Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "2004 Election: Dubyafest," Sept. 11, 2004

POLITICS With one of the biggest political speeches of his life looming, President Bush started his day on Sept. 2 with an ecumenical prayer service at a Roman Catholic church in Manhattan. After prayers by a priest, a rabbi, and an imam, Mr. Bush headed to Madison Square Garden to rehearse his acceptance speech on a specially constructed round platform.

Mr. Bush's speech capped a week of flawlessly executed political theater. With polls showing growing doubts about Democratic nominee John Kerry, speaker after speaker hammered away at themes of safety, security, and steadiness. In his Wednesday night acceptance speech, Vice President Dick Cheney mocked what he saw as Mr. Kerry's constant political flip-flopping. "Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas," Mr. Cheney deadpanned. "It makes the whole thing mutual. America sees two John Kerrys."

There was no flip-flopping by the NYPD, which stuck throughout the week to a policy of near-zero tolerance for any sort of public disobedience. Armed with orange plastic netting, police swooped into illegal protest sites, rounding up demonstrators by the hundreds before their numbers could grow. By Thursday morning, nearly 2,000 protesters had been taken to a holding facility dubbed by its critics "Guantanamo on the Hudson."

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Still, the omnipresent protesters rattled many convention goers and angered New Yorkers who found it nearly impossible to go about their daily lives. Business owners grumbled about lost revenues as GOP delegates shuttled directly between their hotels and the Garden. Not even President Bush was doing much to boost the local economy: After his acceptance speech, he was scheduled to fly immediately to the must-win state of Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, a victory in the state primary on Aug. 31 by Mel Martinez gave the Bush reelection effort a much-needed push in must-win Florida. The former HUD secretary, a Cuban immigrant who arrived on U.S. soil at 15 as part of "Operation Peter Pan," is a popular Republican figure who is expected to draw the state's Latino vote toward Mr. Bush.

9/11 New Yorkers may be eager to return to normal life, but they will remain in the national spotlight as the third anniversary of 9/11 arrives on the heels of the GOP convention. The day will be marked at Ground Zero with the reading of 2,749 names of those who died in the World Trade Center attacks-this year by parents and grand-parents of the victims. Services timed to the crash of the third airliner into the Pentagon, and a fourth downed in Shanksville, Pa., will follow.

SUDAN The United Nations reported on Sept. 1 that the Sudanese government had done little to protect Africans in the Western region of Darfur. The findings came after expiration of a 30-day deadline to increase Darfur's security, with the UN recommending only to increase "ceasefire" monitors rather than following through with promised sanctions and international peacekeepers to prevent more ethnic cleansing. Human Rights Watch said the Sudanese government is maintaining at least 16 militia camps, despite promises to dismantle them.

RUSSIA The worst hostage crisis in two years unfolded in the republic of Northern Ossetia, where armed terrorists held hundreds of children hostage inside a school on the first day of the school year. They released at least 31 women and children-including babies-but refused to feed remaining child captives after a night of negotiations with Russian security forces. Rebels linked to the breakaway republic of Chechnya appeared to be behind the latest attack.

A presidential election there on Aug. 29 installed-no surprise-the Moscow-backed candidate amid charges of ballot-box stuffing and other fraud. Russia's civil war with Chechnya-now going on five years-has President Vladimir Putin struggling to keep control over extremists while providing little aid to the region. Chechen terrorist attacks highlight failed Kremlin policy: Two jetliners crashed simultaneously before the election, while a subway suicide bombing on Aug. 31 killed nine.

ISRAEL Two Palestinian suicide bombers blew up two packed buses in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, killing 16 people Sept. 1. It was the first major bombing in Israel in six months, in a city that has not seen suicide bombings in over four years of conflict.

IRAN Iran has relaunched large-scale production of equipment to enrich uranium, reports the International Atomic Energy Agency, in clear violation of an agreement reached with the UN watchdog agency a year ago. The findings could trigger UN sanctions, but Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards is offering the Iranians a "great bargain." He said under a Kerry administration Iran could keep its nuclear energy program, even buy Western supplies of enriched uranium fuel, so long as the mullahs promised not to make nuclear weapons.

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