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Aung San Suu Kyi
Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images
Aung San Suu Kyi

Dispatches

News

Issue: "Probing international adoption," Nov. 16, 2013

OCT. 22: Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, to receive the Sakharov human rights prize she won in 1990 at the height of the Myanmar military crackdown. She won the prize as the military ignored elections won by her National League for Democracy party after suppressing a bloody popular uprising. The military put Suu Kyi under house arrest for long periods and only freed her in 2010. Accepting the prize 23 years later to a standing ovation, she is now a member of Myanmar’s parliament and is expected to again be a presidential candidate.

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Wednesday, Oct. 16

House Speaker John Boehner
Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci
House Speaker John Boehner

Done deal

Both houses of Congress voted Wednesday night to approve a bill to fund the government through Jan. 15 and raise the debt ceiling on federal spending through Feb. 7. The president signed the measure early Thursday morning in a round of classic lawmaking that contrasted with 16 days of dysfunction following the Oct. 1 shutdown. The agreement offered only temporary relief from the gridlock that’s become the mark of divided government. Despite a loss for Republicans on efforts to defund Obamacare, the standoff ended with automatic spending cuts intact under the sequester.

Legal weed

Washington state regulators finalized rules that allow over 300 retailers to sell marijuana legally. Voters approved a ballot initiative in 2012 legalizing private possession of up to 1 ounce of pot for recreational use. Washington is the second state to issue rules for legal marijuana markets after Colorado approved similar rules last month. The Justice Department says it opposes the legal sales but won’t sue either state.

Special election 

Newark Mayor Cory Booker won a special election, becoming the fourth African-American popularly elected to the U.S. Senate. The Democrat beat Republican challenger Steve Lonegan with 55 percent of the vote to Lonegan’s 44 percent. Booker will serve the 15 months remaining of the term of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in June.

Thursday, Oct. 17

Iran talks 

A round of talks in Geneva aimed at curbing Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons ended with U.S. negotiators claiming progress and a possible roadmap toward an agreement. But analysts warned against Tehran’s pledge to “cooperate” with the IAEA, the UN’s nuclear monitoring agency, after years of its misleading international monitors and violating the terms of its accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Take a cab 

Transit workers in San Francisco went on strike, stranding about 400,000 commuters who use the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. It was the second time in less than a year the unions representing transit workers struck—despite base salaries that average $71,000 and a flat monthly fee for health insurance of $92. When the BART district and unions reached a tentative contract agreement Oct. 21, it included a 15 percent pay raise over four years but increased worker contributions to health insurance.

Friday, Oct. 18

Erik de Castro/Reuters/Landov

Quake damage

Three days after a 7.2 magnitude quake struck the central Philippines, killing at least 173 people, the number of displaced spiked nearly tenfold, from 40,000 people to over 350,000. Damaged and blocked roads and electricity and water outages forced many to leave their homes. The quake damaged over 35,000 homes along with airports, hospitals, schools, bridges, and a number of historic churches in the vicinity of Cebu, the Philippines’ second largest city.

Cherry-picked 

The Kansas Supreme Court indefinitely suspended the law license of former state Attorney General Phill Kline, citing “clear and convincing evidence” of professional misconduct. Kline’s fight with the state’s legal and political establishment started in 2003 when he began investigating Planned Parenthood and late-term abortionist George Tiller. Kline discovered repeated violations of state law as the abortionists failed to report pregnancies of underage girls that were results of child rape. But Kline, who now teaches law at Liberty University, got vilified by abortion advocates and state officials, including then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

The court’s conclusion, that Kline violated 11 rules of professional conduct, amounted to “cherry picking” oral and written comments over many years, said Kline lawyer Thomas Condit: “There was never any deliberate dishonesty on Mr. Kline’s part.”

About-face 

Only hours after winning a coveted seat on the UN Security Council for the first time, Saudi Arabia made a stunning about-face: It rejected the seat, denouncing the body for failing to resolve world conflicts, particularly Syria’s civil war. The move was an indirect swipe at the United States. Relations between Washington and Riyadh have soured after President Obama backed off military strikes against Syria, and over warming relations between the U.S. and Iran. Four days later, Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats Saudi Arabia plans to limit interaction with the United States. 

Saturday & Sunday, Oct. 19-20

Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Cairo attack

Masked gunmen opened fire on a Sunday night wedding celebration near Cairo, killing four and wounding about 18 people as Coptic Christians left the Church of the Virgin Mary in a Cairo suburb. The assault was the latest in a wave of attacks against Christians in Egypt since the August ouster of President Mohamed Morsi and a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood supporters blame Christians for Morsi’s downfall. Among the dead were two girls, ages 8 and 13.

It’s October 

A seventh-inning grand slam by Shane Victorino gave the Boston Red Sox a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 6 to win the American League championship Saturday night. With the St. Louis Cardinals’ Friday night clench of the National League playoff series—their 19th league pennant—the two faced off in the 2013 World Series, a repeat of the 2004 series but with different lineups on both sides.

Monday, Oct. 21

Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Fanned flames

Australian officials declared a state of emergency after more than 60 wildfires in New South Wales, kicked up by high temperatures and wind, destroyed over 200 homes and headed to Sydney’s western suburbs. As fires burned through tens of thousands of acres, firefighters took a daring tactic: back-burning to halt the spread of the biggest fires that risked joining the separate blazes into one mega-fire. With easing weather conditions the tactic worked, if temporarily. One man died of a heart attack protecting his house, and a pilot was killed Oct. 24 when his water bomber plane crashed.

Personal pitch 

Hoping to save public opinion over the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, President Obama himself addressed in a Rose Garden speech problems plaguing the system. “The Affordable Care Act is not just a website,” he said. Despite technical problems that have kept Americans from enrolling or seeing premium prices under the new system, Obama said, “The product is good.” As he concluded a lengthy speech, one of the women brought in to stand behind the president appeared to faint, and the president appeared to catch her.

Tuesday, Oct. 22

Aung San Suu Kyi
Handout
Aung San Suu Kyi

Better late ...

Burmese democracy activist and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi received the Sakharov Prize—23 years after European parliamentarians awarded it. She won the annual prize in 1990 while under house arrest for her role in pro-democracy protests in Burma, also known as Myanmar. After an extended standing ovation, she told a packed chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, “Freedom of thought is essential for human progress.” Authorities released Suu Kyi, who in 1991 received the Nobel Peace Prize, from house arrest in 2010. In 2012 she won a seat in Parliament and has said she may run for president of Myanmar in 2015.

Deadly school day 

Authorities released 911 calls from students at a Sparks, Nev., middle school a day after a 12-year-old boy allegedly killed a teacher, wounded two fellow students, and took his own life. Teacher Michael Landsberry, who survived two military tours in Afghanistan, died in the shooting while shielding students.

Wednesday, Oct. 23

Warner Bros. Pictures

Weightless wonder

The space thriller Gravity surpassed the $300 million mark in worldwide ticket sales, holding the top spot on U.S. charts for a record three weekends in a row. The weightless wonder became not only the 10th-highest-grossing film of the year but the highest-selling film for 3D tickets—over 80 percent of Gravity-goers saw the film at 3D showings that carried viewers into space.

Courts reach 

New Mexico’s Supreme Court heard arguments for granting same-sex couples legal sanction to marry, just as New Jersey become the 14th state to legalize gay marriage on Oct. 21. In both cases legalization got a boost from Republican governors: New Mexico’s Gov. Susana Martinez tempered her personal opposition to same-sex marriage, saying voters ought to decide; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped his appeal of a lower-court decision legalizing gay marriage. 

Anglicans gather 

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby christened future British monarch Prince George, son of Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. In a rare religious ceremony including four generations of Britain’s royal family, the 3-month-old received water from the River Jordan. Earlier, Welby traveled to Kenya for GAFCON, the gathering of conservative primates from the global Anglican church. He told delegates he could stay “only 24 hours” and “would like to stay 24 weeks” but “I have to baptize George our next King but two.” In 1974 Welby taught school outside Nairobi and said he “met Christ and gave my life to Him” through the witness of Kenyan Christians.

Thursday, Oct. 24

Blame game

Testifying before a House committee, contractors tasked with building the government’s healthcare exchange website blamed official foot-dragging for its troubled launch. The frustration was bipartisan: “This is 2013,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif. “Amazon and eBay don’t crash the day before Christmas, and ProFlowers doesn’t crash on Valentine’s Day.”

Polio resurgence 

World Polio Day unfolded amid worrying reports the disease is making a comeback. Three new polio cases were confirmed in Pakistan, and 22 suspected cases have been reported in Syria—another sign of deteriorating conditions in the war-torn country.

Friday, Oct. 25

Danny Danon
Dan Balilty
Danny Danon

Getting a bomb

A new report said Iran could be as little as a month away from acquiring enough uranium to produce a nuclear bomb—and Israeli officials say they won’t wait for that to happen. “We have made it crystal clear—in all possible forums, that Israel will not stand by and watch Iran develop weaponry that will put us, the entire Middle East and eventually the world, under an Iranian umbrella of terror,” Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon told USA Today. The Institute for Science and International Security issued its report Oct. 24 stating Iran could reach “breakout”—the time needed to convert low-enriched uranium to weapons-grade uranium—in as little as a month.

Transatlantic tiff 

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ordered the U.S. ambassador to appear at his country’s foreign ministry in a cascading furor by European leaders over U.S. surveillance activity. France did likewise. And before that, German Chancellor Angela Merkel picked up her (presumably bugged) phone and called President Barack Obama herself, as aides described her as “livid” over new documents indicating NSA was monitoring her cellphone, along with millions of others.

Saturday & Sunday, Oct. 26-27

Time to go

One of the largest congregations in the Presbyterian Church USA, 4,000-member Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas, voted Sunday to leave the denomination. It plans to join the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO) formed by former PCUSA congregations in 2012, but is locked in a legal battle over the congregation’s $30 million church campus. 

Drive on 

In a dramatic display of civil disobedience, dozens of women in Saudi Arabia took to the streets—and behind the wheel—to protest the kingdom’s ban on women driving. Riyadh police took five women into custody. Many of the women posted videos of their ventures on YouTube, along with their names in a show of defiance. “I’m very proud. I feel like we accomplished the purpose of our campaign,” said economics researcher Mai Al-Swayan.

Monday, Oct. 28

Recaptured

The Syrian army retook the ancient Christian town of Sadad, following a week of fighting that had besieged about 3,000 Christians living there. The al-Qaeda militants who attacked the town last week reportedly killed nine residents in the central square.

Texas decision 

A federal judge in Texas sided with pro-abortion advocates, blocking a “restriction” in a new state law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Similar provisions have passed several state legislatures—as the number of women dying from legal abortions has doubled even as the number of abortions overall is in decline. Texas officials say they will appeal the decision to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Health snare

Beset by a nonfunctioning website and mounting concerns about healthcare coverage, the Obama administration granted a six-week extension until March 31 for Americans to sign up for coverage and avoid new tax penalties under the new healthcare law.

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