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Dispatches

News

Issue: "Terrific and timely," June 29, 2013

MAY 30: Scripps National Spelling Bee winner Arvind Mahankali stands under a shower of confetti after winning this year’s Bee in National Harbor, Md.

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Wednesday, May 29

Living nightmare

Two pro-abortion nurses testified before Delaware legislators about “meat market–style assembly-line abortions” at Planned Parenthood of Delaware. The former employees described unsterilized instruments, filthy surgical rooms, untrained staff, and disregarded women. “It was an absolute nightmare,” said Jayne Mitchell-Werbrich. Abortionist Timothy F. Liveright denied wrongdoing, but a day later the office of Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden filed a complaint against him, calling Liveright a “clear and immediate danger to the public.”

Internal combustion 

Twenty-five Tea Party groups filed suit against the Obama administration, as scandal grew in the IRS. The IRS admitted it had targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny and delays. Less than a week later, an audit found the IRS spent $49 million on 225 conferences in a two-year period. One bill for a single conference topped $4 million.

Thursday, May 30

Pearl Gosnell
Associated Press/Photo by Matt Rourke
Pearl Gosnell

Partner in crime 

A Pennsylvania judge sentenced Pearl Gosnell to prison for helping her husband, Kermit Gosnell, in his “house of horrors” abortion center. The judge sentenced Pearl Gosnell to seven to 23 months for helping her husband perform illegal, third-trimester abortions, including one on a 14-year-old girl who was 31 weeks pregnant. Kermit Gosnell received three consecutive life sentences for the murder of three babies.

Friday, May 31

An Iranian couple shopping for an iPhone at a computer shop in Tehran
Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images
An Iranian couple shopping for an iPhone at a computer shop in Tehran

Tech support

The Obama administration lifted sanctions on the sale of mobile phones, laptops, and other technology to Iranian citizens. The move came less than a month before Iranians were set to elect a new president, and as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prepared to leave office. U.S. officials hope expanding access to technology will help Iranians expand their ability to communicate under an oppressive regime.

‘K-N-A-I-D-E-L’ 

Arvind Mahankali won the Scripps National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling knaidel, a German-Yiddish word for a type of dumpling. The 13-year-old had finished third the last two years after stumbling on words with German origins. But this time, he said, “The German curse has turned into a German blessing.”

Saturday, June 1

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Twisters return

Storm-weary Oklahomans grieved again, as officials reported 18 people died in a series of overnight tornadoes west of Oklahoma City. The twisters came less than two weeks after a massive tornado killed 24 people south of the capital. Volunteer efforts continued, including hundreds of Oklahoma Southern Baptists serving meals, wielding chainsaws, and comforting survivors.

Sunday, June 2

Anti-riot police stand guard in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court
Associated Press/Photo by Amr Nabil
Anti-riot police stand guard in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court

Pyramid scheme 

Egypt’s highest court declared unconstitutional the laws used to elect the country’s parliament and to draft a new constitution. The Muslim Brotherhood had dominated both. The practical effects were unclear: The judges said the constitution isn’t annulled, and parliament may remain seated until voters elect a new one. Still, moderates and religious minorities hope the decision will bolster efforts to oppose the country’s Islamist direction.

Monday, June 3

Frank Lautenberg
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Frank Lautenberg

Lautenberg dies

The Senate’s last remaining World War II veteran died after a bout of viral pneumonia at age 89. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., served five terms in the Senate. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he would appoint a successor to Lautenberg’s seat until the state holds a special election in October to fill the vacancy.

Tuesday, June 4

Passau, Germany
Associated Press/Photo by Matthias Schrader
Passau, Germany

After the deluge

Floodwaters in Germany and Central Europe continued, while authorities reported at least 13 dead, thousands evacuated, and billions of euros in damages. Heavy rain triggered flooding in parts of the Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany. For some German regions, it was the worst flooding in centuries. 

Military maneuvers 

Chiefs of every military branch testified before Congress about a growing sexual assault crisis. A Pentagon study estimated 26,000 troops experienced “unwanted sexual contact” in 2012—up from 19,000 in 2010. (The study is based on anonymous surveys.) The number of sexual crimes reported in 2012 was 3,374. Military chiefs resisted calls to remove commanders’ authority to decide when to pursue a sexual assault case within their chain of command. Some lawmakers want independent military attorneys to decide when to prosecute cases.

Wednesday, June 5

Susan Rice and Barack Obama
Associated Press/Photo by Charles Dharapak
Susan Rice and Barack Obama

Rice rises

After months of withering criticism for her response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya, UN Ambassador Susan Rice accepted a promotion. President Obama announced Rice would replace resigning National Security Adviser Tom Donilon. Some Republicans sharply criticized the appointment, saying Rice mishandled public communication about the attacks in Benghazi, but others said they would work with the new adviser.

Building funds 

The Czech Republic’s highest court upheld a government plan to pay billions of dollars to religious groups for property the former Communist regime seized from them in the 1940s. Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish congregations had been fighting since the fall of Communism in 1989 to recoup assets like farms, woodlands, and buildings that have remained in the state’s control.

Thursday, June 6

Edward Snowden
The Guardian via Getty Images
Edward Snowden

Hold all calls

The Obama administration acknowledged a National Security Agency (NSA) program tracks the telephone records of tens of millions of Americans. The revelation came after government contractor Edward Snowden leaked the information to two newspapers. (Snowden had gone to Hong Kong prior to leaking the information, then checked out of his hotel on June 10 and disappeared from public view.) The president defended the surveillance program and said the NSA tracks phone numbers and durations of calls—not the content of conversations. Some Republicans and Democrats defended the program as a protection against terrorism, but other lawmakers called it a sweeping intrusion of privacy.

Friday, June 7

 Obama and Xi
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Obama and Xi

East meets West

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived at a private estate near Palm Springs, Calif., for weekend meetings with President Obama. White House officials called the casual atmosphere “a shirtsleeves summit,” but human-rights advocates urged Obama to ask Xi for the release of 16 Chinese prisoners of conscience, including those imprisoned for defending religious liberty. It wasn’t clear if the leaders discussed human rights, but the pair vowed to confront climate change.

Collapse in Philadelphia 

Cleanup continued at the site of a vacant building that collapsed onto a neighboring Salvation Army store in downtown Philadelphia, killing six people and injuring at least 13. City officials charged crane operator Sean Benschop with involuntary manslaughter, and said toxicology reports showed Benschop was high on marijuana the day the four-story building he was dismantling collapsed.

Saturday and Sunday, June 8-9

Associated Press/Photo by Rick Bowmer

Change of guard

A handful of Boy Scouts donned uniforms to march at the head of Utah’s gay pride parade in Salt Lake City. The move came a little more than a week after national delegates of the Boy Scouts of America voted to open membership to homosexual youth. A local Boy Scout leader said Scouts weren’t allowed to wear uniforms to advocate for social or political causes, but it wasn’t clear if the group would face discipline. Meanwhile, leaders at a handful of churches announced they would end their partnership with the Boy Scouts, and leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention expected to pass a resolution urging congregations to end ties with the organization.

Spain rules France 

Tennis legend Rafael Nadal defeated fellow Spaniard David Ferrer to win his eighth French Open title and become the only man to win the same Grand Slam tournament eight times. Nadal’s triumph came just months after injuries kept him out of last year’s U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open. The victory places him in third place for all time Grand Slam wins—five behind Swiss great Roger Federer. American Serena Williams won the women’s title, her 16th Grand Slam victory.

Monday, June 10

Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images

Taliban terror

Seven Taliban insurgents launched an attack on NATO’s operational headquarters at the military section of Kabul International Airport. All seven insurgents died during an hours-long battle with Afghan security forces that prevented more deaths. A day later, a car bomb outside the Supreme Court building in Kabul killed at least nine people and injured 24. The Taliban had vowed to target government employees in its annual spring offensive.

Ohio terror 

A grand jury indicted Ariel Castro on 329 charges related to kidnapping, imprisoning, raping, and torturing three young women for more than a decade at his home in Cleveland, Ohio. The charges include two counts of aggravated murder: Prosecutors allege Castro caused captive Michelle Knight to miscarry unborn children by starving and beating her. The charges could carry the death penalty.

Tuesday, June 11

Handout

Birth control for children

The Obama administration dropped a legal battle against a judge’s decision to make some forms of so-called “emergency contraception” available over-the-counter to girls of any age. Government lawyers initially said they would fight the judge’s ruling, though President Obama favored lowering age limits for the “morning-after” pill. The drugs can cause an early abortion if taken before a fertilized egg has implanted in the uterus. For young girls, purchasing the potential abortifacients will be as easy as buying candy at the drugstore.

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