Skip to main content

Dispatches News

Kiwi quake

Kiwi quake

(Logan McMillan/AFP/Getty Images)

Christchurch, New Zealand, a city known for its quiet Avon River flowing through its center along English gardens, was devastated Feb. 22 by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. Damage killed at least 75 people and trapped hundreds more. Ambulances had difficulty reaching the injured due to road damage, so emergency teams set up triage units in parks on the ground.

Scientists said the quake was the aftershock of a 7.1 magnitude temblor that shook the city last September (damaging buildings but killing no one). The latest quake was shallower, causing more damage. It flattened buildings, including the city's historic 130-year-old Anglican cathedral, whose stone steeple crashed to the ground. Prime Minister John Key, accepting rescue teams from around the world, including the United States, said the disaster could be his country's "darkest day." New Zealand often experiences minor quakes because it lies near a fault line in the south Pacific, but rarely do they cause such damage. "It was by far and away the roughest ride we've ever had and we're pretty good at bloody living through earthquakes," Grant Cameron, a resident, told TV New Zealand.

Emanuel takes Chicago

Rahm Emanuel's gamble to trade the White House for the Windy City produced a huge win for the former Obama chief of staff on Feb. 22. At least 55 percent of Chicago voters picked Emanuel as the city's next mayor. The Obama aide and former congressman left Washington in October to run for office in his hometown, weathering an 11th-hour attempt by opponents to boot him from the ticket. It was the city's first election in 64 years without a sitting mayor on the ballot, and Emanuel will replace Mayor Richard Daley, who has been mayor for 22 years.

Museveni rules on

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni won a fourth term in office during presidential elections in February, extending his 25-year rule. The president won 68 percent of the votes, according to the country's electoral commission. Opposition candidate Kizza Besigye rejected the results, and the European Union's election observers reported scattered irregularities and corruption in the process. But Ugandans remained calm, with no immediate reports of protests.

Pro-life cuts

At 4:40 a.m. Feb. 19, House Republicans passed a spending bill that covers the remaining months of this fiscal year and includes a raft of pro-life amendments. The bill restores the Mexico City Policy, prohibiting federal funding for abortions overseas, a measure President Obama reversed when he first took office. The bill cut all funds to Planned Parenthood, a longtime pro-life target, and bans the District of Columbia from funding abortions. The bill also halted contributions to the UN Population Fund, which reports indicate has funded abortions, including coercive ones in China. The House also blocked funds for the implementation of healthcare reform. Now the bill goes to the Democrat-controlled Senate, and then it may face a veto from President Obama.

Brothel bust

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wrote in his memoirs about growing up in a Nevada town with more brothels than churches: He learned how to swim in a pool at a bordello. Now Reid has decided to challenge the world's oldest profession. In a Feb. 22 address to state legislators in Carson City, Reid said that prostitution hurts Nevada's struggling economy because companies are reluctant to locate there. It's estimated that the state's 24 licensed brothels employ 1,000 prostitutes. "Parents don't want their children to look out of a school bus and see a brothel," Reid said. "So let's have an adult conversation about an adult subject." State lawmakers responded to Reid's call with awkward silence. But that wasn't the case with at least one brothel owner, Dennis Hof, who promised, "We're not rolling over. Reid will have to pry the keys to the cathouse out of my cold dead hands."

Question of resources

On Feb. 22 Somali pirates killed four American hostages, including a couple who had sailed the world giving away Bibles. According to U.S. Central Command, 19 pirates hijacked their yacht, the Quest, as it sailed in the Gulf of Aden. The pirates shot all four hostages-Scott and Jean Adam, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle-shortly before a U.S. Special Forces team boarded the Quest to reclaim the prisoners. The Adams' website reported that they traveled 60,000 miles bringing Bibles to remote areas like New Zealand, French Polynesia, and the Fiji Islands. The couples were traveling with yachting group Blue Water Rallies for added security in sailing through the dangerous Gulf of Aden. With U.S. naval fleets on alert in the region, critics charged the Navy with failing to respond promptly to protect U.S. citizens. But a Navy reservist who has completed several deployments on a boat patrolling for pirates in the Gulf of Aden told WORLD the Navy primarily protects U.S. assets going through pirate-infested waters but doesn't have the resources to protect U.S. citizens on private business.

Digital revolution

Just as Apple on Feb. 15 broadened its terms of service to allow publishers to offer subscriptions to digital publications through the iTunes Store, WORLD's iPad app is out of development and submitted for Apple's approval. As soon as we receive a thumbs-up from Cupertino, iPad owners will be able to go to the iTunes store and download the inaugural digital edition of WORLD.

This is phase one of two initial phases. The first is a free sample issue-meant to introduce WORLD to readers who have never heard of us before, and to provide WORLD print readers a glimpse of the digital future. Phase two will provide a subscription-based iPad magazine that will contain all the content of our print editions, with digital extras like HD image quality, photo galleries, audio, and video, and without the analog frustrations of postal delays and, for some, difficult-to-read text.

Hundreds of hours of sometimes difficult but mostly joyful work went into the production of WORLD's iPad app. It is not merely a miniaturized print edition. We designed it to take full advantage of the technical capabilities of new tablet technology. And we have plans to roll out new editions for new platforms to reach new readers wherever they are with biblical worldview journalism. We're not lessening our commitment to print-but the digital revolution has changed publishing forever, and, we think, for the better.

Free at last

Sayed Mossa, the 46-year-old Afghan Christian jailed since May 31, 2010, quietly was released by Afghan government authorities in Kabul on Feb. 21 and allowed to leave the country. His release was the result of a campaign by Western Christians in Kabul to pressure U.S. and European diplomats, the International Committee for the Red Cross (for whom Mossa had worked for 15 years), and the Karzai government to dismiss apostasy charges that could have led to his death.

Sources in Kabul say U.S. and Italian officials visited Mossa (whose name is also spelled Said Musa) a week prior to his release and offered asylum. That came days after NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen spoke out last month about the case, warning Kabul that "a sentence to death or any punishment for converting from one religion to another is in strong contradiction with everything NATO stands for."

Mossa's whereabouts remained undisclosed until he could be safely reunited with his family, who also were forced out of the country during his incarceration. Shoib Assadullah, another Afghan convert to Christianity, remains in jail in Mazar-e-Sharif after his arrest on similar charges last October.

Bigger jail

Chinese security officials beat a prominent Chinese activist and his wife after the couple released a video describing the family's house arrest. Chen Guangcheng had spent four years in prison after exposing the widespread practice of forced abortions and sterilizations in the Shandong Province in eastern China in 2005. Authorities released the 39-year-old attorney in September but have kept him confined to his home with his family. In a video that Guangcheng managed to secretly funnel to China Aid, a Christian group in Texas, the blind activist said a 22-person team watches his house 24 hours a day and won't allow his family to leave, blocked his phone service, and won't allow neighbors to help. Guangcheng said the guards allow his mother to leave only to buy food: "I have come out of a small jail and walked into a bigger jail."

Two days after the video's Feb. 9 release on YouTube, workers at China Aid and Chinese Human Rights Defenders said officials had beaten Guangcheng and his wife, Yuan Weijing, in retaliation for the film. When reporters from CNN, Le Monde, and Radio France Internationale tried to visit Guangcheng's home, security guards blocked their entry and threw rocks at the journalists. A week later, the trouble reached Guangcheng's friends: The Guardian reported that authorities had seized Tang Jitian, a human-rights lawyer who met with other attorneys in Beijing to discuss how to help Guangcheng.

Who's discriminating?

University of California at Davis dropped a discriminatory definition of religious discrimination following student complaints. In a glossary of terms related to its diversity statement, UC Davis defined religious discrimination as "institutionalized oppression toward those who are not Christian." On behalf of 25 students concerned that the school was calling Christians oppressors, the Alliance Defense Fund sent UC Davis a letter arguing that the wording was "blatantly unconstitutional" and protected some religions over others. ADF attorney Tim Swickard wrote, "Christian students, if anything, are among the most likely to be subjected to discrimination because of their faith." The letter cited an Institute for Jewish and Community Research study that found 53 percent of professors have negative feelings toward evangelical students.

Gosnell trial

The trial of Pennsylvania abortionist Kermit Gosnell is underway, and the man who faces eight murder charges claims he is destitute and cannot afford a lawyer-a claim the judge rejected since Gosnell holds 17 properties and a boat. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has fired half a dozen state employees who failed to inspect Gosnell's center, where he carried out late-term abortions that allegedly led to the deaths of seven infants and a mother. The state Senate has held hearings on the matter, which Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, described as "very somber." The district attorney may seek the death penalty if Gosnell is convicted.

Church to court

St. Nicholas Church-the only church destroyed on 9/11-is suing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for not allowing it to rebuild. The two parties originally agreed that the church would switch to an adjacent site, ceding its air space in exchange for $40 million to rebuild. But negotiations dissolved in March 2009 with Port Authority officials alleging that the church made unreasonable demands and the church claiming the Port Authority stopped returning phone calls. If St. Nicholas Church succeeds, it will once again delay efforts to rebuild Ground Zero.