Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Kerry picks Edwards as VP," July 17, 2004

Politics Nearly two-thirds of voters in a CNN-USA Today-Gallup Poll said they approved of the selection of John Edwards for the No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket-good news for presumptive nominee John Kerry, who made his decision public on July 6 after a months-long search. Campaigning together for the first time on July 7, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards presented themselves as "A New Team for a New America" during a rally in Cleveland, Ohio. "I want you to know we think this is a dream ticket," Mr. Kerry told the swing-state crowd. "We've got better vision. We've got better ideas. We've got real plans. We've got a better sense of what's happening to America." Although GOP strategists warned that media coverage of the selection would likely produce a Democratic bounce in the polls, President Bush professed to be unconcerned. "When they go to the polls to vote for president, they'll understand the senator from Massachusetts doesn't share their values," Mr. Bush predicted of the Southern voters Mr. Edwards is hoping to woo. "I'm going to carry the South because the people understand that . . . we share values." Still, the president was taking nothing for granted. On July 8, his campaign announced it was making its first TV ad buy in North Carolina, a state once considered safely in the Bush column. Third Parties Ralph Nader may have encouraged the selection of John Edwards as the Democrats' VP pick, but that doesn't mean he'll drop out of the race now that it's a done deal. "Ralph's in. He's not dropping out," said campaign spokesman Kevin Zeese, who noted that Mr. Nader admired the North Carolina senator and former trial lawyer for his staunch defense of citizens' right to sue corporations. The Edwards pick largely stole the limelight from Mr. Nader's struggles at the Green Party convention. Although the Greens backed Mr. Nader in 2000, this year many were wary of being blamed for handing a second consecutive victory to George W. Bush. In the end, a divided convention denied its nomination to Mr. Nader, leaving him to fight for ballot access on a state-by-state basis. Supreme Court The Pentagon on July 7 announced it would begin an immediate legal review of the 595 enemy combatants held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The move came in response to the Supreme Court's decision that the detainees could challenge their imprisonment in U.S. courts though they are being held on foreign soil. It was just one in a flurry of last-minute rulings handed down before the court's summer recess. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz promised each prisoner would be advised of his new rights-in writing, in his native language-within 10 days. In preparation for nearly 600 individual court cases, the military will conduct its own internal investigation of each case. Prisoners will have the right to participate in their own defense, including having access to files and the ability to call witnesses. Anyone deemed no longer a threat will be deported to his own country. Meanwhile, President Bush named nine additional Guantanamo prisoners subject to trial before military tribunals, bringing the total number to 15. Reserved for foreign-born captives, military tribunals operate under standards of evidence that are less strict than those in civilian courts. The Guantanamo tribunals will be the first in nearly 60 years. Sudan Secretary of State Colin Powell's trip to Sudan late last month brought attention to what aid groups are calling the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Government-backed Arab militias have displaced 1 million blacks from the Darfur region and killed about 30,000. Pressure from Mr. Powell, members of the U.S. Congress, and the United Nations brought promises from Khartoum to disarm the militias, but aid groups say only international peacekeepers can secure the region. Health Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle warned last week that a new strain of syphilis, one resistant to the antibiotic pills often used to treat the sexually transmitted disease, is spreading across the country. The researchers found the mutant strain in at least 10 percent of syphilis patients in four cities. In San Francisco, 37 percent of syphilis patients carried the strain. Gambling With a promise of a $1 billion cut in property taxes to sweeten the pot, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell last week signed laws that authorize 61,000 slot machines for the state, which would give Pennsylvania more slots than any state except Nevada. Mr. Rendell argued that the state's 34 percent take from the slots would fund a 20 percent cut in property taxes, beginning in 2006. Critics argue that the price of the promised tax relief will be crime, gambling addiction, and other social ills associated with gambling. Pennsylvania is the 18th state to legalize slot-machine gambling. Law A federal grand jury indicted former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay on 11 counts, including conspiracy, wire fraud, securities fraud, and bank fraud. Prosecutors accuse Mr. Lay of deceiving the public, company shareholders, and government regulators about the financial health of the energy giant in 2001, just as it was about to collapse. Mr. Lay, who could face a 175-year prison sentence and fines of up to $5.7 million, surrendered to authorities but maintained his innocence. "I have done nothing wrong," he said in a statement, "and the indictment is not justified."

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