Dispatches > The Buzz

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Issue: "China: Caesar’s seminary," Jan. 27, 2001
  • Laurent Kabila, the former rebel who took Zaire by force, fell to an assassin's bullet near the capital of the country he renamed Democratic Republic of Congo. According to first reports, a bodyguard shot the president in the back and right leg during 30 minutes of intense gunfire at the president's Kinshasa residence. Congo officials would not confirm that Mr. Kabila was dead, but appointed his son Joseph, who heads the armed forces, temporary head of state. Mr. Kabila seized power from dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1996. Since then, forces within his own army rebelled and fought to take control from Mr. Kabila. Rwanda and Uganda have backed the Tutsi-led defectors. Supporting the Kabila army: Angola, Zimbabwe, Chad, and Namibia.
  • English fruit stand vendor Steven Thoburn is driving Brussels bureaucrats bananas. The British greengrocer is on trial for selling bananas by the pound, thus violating an EU directive to go metric. His lawyer warns a courtroom loss could even ban the traditional British pint of beer. The case has won sympathy from the public in a country where the metric system still finds resistance even after being "encouraged" since 1965. Under current rules, customers may ask for goods any way they want, and produce can be labeled in metric and imperial, but shopkeepers are required to sell in kilos and grams. Mr. Thoburn could be fined $1,500 and jailed if he refuses to pay.
  • Some New Jersey parents who don't trust their noses to tell them if their kids have been drinking can now rely on science and a swab. City fathers in Voorhees, N.J., purchased 1,000 alcohol test kits for free distribution to parents in an effort to dissuade teenagers from drinking. The kit consists of a cotton swab and a device that looks like a thermometer. Gary Finger, a father of two teenage daughters and the former Voorhees mayor who instituted the program, said the kits could be a deterrent to underage drinking. "They can tell their friends, when they go home they'll be tested and they don't want to lose the car," he said.
  • President George W. Bush tapped current CIA director George Tenet to remain at his post, but left open the possibility that the Clinton appointee could be replaced at a later time. Mr. Tenet will be the second registered Democrat with a high-profile role in the Bush administration (ex-California congressman Norman Mineta is transportation secretary-designate). He has directed the agency since 1997. In the Clinton era, he often sided on national security issues with FBI director Louis Freeh and the joint chiefs of staff over Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Vice President Al Gore. Insiders say he would not have remained at the post in a Gore administration.

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