Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Iraq: Bloody Ramadan," Nov. 29, 2003

BUSH/BLAIR SUMMIT Britain is the most likely terrorist target in the West, said a new study released just as President Bush arrived in London for a three-day state visit.

Undeterred by danger and war protests, the president in a speech to distinguished Brits gathered in Whitehall Palace Nov. 19 laid out "three pillars of peace and security in our world": respect for credible international organizations, willingness of nations to use force, and the global expansion of democracy. "Evil is in plain sight," the president said. "It only increases with denial."

Faced with fresh assaults from Baathist holdouts and jihad fighters (story, page 18), Mr. Bush said the United States and Britain have only two options in Iraq: "to keep our word or to break it."

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Prime Minister Tony Blair echoed Mr. Bush's resolve to maintain military commitments in the Middle East. "This is the right moment for us to stand firm with the United States in defeating terrorism wherever it is and delivering us safely from what I genuinely believe to be the security threat of the 21st century," Mr. Blair said just before the president's arrival.

Anti-American protests Much was made of anti-war protesters orchestrating street marches against the Bush visit. But news outlets were forced to revise their predictions from "thousands" to "hundreds" to "a smattering" in some cases, as swelling mobs failed to materialize in the early going. A poll in Britain's left-wing Guardian newspaper, in the words of the paper, "explodes the conventional political wisdom" that Mr. Bush's visit would damage Mr. Blair. "The survey shows that public opinion in Britain is overwhelmingly pro-American with 62 percent of voters believing that the U.S. is 'generally speaking a force for good, not evil, in the world,'" the paper noted.

While the two heads of state consulted one another through the end of the week on progress in the war on terror, they showed little interest in consulting opinion polls. Mr. Bush said, "We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq and pay a bitter cost of casualties and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins."

North Korea The six-nation standoff over North Korea's nuclear-weapons program continues going nowhere-but with one point of agreement: that a second round of talks might start next month, four months after the first talks ended without accomplishment. While the debate continues over the terms of the talks, some in Washington want to spotlight North Korea's dismal human-rights situation. Lawmakers led by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) hope to introduce before Congress recesses for the holidays new legislation that would embolden internal opposition to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. (Story, page 22.)

Sniper trials One day after a Virginia Beach, Va., jury found John Muhammad guilty of murder and terrorism, his alleged partner-in-crime Lee Malvo went on trial in nearby Chesapeake. Jurors heard a recording of a police interrogation of Mr. Malvo after he and Mr. Muhammad were arrested. The purported triggerman admitted: "I intended to kill them all," and explained the plan was to provoke martial law and extort a $10 million payoff from panicked authorities. Mr. Malvo's lawyer is attempting an insanity defense.

Senate and judges Despite a nearly 40-hour nonstop debate over judicial nominees stalled in the Senate, Republicans lost their nerve and Democrats more than held firm-and blocked two more of President Bush's judges. Senate leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) withdrew a measure that would have made it easier to overcome procedural delays (filibusters) that are holding up confirmation of six nominees to the federal appeals courts; Sen. Frist pulled the proposal after learning that up to 10 Republicans could not be counted on to back it. (Story, page 24.)

Schwarzenegger sworn in In one of his first acts as governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered the repeal of California's hated triple car tax-then terminated the head of the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The Sacramento Bee on Nov. 17 reported that Gov. Schwarzenegger fired DMV director Steve Gourley because Mr. Gourley's plan to implement the order called for taxpayers first to pay the triple tax, then receive a refund in 2004. The governor wanted immediate relief instead. At a press conference, Gov. Schwarzenegger would not say why he fired Mr. Gourley, but a spokesman told reporters the new governor wanted someone he trusted to run the DMV.

Holiday displays The annual tug-of-war in the public schools over Christmas decorations got an early start when New York City schools agreed to allow Jewish and Islamic displays, but not a Christian nativity scene. Lawyers for Christian students are seeking in federal court to end the discrimination. They have plenty of legal precedent on their side, which religious-liberties groups are circulating this holiday season to try to avoid New YorkÐstyle confusion. (Story, page 25.)

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