Tensions rose between the United States and Iran after two Iranian warplanes fired on an unarmed U.S. Predator drone. Although the shots missed, the incident was the first known Iranian plane attack on a U.S. aircraft. Pentagon officials said the drone was flying in international airspace over the Persian Gulf, 16 nautical miles off the coast of Iran, when the fighters released at least two bursts of machine gun fire toward the drone. Iranian military officials said the drone was flying in Iran’s airspace.
The attack took place Nov. 1, five days before U.S. elections, but the Pentagon didn’t publicly acknowledge it until Nov. 8, after CNN disclosed the incident. According to The Wall Street Journal, an Obama administration official said the matter was kept quiet to prevent further strains with Iran. The United States is enforcing sanctions on Iran over its secretive nuclear program.
Man knows not his time
Worldmag.com columnist Barbara Curtis, 64, died on Oct. 30 after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. The previous week she was one of 14 students at the World Journalism Institute’s weeklong mid-career training class in Asheville, N.C. We joked about WORLD’s long-running title for obituaries, “Man knows not his time,” taken from a 1687 Puritan sermon.
Barbara’s blog, Mommy Life, and books she wrote, including The Mommy Manual and Mommy, Teach Me, showed what she and her husband, Tripp, learned from raising nine children born to them, including one with Down syndrome, and three more adopted children, also with Down syndrome (see “Blessed by the dozen,” Jan. 28, 2012). Barbara sometimes described the effect of her dad walking out when she was 5, and her time in foster homes. She achingly wrote, “Crippled by the lack of a real father in my life, seeing God only as some remote and impersonal force … I wouldn’t have thought to seek God’s love. And yet how amazingly unconditional and enduring that love remained for me. As I misunderstood God and wandered, He still protected me from harm, continuing to draw me nearer, gradually softening my heart.”
Barbara also told how “seeing my children experience a happy childhood was the next best thing to having one myself.” She wished to “receive that kind of love. … Is it not a miracle that someone who missed an earthly father’s love can be healed to receive the love of the Heavenly Father?”
The UN Refugee Agency warned of a potential crisis looming in South Sudan, where Hepatitis E is circulating in camps hosting 175,000 refugees and low on resources. A UN spokesman said 26 refugees had died and 1,050 had become sick from Hepatitis E, a viral illness that spreads through contaminated food and water and can cause liver failure. Agency workers are low on funding and are struggling to provide clean drinking water and latrines for the camps. They also expect up to 40,000 more refugees to flee fighting in Sudan in the coming weeks—a situation that could accelerate the disease’s spread.
Hepatitis E is mainly found in Africa and Asia. There is no treatment for the disease, although China began manufacturing the world’s first Hepatitis E vaccine in October.
BJU to be investigated
Officials at Bob Jones University (BJU) in Greenville, S.C., announced the appointment of an independent organization to investigate past claims of sexual abuse at the Christian school. The Virginia-based group GRACE (an acronym for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) will begin its investigation in January.
The Nov. 8 announcement came six months after a BJU committee recommended the school hire an independent ombudsman to “review past instances in which it is alleged that the University underserved a victim or did not comply with the law in handling reports of abuse,” according to a BJU statement. After GRACE has finalized its plans for collecting data, school officials will post information on BJU’s website regarding how those concerned may contact GRACE. The organization, founded in 2003, will investigate independent from the school and work with claimants directly to ensure confidentiality.
The Czech parliament approved on Nov. 8 a plan to return billions of dollars in church property confiscated under communist rule and to provide compensation worth about $7 billion over 30 years. Under the plan, approved by 102 votes in the 200-seat lower house of parliament, the churches would become independent of the state and gradually stop getting government financing. The agreement also should free up 6 percent of the country’s land that once belonged to mostly Christian churches.
The Czech Senate earlier vetoed the plan—also opposed by Czech’s mostly atheist population and the center-left opposition—but the House votes are enough to overturn a potential presidential veto.
Indy ‘war zone’
Dozens of Indianapolis residents found themselves homeless on the evening of Nov. 10 after an enormous explosion ripped through their neighborhood. Authorities suspected a gas leak caused a blast that leveled two homes, burned or severely damaged 29 others, and sent out a force wave that registered on an earthquake detector 30 miles away. The explosion injured seven neighborhood residents and killed two—a 36-year-old second-grade schoolteacher and her husband.
Whitney Pflanzer and her husband Alex were in bed when the explosion shattered their windows and collapsed their ceiling. Outside, insulation rained from the sky. She told The Indianapolis Star: “It was like a war zone.”
The Supreme Court, by denying an appeal Nov. 13, upheld a circuit court ruling that allows public school students in a South Carolina district to receive credit for off-campus courses at religious schools. The Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the school district in 2009, saying the school’s policy constituted establishment of religion. The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the suit, ruling in June that the school’s policy “accommodates religion without establishing it.” The circuit court also said public schools couldn’t prevent students transferring from a religious school to a public school to transfer credit.