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Dispatches

News

Issue: "Into thin air," Aug. 23, 2014

AUGUST 4: Dressed as Gordon Highlanders, members of a living history group march through a poppy-strewn field in Bovington, England, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Great Britain’s declaration of war on Germany, the start of World War I. Across England, France, and Belgium, remembrances included scarlet corn poppies, which came to symbolize the carnage as they sprang up from war-torn, casualty-strewn fields.

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Wednesday, July 23

Undone

A federal judge struck down Colorado’s voter-approved gay marriage ban saying it was unconstitutional. Judge Raymond P. Moore temporarily stayed the ruling, though, giving the state time to appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That’s the same court that earlier this summer struck down traditional marriage laws in Utah and Oklahoma. Both of those rulings are on hold, however, waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule definitively on the issue.

Later, on July 28, a federal appeals court struck down Virginia’s voter-approved marriage amendment. Judges for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not immediately stay their ruling, so it wasn’t clear whether Virginia county clerks would have to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Crashed dream 

An Indiana teenager’s dream of circumnavigating the world in 30 days in order to raise awareness for The Citizens Foundation—a nonprofit that builds schools in Pakistan—came to a tragic end after the single-engine plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Rescuers recovered the body of 17-year-old Haris Suleman near American Samoa and later suspended the search for the body of his father, Babar Suleman, 58. The cause of the crash is unknown.

Thursday, July 24

Meriam Ibrahim and her baby daughter meet Pope Francis.
Associated Press/Photo by L’Osservatore Romano
Meriam Ibrahim and her baby daughter meet Pope Francis.

Escape from Sudan 

Meriam Ibrahim, 27, and her family arrived safely in Rome, bringing to an end a 10-month ordeal in Sudan where a court sentenced to death the young mother for marrying a Christian and allegedly converting from Islam to Christianity. Lapo Pistelli, Italy’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, escorted Ibrahim, her American husband Daniel Wani, and their two young children out of Sudan. Italy’s involvement in helping secure Ibrahim’s release stood in contrast to the Obama administration’s indifference to the family’s plight, though Ibrahim’s husband and children are U.S. citizens. The family met privately with Pope Francis at his residence at the Vatican and a week later flew to Manchester, N.H., where they plan to settle.

Signed and serving 

Just hours after the Los Angeles Lakers welcomed basketball player Jeremy Lin, 25, to the team, the star shooter joined other teammates as they donned aprons and served meals to the homeless at The Midnight Mission on Skid Row. During earlier interviews, he told reporters he won’t be trying to recreate the Linsanity that overtook New York during his stint with the Knicks. Instead Lin, who most recently played for the Houston Rockets, says he plans to stay focused on playing for God.

Friday, July 25

Associated Press

Border plan

During meetings at the White House, the presidents of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala told President Obama they are working on a plan to mitigate the crisis involving tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors flooding over the U.S. border. But Honduran President Juan Hernández said the United States must also take responsibility for its role in the crisis, which he attributes to the illegal drug trade in the United States and the ambiguity surrounding the U.S. immigration process.

Crash found 

French troops located the wreckage of an Air Algerie jet in remote Mali after the airplane disappeared from radar a day before. The plane, carrying 116 persons, had departed from Burkina Faso and was going to Algeria when it tried to divert course due to poor weather. There were no survivors.

Saturday & Sunday, July 26-27

Writebol: Courtesy Jeremy Writebol/AP • Brantly: Samaritan’s Purse/AP

Deadly disease 

While caring for Ebola-stricken patients at Samaritan’s Purse’s treatment center in Liberia, two American aid workers contracted the deadly virus. After battling it for over a week, and with the two nearing death, health workers used a specially equipped plane to ferry first Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, and then Nancy Writebol, 59, back to the United States to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, where they began receiving care in a special isolation unit. They became the first Ebola patients in the United States. Before leaving Monrovia, they took an experimental drug—tested only on monkeys—that appeared to improve their conditions. The burgeoning outbreak, deemed the worst in history with over 900 deaths, is concentrated in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone but recently reached Nigeria after an infected Liberian government official flew there on a commercial airplane.

Crossing Cameroon

Amid escalating violence, the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram crossed into Cameroon and kidnapped the wife of Cameroon’s vice prime minister. The militants also kidnapped a local religious leader and killed three others.

Monday, July 28

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Staying grounded

A federal appeals court ruled that the cross-shaped steel beam recovered from Ground Zero can remain on display at the 9/11 Museum in New York. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concurred with a federal judge who last year ruled the cross did not advance religion. An atheist group had argued the cross’s presence was an endorsement of religion, but the three-judge panel said the cross was a historical artifact and “came to be viewed not simply as a Christian symbol, but also as a symbol of hope and healing for all persons.”

Tuesday, July 29

The mother of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.
Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star/AP
The mother of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.

Shooting suit 

The mother of a slain Mexican teenager has filed a civil suit against the Border Patrol agents linked to his death. Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 16, died in 2012 after agents opened fire and reportedly shot him 10 times through a border fence into Mexico. Earlier this summer a federal appeals court ruled that victims’ family members may sue U.S. Border Patrol agents involved in cross-border shootings.

Gaza fight 

The conflict between Israel and Hamas escalated as Israeli shells destroyed Gaza’s only power plant. The attack cut off electricity to the city of Gaza and other parts of the Hamas-dominated territory. With mounting civilian casualties, President Obama and the UN continued to appeal for a cease-fire, and on Aug. 5 the two sides agreed to a 72-hour halt in the conflict. Palestinian officials, meanwhile, pressed the International Criminal Court (ICC) to bring war crimes charges against Israel. Israeli officials said if the ICC pursued a case, they would bring counter charges.

Economic punch 

The European Union and United States announced new sanctions against Russia over its support of pro-Russian separatists believed responsible for shooting down a Malaysia Airlines airplane over Ukraine. The sanctions target Russia’s state-owned banks, weapons makers, and oil companies. Europe initially hesitated to take more aggressive action against Russia due to its own economic ties with the nation, but the fallout from the downed jet became a pivot point.

Wednesday, July 30

John Boehner
Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite
John Boehner

Day in court

In a vote of 225 to 201, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution to pursue a lawsuit against President Obama on grounds he exceeded his constitutional authority by unilaterally making changes to Obamacare. Obama and Democrats quickly lambasted the move as a waste of taxpayer money, a distraction from other legislative matters, and a campaign-year ploy aimed at an eventual impeachment vote. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, repeatedly denied that impeachment is under consideration: “This isn’t about Republicans and Democrats, it’s about defending the Constitution that we swore an oath to uphold.” Senate approval is not needed, but a U.S. District Court judge will decide whether the House has legal standing to file the lawsuit.

Facing charges 

A UN tribunal cleared the way to start the genocide trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders, Khieu Samphan, 83, and Nuon Chea, 88. The defendants face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the regime’s reign of terror in Cambodia during the 1970s. Due to the defendants’ ages, the case was divided into smaller trials with the first verdict expected in August.

Thursday, July 31

M.P. King/Wisconsin State Journal/AP

Wisconsin law stands 

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a 2011 law ending collective bargaining for most public workers in the state is not a constitutional violation and will therefore stand. The ruling, which ends a three-year legal battle, is a major victory for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, whose support for the bill sparked massive protests and led to his recall election. He is up for reelection this year and is considered a possible presidential contender in 2016.

Search party 

During a one-day cease-fire, international forensic experts finally gained access to the Ukrainian site where Russian rebels shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17. The team only had about an hour to recover DNA samples and victims’ personal items. Investigators returned over the weekend to the site, where they used sniffer dogs to continue searching for the remains of about 80 victims.

Friday, Aug. 1

Miller, Fowle: APTN/ap • Bae: Kyodo/AP

Cry for help

In an interview with the Associated Press, two Americans detained for three months in North Korea pleaded for the U.S. government to help secure their release. Authorities have charged Matthew Todd Miller, 24, and Jeffrey Edward Fowle, 56, with anti-state crimes and are preparing to put the men on trial. Meanwhile North Korea continues to hold Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae. A pro–North Korea newspaper recently quoted him saying he feels as if the U.S. government has abandoned him.

Immigration impasse 

As the U.S. House of Representatives adjourned for a five-week recess after passing two bills that address the U.S.-Mexico border crisis, President Obama accused Republicans of not considering a serious solution and threatened “to act alone.” The House solution included $694 million to secure the border and provide humanitarian care, but also closed a loophole to allow faster deportation of immigrant children.

Saturday & Sunday, Aug. 2-3

Xinhua, Zhang Guangyu/AP

Crises in China 

A magnitude-6.1 earthquake rippled through southern China’s Yunnan province, toppling homes, killing 400 persons, and injuring 1,800 others. Initial reports indicated it was the strongest earthquake to hit the province in 14 years.

Meanwhile in the eastern province of Jiangsu, an explosion killed 75 persons and injured nearly 190 at a Chinese factory that produces parts for automakers including General Motors.

Conduct unbecoming 

The Air Force Academy has begun an investigation into its athletic department due to allegations of sexual assault, drug use, and cheating among cadet athletes. Lax oversight in recent years reportedly led to wild parties that featured synthetic marijuana, heavy drinking, and the use of date rape drugs. The incidents resulted in the expulsion of several cadets, including three the academy court-martialed and convicted on charges of sexual misconduct.

Water problem 

Ohio Gov. John Kasich declared a state of emergency in Toledo after toxins were found in the city’s water supply. The news led to a water shortage as residents emptied store shelves of bottled water. The contamination stems from an algae bloom on Lake Erie that produces a microcystin toxin, which boiling won’t eradicate.

Monday, Aug. 4

Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

Repeat tragedy 

A ferry carrying 250 passengers capsized on the Padma River in central Bangladesh as horrified villagers watched. At least 44 people survived by swimming to shore, but strong currents and high waves hampered rescue efforts to reach the scores of people trapped inside and feared dead.

Hot water 

Two Montana newspapers are calling for Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., to resign and drop out of his election campaign after a New York Times report indicated the junior senator plagiarized parts of a research paper he submitted to the Army War College as part of his master’s degree requirements. (For more on the Montana Senate race, see “Boots on the ground” in this issue.)

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