Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Ronald Reagan: In memoriam," June 19, 2004

Reagan death More than 12 hours before the body was scheduled to arrive, admirers of Ronald Reagan were already lining up on Capitol Hill to pay their respects to the late president, dead at age 93 after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer's disease. The June 11 funeral at Washington's National Cathedral was expected to draw the capital's largest-ever crowd of international dignitaries, from former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
The outpouring of admiration for the 40th president seemed to catch even his closest supporters off-guard. At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., more than 100,000 mourners filed past the casket, many of them waiting more than eight hours for the chance to say a one-minute farewell (see cover story).
President Bush declared a national day of mourning for June 11, and ordered flags flown at half-staff for a full month. Republicans on Capitol Hill quickly began drafting memorial legislation, with proposals that ranged from renaming the Pentagon in Mr. Reagan's honor to putting his likeness on the 10-dollar bill.
Meanwhile, sensing an opportunity, political opponents stepped up the pressure on Mr. Bush to legalize human stem-cell research, touting its potential for curing the disease that robbed Mr. Reagan of his faculties and eventually his life.

Terror war Attorney General John Ashcroft's scheduled appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 8, at three hours, was anything but routine. Committee Democrats broiled Mr. Ashcroft over recently revealed Justice Department memos seeming to suggest that ­torturing terror suspects may be justified to prevent future attacks. Mr. Ashcroft denied the president had ordered that suspects be tortured, but refused to release the memos.
He explained the memos constituted confidential legal advice to the president. He also distinguished between the advice in theory and what the president actually ordered: that al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees, most of whom are at Guantanamo Bay, be treated just like any other soldiers.
While several Democrats suggested Mr. Ashcroft's refusal approached contempt of Congress, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered some rare, nonpartisan ­perspective. "We ought to be reasonable about this," he said. "I think there are very few people in this room or in America who would say that torture should never, ever be used, particularly if thousands of lives are at stake."

Iraq The UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the new interim government in Iraq, a victory for the Bush administration as it launches a June 30 handover of sovereignty.
Unanimity was lacking among the newly installed Iraqi leaders in Baghdad, as Kurds and other non-Arab Iraqis protested the resolution for ignoring an interim ­constitution passed earlier this year. Failure to follow that charter, Kurdish leaders warned President Bush in a June 1 letter, will leave them with "no choice but to refrain from participating in the central government and its institutions, not to take part in the national elections, and to bar representatives of the central government from Kurdistan."
Kurds fear a strong central government that does not adhere to the interim constitution will undermine not only their rights but also their economic and self-rule gains in the north. Already the Iraqi government has ordered Kurdish militias, known as peshmerga, to demobilize. Kurdish political heads Jalal Talabani and Marsoud Barzani reminded the president that those forces "fought side by side with the American forces for the liberation of Iraq, taking more casualties than any other U.S. ally," while no U.S. soldiers have died in northern Iraq.
Insurgents are trying to undo the stability in the north. A taxi loaded with three suicide bombers, witnesses said, detonated on June 8 as a convoy of Mosul city council officials passed. Council members were not wounded, but nine Iraqis were killed and 25 civilians injured. That same day a bomb exploded outside a U.S. checkpoint in Baquba, killing one U.S. soldier and five Iraqis.

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Saudi Arabia Saudi officials are ratcheting up security after a series of al-Qaeda-linked attacks on the Arabian ­Peninsula left 25 foreigners (including eight Americans) and five Saudis dead. But oil industry analysts are looking at what may be a more serious threat: evidence that the terrorists will move from soft to hard targets, threatening Saudi export terminals where one-third of the world's oil supply is shipped every day. Such an attack, the experts warn, "would be more economically damaging than a dirty nuclear bomb set off in midtown Manhattan" (see story). It would bring oil-addicted economies to their knees and make $2 a gallon gasoline a pleasant memory.

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