from over 100 "nonaligned" nations meeting in Tehran last month. The same week, the UN International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran had doubled the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges - from 1,064 to 2,140 - at its underground Fordow facility over the summer, and appeared to be covering up evidence of possible weapons tests.

Iran has long claimed its nuclear efforts are peaceful, intended to support power plants, but the United States, Israel, and their allies suspect the Islamic regime is attempting to build a nuclear bomb. Iran refuses to cooperate with UN attempts to inspect its nuclear facilities. At the Tehran summit, a group of 120 mainly non-Western nations jointly declared approval of Iran's enrichment capabilities.

After the storm

Hurricane Isaac barreled into New Orleans in August and flooded homes, pouring up to 16 inches of rain, and killing five in Louisiana and two in Mississippi. After leaving hundreds of people stranded and awaiting rescue by boats and helicopters, Isaac weakened and blew northeast, offering long-awaited rain to drought-stricken states like Missouri and Indiana.

Thanks in part to $14 billion in flood control improvements, Isaac did far less damage than Hurricane Katrina, which hit in 2005 and killed 1,800. Still, some Louisiana residents were losing a home to flooding for the second time in seven years. Relief groups like The Salvation Army and Convoy of Hope provided water and thousands of meals to those affected.

Media focus on New Orleans tended to divert attention from Haiti, though, where more than 350,000 Haitians still live in camps erected after the 2010 earthquake. Isaac's tropical-storm-strength winds shredded scores of tents and makeshift shelters belonging to impoverished Haitians, and afterward, some tried to repair them with tape and rocks. In one Port-au-Prince neighborhood, residents used buckets and brooms to clear their homes of floodwater mud. At least 19 Haitians died during the storm.

Man knows not his time

Sun Myung Moon, 92, founder of the Unification Church, died Sept. 3 in a church-owned hospital near Seoul, South Korea. Since its start in 1954, his Unification Church has drawn controversy along with followers: 3 million adherents worldwide, though ex-members and critics say the number is about 100,000. Moon was born in 1920 in North Phyongan Province; the area in what is now North Korea was known as a center for Korea's Christians. At 16, he claimed, Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him to finish the work He began 2,000 years earlier. For Moon, that work included extensive business holdings in South Korea and the United States, including launching The Washington Times.

Getting out the vote

A three-judge federal panel unanimously threw out a Texas voter ID law August 30 that would have required voters this November to show a photo ID such as a driver's license or passport. The court said the law was "the most stringent in the nation," since it would have forced some impoverished Texans to travel over 100 miles on a workday and pay $22 to obtain an ID at a license branch.

The Obama administration argued the law violated the Voting Rights Act by disenfranchising minorities. Texas officials disagreed and said the Act unfairly targets their state, and promised to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. In 2008 the high court upheld a similar voter ID law in Indiana. In Wisconsin, courts are blocking a photo ID requirement governor Scott Walker signed last year, and South Carolina is challenging a Justice Department annulment of its own photo ID law.

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