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Dispatches

News

Issue: "Blind exiled brave," Aug. 10, 2013

IT’S A BOY: Prince William and his wife Kate with their newborn son depart London’s St. Mary’s Hospital on July 23.

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Wednesday, July 10

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

High unemployment

June’s unemployment remained stubbornly high, at 7.6 percent, so Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reassured shaky markets the Fed’s easy-money program will continue. The Fed had said it would continue its low-interest-rate, bond-buying strategy at least until the jobless rate hits 6.5 percent. But he told a National Bureau of Economic Research conference that continued weakness in the labor market means “it may well be some time after we hit 6.5 percent.” The Labor Department said the number of full-time jobs declined by 162,000 in June. Part-time jobs increased, but only because full-time workers’ “hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.”

Train tragedy 

Canadian police raised the number of confirmed fatalities to 20 from the July 6 train derailment in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic, and authorities for the first time acknowledged the remaining missing people were presumed dead. Rescuers went on to recover remains of 42 of 47 as authorities dug through wreckage and drained crude oil remaining from dozens of overturned tankers. “It’s a long, difficult process for the families,” said Geneviève Guilbault of the Quebec coroner’s office. “We plan to support the families throughout this time.”

Thursday, July 11

Farm bill

House Republicans passed a scaled-back farm bill that for the first time since the 1970s divides food stamps from agriculture subsidies in a move to cut both. Even though the legislation kept farm price supports and U.S. grain purchase requirements for overseas food aid (“Food for Peace”), it showed the way to untwining special interests that promote agricultural spending: urban Democrats who favor food stamps and farm-state Republicans who want continued crop subsidies. Unlikely to win final passage in both houses of Congress, the bill set the stage for further debate over food stamp dependency—now involving 47.5 million Americans compared to 27.7 million in 2008. 

Luxembourg 

The longest-serving head of government in the European Union, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, resigned over an explosive scandal involving the tiny country’s spy agency. Allegations include the misuse of public funds and disclosures that the agency kept surveillance files on individuals. Juncker, who may seek re-election, until this year chaired a eurozone group credited with saving the EU’s currency.

Friday, July 12

Texas State Troopers guard the capitol rotunda after six abortion-rights protesters were dragged out of the Senate chamber.
Associated Press/Photo by Tamir Kalifa
Texas State Troopers guard the capitol rotunda after six abortion-rights protesters were dragged out of the Senate chamber.

Abortion in Texas

Just before midnight, the Texas Senate passed a bill restricting abortion, 19-11, with all but one Democrat voting against it. In addition to banning abortion after 20 weeks, the bill requires those who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and requires all abortions to take place in surgical centers. Only five of Texas’ 42 existing abortion clinics meet that standard. The measure had already passed the House, and Republican governor Rick Perry pledged to sign it despite nationwide protests from pro-abortion groups. Texas state police issued a safety warning to search all bags of those entering the Senate gallery—and law enforcement reported confiscating three jars of paint and 19 jars suspected to contain feces and urine, along with tampons and feminine pads activists planned to throw at pro-life lawmakers. 

Snowden 

Fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden met with human rights activists and others in Moscow’s international airport to announce his plans to file for temporary asylum in Russia, which he did on July 16. Snowden took refuge in the airport’s transit zone in June after the United States announced it will file espionage charges against him. 

Homeland security 

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is resigning her cabinet position held through two Obama terms to become president of the University of California system. UC officials believe her experience and political ties will help university-administered federal weapons and energy labs.

Homeschool plight

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request for rehearing the case of the Romeike family, German homeschoolers who requested asylum in the United States ("Schools of thought," May 4, 2013). The family fled Germany, where homeschooling is illegal, but appeals for asylum status were turned down by the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals and a three-judge panel of the appeals court. Home School Legal Defense Association says it will submit a petition for review of the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Saturday and Sunday, July 13-14

George Zimmerman
Associated Press
George Zimmerman

Acquittal

A Florida jury found George Zimmerman, 29, not guilty in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman’s acquittal on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges sparked some nationwide protests—and petitions for the Justice Department to open a civil rights investigation, which Attorney General Eric Holder agreed to do. But legal experts said that even apart from Florida’s “stand your ground” law, self-defense claims are difficult to overcome in court, and the prosecution failed to provide sufficient evidence to convict Zimmerman. Top Florida defense lawyer Michael Band said the day after the July 13 verdict, “Trials, for better or worse, are not morality plays.” 

Anon. no more 

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith began flying off store shelves after readers discovered the author is actually J.K. Rowling. An article in the Sunday Times of London revealed that the crime novel, published in April to good reviews, was written by the famed Harry Potter series author—and by Sunday afternoon it was the No. 1 bestseller at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Monday, July 15

Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty

Captured

In a major blow to drug cartels, Mexican authorities captured Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the notoriously brutal leader of the Zetas drug cartel, in a pre-dawn intercept of a white pickup truck in Nuevo Laredo, just across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas. Mexican Marines, including a helicopter, surrounded the truck, which was carrying $2 million and eight guns in addition to Trevino Morales, captured him, and flew him to Mexico City where he is expected eventually to stand trial. Authorities believe Trevino Morales, 40, is responsible for hundreds of deaths in the cartel’s brutal campaign to preserve drug and migrant trafficking into the United States.

All wet

By mid-July Atlanta—like most parts of the Southeast—hit rainfall records: The city’s total for the year of 41.68 inches is 14.33 inches above normal. And the city recorded rainfall every day of the month except July 1. In south Florida parts of Miami-Dade County received 10 inches of rain in one day, forcing flight cancellations and headaches: “I’ve got 70 kids here who have been pent up inside all week,” complained summer camp coordinator Alyssa Williams to the Miami Herald. “They’re pretty antsy.”

Tuesday, July 16

Bryce Harper
Al Bello/Getty Images
Bryce Harper

All-Stars

Washington Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper became the youngest starter in history for the Major League All-Star game. The 20-year-old opened play at New York’s Citi Field for the National League in center field but went 0-2 from the plate. Yankees’ reliever Mariano Rivera became the oldest player to win the All-Star MVP award, at 43, as the American League beat the National League, 3-0.

Cross-border crisis

Authorities in western Uganda went on alert for a cholera outbreak as more than 65,000 Congolese overran the border into Uganda’s Bundibugyo district. Their abrupt arrival came after ADF rebels, a long-dormant Ugandan militant group hiding in Democratic Republic of Congo jungles, attacked border villages. Aid workers say they were overwhelmed by the sudden refugee influx: In a place with minimal infrastructure, said World Harvest Mission doctor Jennifer Myhre, “water and sanitation, health and food, shelter and safety have to be constructed out of nothing but space and grass and air.”

Wednesday, July 17

House of Parliament
Andrew Cowie/AFP/Getty Images
House of Parliament

Changing marriage

Great Britain legalized gay marriage, with Queen Elizabeth II giving her approval—a formality—one day after Parliament passed the bill, clearing the way for same-sex weddings, likely by next summer. The law, introduced in January, allows gay couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies in England and Wales, but only if the religious institution consents. The Church of England, the state church, says it will not perform such ceremonies, at least for now. Prime Minister David Cameron backed the legislation, which has divided his Conservative Party.

Student loans 

Congress reached an agreement to lower federally subsidized student loan interest rates, at least temporarily. It sets new rates for federally subsidized Stafford loans for undergrads at 3.85 percent interest (about half a percentage higher than last year’s rates), and 5.4 percent for grad students.

Shuttered 

The largest abortion clinic in Virginia quietly closed its doors following repeated disputes with its landlord—and in the face of new state regulations requiring abortion clinics to adhere to the same standards as outpatient surgical centers. NOVA Women’s Healthcare in Fairfax, Va., performed 3,066 abortions in 2012—making it the largest abortion provider in the state. Nationwide, the number of abortion clinics, according to Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman, has dropped from 2,176 in 1991 to 625 today.

Thursday, July 18

Bankrupt

The city of Detroit filed for federal bankruptcy protection—the country’s largest-ever municipal bankruptcy case—with liabilities of more than $18 billion. The Chapter 9 filing caps decades of decline in what once symbolized the industrial powerhouse of the United States. Since 2008, the city has spent $100 million more a year than it took in.

Full of years 

South Africans celebrated the 95th birthday of Nelson Mandela, many by taking part in 67 minutes of charity to commemorate 67 years of service to his country for the former South African president and anti-apartheid leader. Mandela himself remained hospitalized, as he has been since June for a persistent lung infection.

Nigeria 

Gunmen killed six Christians from one church in an early morning attack in southern Plateau State, a month after Muslim Fulanis killed more than 30 Christian men, women, and children in three nearby Plateau villages. Mark Lipdo, director of the Stefanos Foundation in Jos, the Plateau capital, said thousands of Christians have fled the area, and the overall death toll may be as high as 70.

Friday, July 19

Michael Thurston/AFP/Getty Images

Soft terrorism

A glamorized Rolling Stone cover featuring accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hit newsstands amid boycotts and outcries from Boston residents. The Aug. 1 issue depicts a tousled-hair, soft-eyed Marathon bombing suspect above the sub-headline: “How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam, and became a monster.” About 10 retailers—including CVS, Walgreens, and several New England chains—refused to sell the magazine. And cover knock-offs surfaced on Twitter and elsewhere. One featured John Wilkes Booth and the line, “How a promising stage actor was failed by his president, fell into a Confederate crowd, and became a monster.”

Restrained 

Capping a legal turnaround in Hobby Lobby’s case against the federal health insurance contraceptive mandate, a federal district judge granted a preliminary injunction to the craft retailer so it will not face fines for excluding abortifacients Plan B and Ella from its coverage. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had remanded the case at the end of June, reviving it after multiple setbacks. Upon the 10th Circuit’s ruling, Judge Joe Heaton immediately issued a temporary restraining order to help Hobby Lobby—as it faced a July 1 deadline for daily fines. After Heaton heard arguments on July 19 he immediately read his order from the bench granting a preliminary injunction. “There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved,” he said.

Saturday and Sunday, July 20-21

Text blasphemy

Authorities in Pakistan arrested a Christian couple for allegedly sending to a Muslim cleric blasphemous text messages. It’s the third known case of Christians charged for sending messages that defame the Islamic prophet Muhammad via their cellphones—part of “a dangerous trend,” according to Morning Star News. Activating SIM cards on someone else’s national identity card isn’t difficult in Pakistan. Earlier in July a court sentenced a Christian man from the same town to life imprisonment and a fine of $2,000 for sending blasphemous text messages.

French fire 

About 250 protesters clashed with police firing tear gas in a Paris suburb after police checked the identity of a woman wearing a Muslim veil. Four police officers were injured and six were arrested before riot police arrived and the crowd dispersed before dawn. France outlawed hijab, wearing the veil to fully cover the face, in 2011.

The American wins 

In a dramatic comeback from a dramatic U.S. Open loss in June, Phil Mickelson shot a final round score of 66 to take the British Open title on July 21. The popular “Lefty,” now with three of four golf championships in his name, shot past Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy in the golf rankings to become the No. 2 golfer in the world.

Monday, July 22

Royal baby

Weighing in at 8 pounds, 6 ounces, the son of Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate entered the world at 4:24 p.m. GMT on Monday at Saint Mary’s Hospital in central London. It’s the same hospital where Princess Diana gave birth to William. Buckingham Palace did not immediately release a name for the infant, who will be third in line for the British throne. 

Abu Ghraib, again 

Militants tied to al-Qaeda in Iraq attacked Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison, allowing an estimated 500-600 prisoners to escape—including many linked to al-Qaeda and captured by U.S. forces prior to their 2011 exit from Iraq. “This is a significant milestone in the resurgence of al-Qaeda in Iraq,” said Middle East Forum fellow Aymenn al-Tamimi. “A good deal of the progress achieved from 2006 onwards has essentially been undone now.”

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