Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Considering the heavens," Jan. 24, 2004

Middle East Istish-haad (heroic martyrdom) was the term used repeatedly on Palestinian radio after Reem Raiyshi, a 22-year-old mother of two, blew herself up and killed four Israeli soldiers on Jan. 14 in Gaza. Afternoon broadcasts on Voice of Palestine, official radio for the Palestinian Authority, repeatedly lauded the success of the attack. But if hardship for Ms. Riyashi's orphaned family isn't enough, the attack will further restrict and impoverish Palestinians. With every Palestinian a potential suicide attacker, Israel shut down Gaza Strip the following day, forcing Palestinians who depend on transit to Israel for jobs to stay home. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia refused to condemn the bombing, saying that continued Israeli attacks and restrictions on the Palestinians are leading to "escalation on both sides."

MARS MISSION Space enthusiasts are welcoming President Bush's call for NASA "to gain a new foothold on the moon and to prepare for new journeys to the worlds beyond our own." But both supporters and critics are questioning whether the amount of money that he proposed for the agency to begin the effort is enough. (Mr. Bush wants NASA to receive an extra $1 billion over the next five years and to redirect $11 billion in existing agency resources to the program, which would send astronauts back to the moon and then to Mars.) The plan envisions trips to the moon by robots beginning by 2008, with astronauts following by 2015. Unveiling his vision at NASA headquarters in Washington, the president said: "It is time for America to take the next steps" (cover story, p. 16).

Politics Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill created a firestorm of media controversy last week with the publication of a book saying that President Bush was intent on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq even before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The White House responded that regime change in Baghdad had been a U.S. goal for years and that Mr. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq as a last resort (story, p. 21).

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Immigration President Bush met with Mexican president Vicente Fox on Jan. 12 in Mexico City, where Mr. Fox endorsed Mr. Bush's plan to grant renewable, three-year work permits to illegal immigrants presently in the United States. But Mr. Bush's plea that the U.S. need for immigrants is a "basic fact of life and economics" did not move a coalition of liberals and conservatives back in Washington who oppose the measure (story, p. 22).

Meanwhile, on the eve of Mr. Bush's visit, Mexican authorities announced that they would review the convictions and sentences of 76 prisoners in Chiapas-34 of them local evangelical pastors and church leaders-in connection with a 1997 Christmas massacre in Acteal that killed 45 Roman Catholic worshippers. Despite little evidence, the men have been held in prison six years.

Sudan As negotiations continue between the government and the country's southern Christian minority, Khartoum has turned its guns on some fellow Muslims in the western province of Darfur. In its quest for an Arab-dominated Sudan, the government is engaging in what one UN official calls ethnic cleansing and possibly even genocide. "I believe this is the elimination of the black race," said one tribal leader about Khartoum's motivation (story, p. 24).

Law The San Diego City Council last week handed the ACLU a victory in its fight against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). The city handed over $950,000 to the group to settle a lawsuit over a city lease to the Scouts for the use of a city park. The ACLU claims that the lease violates the separation of church and state because of the Scouts' stance against homosexuality and atheism. BSA officials say they will continue to fight the ACLU for use of the park (story, p. 25).

Weather A fierce winter storm hit the Northeast last week, driving temperatures down to 30 degrees below zero in some places, with wind chills hitting 50 below. The cold weather prompted Maine Gov. John Baldacci to declare a civil emergency on Jan. 14, and two New YorkÐarea airports, La Guardia and Newark Liberty, reported more than 200 flights canceled on Jan. 15. "Words like 'agony' take on a whole new meaning on a day like this," said Michael-John Pierce of Darien, Conn.

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