Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Abortion: All the rage," May 8, 2004

Politics Conservatives lost, but Republicans likely won when incumbent Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter held off conservative congressman Pat Toomey in a tight Senate primary. Rep. Toomey would have given President Bush a strong ally in the Senate, though the liberal Sen. Specter almost certainly gives the Republicans a better chance to hold the Senate seat. But conservatives can still make gains in open seats in Colorado, South Carolina, and Florida. In those states, conservative Republicans won't have to deal with a liberal Republican incumbent who both ensures and frustrates the GOP majority (story, page 22).

Sens. John McCain, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Lincoln Chafee have formed a Republican roadblock to eliminating the marriage tax penalty once and for all. The House voted overwhelmingly to make permanent legislation that eliminated the penalty that unfairly taxed couples for being married. The Senate foursome has demanded that spending cuts coincide with the tax cut. Without support from all Republicans, the White House has lobbied Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson who may spurn the Democrats and prevent the $369 tax increase on married couples (story, page 27).

IRAQ World War II vets were dying at a rate of 1,056 a day, said officials in Washington on the eve of opening the first National World War II memorial. Active-duty soldiers have just ended their most deadly month in Iraq, with nearly 150 U.S. soldiers killed and more than 800 wounded in April fighting. U.S. forces, hoping to bring the numbers down, launched negotiations to hand over to the Iraqi army by mid-May Fallujah-where most April casualties occurred. Iraq's health ministry announced that 280 Iraqis were killed in Fallujah since April 5, including 24 women and 30 children, and 820 were wounded.

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Focus on the casualty numbers is likely only to intensify (story, page 28), even as the Bush administration signaled eagerness to talk diplomacy. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters in Berlin he expects a "peaceful solution" to the standoff in Fallujah and a new UN resolution supporting Iraq's interim government. The Senate worked last week toward approving John Negroponte, current U.S. ambassador to the UN, as the first American ambassador in Baghdad since 1991. The State Department veteran will supervise the largest-ever U.S. embassy in the world, with 3,000 employees and about $20 billion in annual reconstruction contracts. Mr. Negroponte is set to assume the role of lead U.S. official in Baghdad once control is formally ceded to a new Iraqi government on June 30. Saddam Hussein passed his 67th birthday on April 28-once a mandated national holiday-in a secret prison in Iraq where Red Cross representatives visited him for the second time since his capture.

North Korea Dissidents from North Korea charged that communist authorities were not allowing relief goods or medical specialists into the country fast enough to speed rescue and relief efforts after a train explosion killed hundreds, destroyed miles of homes, and injured thousands on April 22. The Ryongchon disaster remained cloaked in secrecy as authorities blocked aid and reporters from crossing borders by land but allowed for the first time ever cargo flights from South Korea's Red Cross.

Hong Kong Officials in Beijing announced they will not allow Hong Kong to hold direct elections for the territory's top executive in 2007 or its legislature in 2008. China has handpicked the executive and legislature since its handover from Britain in 1997, but Hong Kong's Basic Law allows for free elections beginning in 2007. Britain said the decision violates "the high degree of autonomy" formally promised Hong Kong at the handover.

Human rights Sudan's Islamic regime in Khartoum lashed and fined a young Christian Sudanese woman for not wearing a head scarf in public in the capital city. According to Compass Direct, Cecilia John Holland, 27, was traveling by minibus to her home in a Khartoum suburb when she was arrested. She was lashed 40 times on her back and fined $40.

Human-rights groups have criticized the Khartoum government for its decision last month to impose Islamic law on all Sudanese citizens in Khartoum, where nearly 2 million Christians and other non-Muslims reside. But the government got a pass from the UN Commission on Human Rights as it completed a six-week forum in Geneva. Khartoum agreed to allow UN monitors into strife-torn Darfur in exchange for UN officials suppressing a report indicating ethnic cleansing in the province (story, page 30).

Canada George Orwell's fictional Ingsoc has moved west across the Atlantic. Now Canada's thinkcrime laws have incorporated homosexuality as a protected category. The bill, approved last week, could chill free speech in Canada and some have openly wondered whether the Bible and other religious documents could be banned as hate literature (story, page 33).

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