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Associated Press/Photo by Thomas Graning

Dispatches

News

Issue: "Believing in Iraq," May 17, 2014

APRIL 29: Kevin Barnes searches the remains of his home on Clayton Avenue in Tupelo, Miss. A dangerous storm system that spawned a chain of deadly tornadoes over three days flattened homes and businesses, forced frightened residents in more than half a dozen states to take cover, and left tens of thousands in the dark. 

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Wednesday, April 16

Park Young-Chul/Donga Daily via Getty Images

Death toll rises

The death toll continued to climb after a ferry carrying 476 passengers capsized off South Korea’s southern coast. Aboard the ship were more than 300 high-school students taking a class trip. Rescuers plucked 174 survivors from the water, but nearly 90 remained missing, and 212 were confirmed dead. With an investigation into what caused the accident underway, authorities arrested crew members—including the captain—for leaving the ship before evacuating all passengers, and the government stepped in to take the blame: Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resigned on April 27.

Adoption oversight 

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that will forbid parents from finding new homes for their unwanted adopted children without court permission. The first-in-the-nation measure, sparked by a Reuters news service investigation into the “re-homing” of adopted children, also prohibits people from advertising their children for adoption. “With virtually no oversight, children could literally be traded from home to home,” said Republican Rep. Joel Kleefisch, who sponsored the legislation. “Hopefully citizens of the country will follow our lead.” Colorado, Florida, and Ohio have introduced similar measures.

Thursday, April 17

Cruel hoax

Worldwide condemnation was swift after reports emerged from eastern Ukraine that masked men had distributed leaflets demanding Jews register and pay a fine or leave the area. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk vowed to find and punish the individuals behind the incident. The pamphlets bore the name of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Russian separatist Denis Pushilin, but Pushilin says neither he nor his supporters had anything to do with them. Observers say the pamphlets were likely aimed at provocation amid growing tensions in the region.

Temporary reprieve 

Christian radio host James Dobson won a temporary injunction that exempts his ministry, Family Talk, from the Obamacare requirement to include the “morning-after” pill and other abortifacient contraception in its health insurance. Dobson filed suit in December, saying the healthcare mandate to provide contraception violates the religious beliefs of his Colorado Springs–based ministry, which he launched in 2010 after leaving Focus on the Family.

Friday, April 18

Nepalese rescue team members rescue an avalanche survivor.
Buddhabir RAI/AFP/Getty Images
Nepalese rescue team members rescue an avalanche survivor.

Killer avalanche

Sixteen Nepalese guides died after an avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest—the deadliest avalanche in history on the world’s highest peak. The Sherpa guides were setting up a route, fixing ropes, and taking gear up the mountain for other climbers when the avalanche hit. The incident has thrown future climbs into question after Sherpa guides said they are abandoning the climbing season in honor of those who died. They have also demanded the government provide higher compensation and a relief fund for their dangerous work.

Voting present

In what analysts are calling a classic campaign-year move, the Obama administration announced it is delaying, yet again, a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. Punting the issue may protect vulnerable Democrats in oil-states where voters support the pipeline, but it may put pressure on those who have declined to take a position—and will lessen chances that rising gas prices will halt.

Saturday & Sunday, April 19-20

Pope Francis
L’Osservatore Romano/AP
Pope Francis

Easter suffering 

As Christians around the world observed Easter, a cease-fire in the Ukraine was marred by a gunfight that left three persons dead at a checkpoint. In Syria, continuing unrest prevented some Christians from taking part in annual religious practices. Although the atmosphere in Vatican City was upbeat as 150,000 tourists flocked to St. Peter’s Basilica for Easter mass, Pope Francis drew attention to suffering elsewhere in the world as he prayed for peace in Ukraine and Syria, and for an end to continuing terrorist attacks in Nigeria.

Stowaway surprise 

A 15-year-old boy survived a five-hour trip from California to Hawaii inside an airplane’s wheel well. The stowaway had run away from home, scaled a 6-foot fence at Mineta San Jose International Airport under the cover of darkness, and remained undetected as he crossed the airport ramp. He was unconscious for most of the flight, enduring below-freezing temperatures and a lack of oxygen. While his journey is called miraculous, it highlighted concerns about security at airports nationwide.

Monday, April 21

Meb Keflezighi
Associated Press/Photo by Elise Amendola
Meb Keflezighi

Boston strong

A year after two bomb explosions crippled the Boston Marathon and turned it into a scene of death and mayhem, record crowds refreshed spirits while increased security eased fears during the 118th race. An estimated 1 million spectators were on hand to support nearly 36,000 runners, including victims from last year’s attack. Former U.S. Olympian Meb Keflezighi, who turns 39 in May, became the first U.S. man since 1983 to win the Boston Marathon, finishing with a time of 2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds. Keflezighi, a professing Christian who shared his story in the 2010 book Run to Overcome, wrote on his running bib the names of the four individuals who died last year: “I did it for Boston.”

Nigerian nightmare 

A week after officials first reported that Islamic terrorists kidnapped 85 girls from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in northeast Nigeria, parents appealed to the state governor, saying some 230 girls—between 16 and 18 years of age—were actually missing. About 39 girls have managed to escape from their captors, whom authorities believe to be Boko Haram militants. Desperate parents organized their own search party that led them to a forested base camp, but without military backup they were unable to confront their daughters’ heavily armed captors.

Tuesday, April 22

Affirmative ruling 

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action in college admissions, deciding 6-2 that voters had a right in 2006 to prohibit state universities from using race as a factor in acceptance decisions. Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s 58-page dissent said the court’s decision trampled the rights of minorities, even though Michigan voters adopted the law in a democratic process.

Virus fears 

Healthcare workers are watching an ebola outbreak in Guinea and Liberia. The World Health Organization said 142 persons have died so far. It’s the first time the infectious virus, which kills up to 90 percent of those infected, has appeared in western Africa.

Exclusive club 

Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols hit his 500th career home run during a game against the Washington Nationals, becoming only the 26th player in major league baseball history to achieve that distinction. He is also the first player to hit his 499th and 500th homers in the same game.

Wednesday, April 23

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal
Brant Sanderlin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal

Up in arms

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law a sweeping bill that expands where licensed gun owners can carry firearms, including into bars, libraries, schools, churches, and some government buildings that lack security checkpoints. According to the legislation, which goes into effect July 1, schools and churches retain the right to determine whether firearms are allowed on their property. Dubbed the “guns everywhere bill,” its passage sparked immediate criticism from gun-control advocates but was regarded by the National Rifle Association as a “historic victory for the Second Amendment.”

Prisoner pardons 

The Justice Department announced plans to carry out widespread pardons during President Obama’s final years in office. Prisoners with clean prison records who are not a public threat and who were sentenced under “out-of-date laws” would be eligible to apply for clemency. The program is aimed at prisoners sentenced for crack cocaine offenses. In 2010 Congress amended the law mandating tougher sentences for crack cocaine use. Attorney General Eric Holder has led a push to curtail the use of mandatory sentencing to punish drug offenders.

Thursday, April 24

Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images

Spy ships 

The Pentagon revealed that a Russian intelligence-gathering ship has been operating off the East Coast since March. Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Crosson said the Russian ships Viktor Leonov (pictured, in Havana, Cuba) and Nikolay Chiker were spotted in waters near Cuba: “We respect the freedom of all nations, as reflected in international law, to operate military vessels beyond the territorial seas of other nations.” Officials believe the ships may have been spying on military facilities, including the nuclear missile submarine base at Kings Bay, Ga.

Gunned down 

A security guard opened fire and killed pediatrician Jerry Umanos, physician John Gabel, and Gabel’s father, Gary, as they walked within a hospital compound run by Christian NGO Cure International in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Gary Gabel was in Kabul to visit his son.) Umanos had divided his time between Afghanistan and Chicago’s Lawndale Christian Health Center for the past seven years. “He always had a desire to be the hands and feet of Christ,” Umanos’ wife, Jan Schuitema, said during a press statement. “He had a love and commitment that he expressed for the Afghan people because of that love for Christ.”

Friday, April 25

Pro-Russian activists march to storm an administration building in Luhansk, Ukraine.
Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
Pro-Russian activists march to storm an administration building in Luhansk, Ukraine.

Plane intentions

Pentagon officials called on Russia to “de-escalate” after Russian military planes entered Ukrainian airspace several times during a 24-hour period. Tension in the region continued to mount as armed pro-Moscow separatists seized a bus carrying international mediators. The news came a day after Russia, responding to the deaths of five pro-Russian militants, initiated new drills near the Ukrainian border. 

Shelter seeker? 

While President Obama visited South Korea, North Korean authorities announced they had detained a U.S. tourist after he allegedly demanded asylum when arriving in the country on April 10. North Korea’s KCNA news agency reported that Miller Matthew Todd, 24, tore up his tourist visa and shouted that he had come “to the DPRK after choosing it as a shelter.”

Murder in Milford 

A 16-year-old male student allegedly stabbed to death Maren Sanchez, 16, in the stairwell of Jonathan Law High School in Milford, Conn. Early reports said the attacker and Sanchez may have had a dispute about the junior prom scheduled that evening. The stunned school community postponed the dance, and instead students gathered for a candlelight vigil, during which several peers wore their prom attire in Sanchez’s memory.

Saturday & Sunday, April 26-27

Tom Stanford/The Tennessean/AP

Wild weather 

Multiple-day storms swept through the Plains, Midwest, and South, splintering houses, shredding cars, and killing at least 30 persons across six states. In Arkansas, authorities said a half-mile-wide tornado stayed on the ground for at least 30 miles, plowing through an RV park, sections of Interstate 40, and a $14 million intermediate school scheduled to open in the fall.

Boiling over 

A racist rant attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling sparked a firestorm that grew over the weekend as basketball fans threatened to boycott and players staged a protest. The NBA banned Sterling from the league— likely forcing him to sell the team—and fined him $2.5 million. In the audio recording, Sterling tells his girlfriend he does not want her bringing African-Americans to Clipper games or posting pictures with minorities on her Instagram account.

Monday, April 28

Associated Press/Photo by Reed Saxon

Heading east 

Toyota says it plans to relocate its U.S. headquarters from Torrance, Calif., to Plano, Texas. The move, expected in late 2016 or early 2017 when new, environmentally friendly headquarters are complete, places the Japanese automaker closer to its Midwest assembly plants. But analysts say the decision is also strategic: Texas’ pro-business atmosphere continues to appeal to companies disillusioned with California’s high tax rates and regulatory climate. With elections looming in the fall—and Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown up for reelection—Republican candidates are seizing on the news to point blame at the state’s Democratic congressional leadership.

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