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Mass exodus

An estimated 300,000 Uzbeks have fled their homes

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Fleeing the grip of ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan, an estimated 300,000 minority Uzbeks fled their homes, seeking to escape ethnic purging by mobs of Kyrgyz in the Central Asian nation. Another 100,000 Uzbeks (not including children) spilled across the border into neighboring Uzbekistan. The Red Cross described the chaos as "an immense crisis."

Beginning June 10, violence erupted in the southern city Kyrgyz city of Osh, where gangs raided Uzbek neighborhoods, shooting citizens, looting stores, and burning homes. Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic of 5.5 million people, is home to some 1 million Uzbeks. In April a mass revolt ousted former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, and the interim government accused Bakiyev of inciting violence to delay a June 27 vote on a new constitution. The United States maintains an air base in Kyrgyzstan that remains a critical hub for supplying coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Deadly passage

Uganda's proposed anti-homosexuality bill-which calls for execution for some homosexual conduct-could be dead by the end of summer, but the controversy that has ensnared U.S. Christians continues to unfold. Exodus International, a faith-based U.S. group promoting freedom from homosexuality, released a policy statement in June opposing criminalization of homosexual behavior "conducted by consensual adults in private." Media reports had suggested that a conference on homosexuality conducted by a group of U.S. Christians last year, including Exodus board member Don Schmierer, helped promote the legislation. Exodus president Alan Chambers expressed regret for not distancing the organization from last year's conference sooner, and for not heeding warnings that the conference could be inflammatory: "Exodus and I believe in the grace that stands 100 percent opposed to sin, 100 percent for holiness, and 100 percent for all people to have the opportunity to know Christ." A special committee appointed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has opposed passage of the bill, which includes the death penalty or lengthy prison sentences in some cases of homosexual conduct, and would require Ugandans to report homosexual activity to law enforcement.

Souder seat

State Sen. Marlin Stutzman won by a wide margin the GOP nomination to contend for Indiana's 3rd Congres­sional District seat in the wake of Republican Rep. Mark Souder's resignation in May over an affair with a part-time staffer ("Lessons from a broken man," June 19, 2010). Stutzman gained statewide recognition for his formidable challenge to former Sen. Dan Coats in last month's Republican primary battle for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Evan Bayh. In that race he earned the backing of national figures like Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., though he lost to Coats.

Souder served as a congressman for 15 years and announced his resignation May 18 after winning his own tough Republican primary when the affair came to light. "I hope God will somehow use this mess to His glory," Souder told WORLD in a recent email. "I need some additional life changes and, assuming that I am humble enough to let the Holy Spirit use me, I will be back in other-if less prominent-ways."

Misery index

From a swarming crowd, Haitian earthquake victim Orilus Menard screamed a message for former President Bill Clinton as he toured her devastated town of Leogane: "Since the 12th of January, misery has been killing us." The misery index is soaring in Haiti as sweltering heat and hurricane season descend. In many ways, little has changed since the January disaster that killed some 300,000 victims and left more than 1 million homeless. While clusters of Haitians remove small mounds of rubble with shovels and picks, massive piles of collapsed buildings remain. U.S.-based contractors have moved equipment to Haiti, hoping to win contracts for rubble removal and reconstruction, but say they are still waiting. The international commission overseeing recovery is still debating how to spend some $9.9 billion in pledged aid. UN humanitarian chief John Holmes says he's frustrated with the miniscule progress and says the population of tent cities in Port-au-Prince has nearly doubled since the quake. Some Haitians have moved back to the city after finding rural areas depleted of resources, while others are newly homeless-unable to pay rent after quake-related loss of income. Disputes over land for temporary housing sites have stalled plans for them, leaving tens of thousands stranded in camps vulnerable to severe flooding.

Capital crime

A video broadcast in May on an Afghan television station has touched off controversy for Afghanistan's tiny, mostly invisible Christian population and faith-based workers. Noorin TV video footage showed Afghans being baptized and participating with Westerners in Christian prayer meetings held in alleged "missionary safe houses" in western Kabul. The government quickly suspended from working in the country two church-based aid organizations-U.S.-based Church World Service and Norwegian Church Aid-though no evidence connected the groups with the baptisms.

In Kabul, angry protesters demanded the expulsion of foreigners who try to convert Muslims. And in parliament Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a deputy of the lower house, called for Muslim converts to Christianity to be executed: "Those Afghans who appeared in this video film should be executed in public." Other lawmakers affirmed that the killing of an "apostate" in Afghanistan is not a crime.

President Hamid Karzai's spokesman said June 1 that he wants to prevent further conversions. Two of the Afghans who appeared in the broadcast have been arrested. Cracking down on Christians and foreigners could aid his effort to lure Taliban leaders into negotiations and shore up the regime. Noorin TV is funded by the Northern Alliance, headed by political opponents of Karzai. "The government of Afghanistan should be held accountable," Patrick Sookhdeo, president of Barnabas Fund and a NATO advisor, told me. "It is a signatory to UN mechanisms and NATO is funding its government." - Mindy Belz

Minority report

When Iraq's Federal Supreme Court belatedly approved the results of March elections last month, it meant that five seats for ethnically Christian candidates remain in the Iraqi parliament. That may not seem like much, but in the past only one or two were designated and it signifies "greater representation for the Christian minority," according to a statement by International Christian Concern. In all, 14 seats out of the 325-seat legislature are held by non-Muslims, five of whom are Christians. In comparison, Christians held two seats last term.

Lights off

Each night the iconic Empire State Building (ESB) lights up with colors to commemorate cultural events or holidays-lavender and white for Gay Pride Week, or red, white, and blue for Veterans Day. But when the Catholic League petitioned for the building to light up blue and white to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa's birth in August, management denied the request. After a blitz of negative attention, owner Anthony Malkin said, "As a privately owned building, ESB has a specific policy against any other lighting for religious figures or requests by religions and religious organizations." But in 2000 the ESB lit up to honor Cardinal John O'Connor and extinguished its lights in 2005 to honor Pope John Paul II's death. Some 40,000 people have signed a petition protesting the decision. City councilman Peter Vallone Jr. said, "The only person who could forgive the Empire State Building for this boneheaded decision would be Mother Teresa."

No kids allowed?

A St. Petersburg Times investigation found that Church of Scientology members have brought federal lawsuits, including charges of human trafficking, against the organization for pressuring them into having abortions. Former members said the church interrogated pregnant women, urged abortions for the good of the church, separated couples, and assigned uncooperative pregnant women to heavy manual labor. In her filed complaint, Claire Headley said she unwillingly had two abortions, and in a deposition identified 36 women she said had abortions while working for Sea Org, an elite maritime branch of the church. Headley said that Scientology staff forbid her from calling her husband so he did not learn she was pregnant until six months after she had an abortion. A church spokesman denied the charges.

Prop 8 closer

A California judge heard the final arguments June 16 in a landmark case that will decide the future of Proposition 8, a California voter initiative that banned same-sex marriage. During the arguments last January, advocates for traditional marriage objected that same-sex marriage proponents put the voters' intent on trial by arguing that people campaigned for Proposition 8 out of bigotry. When U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker sent each side a list of questions to answer in closing arguments, he indicated that voter intent was a factor. He asked if the case had implications for the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act-an issue not raised in previous arguments. Jim Campbell, litigation staff counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund and an attorney on the case, said Walker's questions don't betray his leanings: "All we can really glean from them is that the judge is carefully considering the issue."

A decision from Walker is expected within weeks, and likely will be reviewed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and then the U.S. Supreme Court.

Close enough

The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to approve a new pill that would terminate pregnancies not just the morning after, but up to five mornings after. The drug, dubbed "ella" (ulipristal acetate), is already legal in Europe. It could prevent a fertilized egg from planting in the womb for up to five days after sex-though proponents describe the drug as a contraceptive, not an abortifacient. The Washington Post described the pill as a "close chemical relative" of RU486, a pill that will abort a baby up to nine weeks into pregnancy. "With ulipristal, women will be enticed to buy a poorly tested abortion drug, unaware of its medical risks, under the guise that it's a morning-after pill," Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, told the Post.


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