Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on this week's biggest stories

Issue: "Post-party election blues?," Nov. 6, 2004

ELECTION Hours from the end of a hard-fought presidential campaign, voters braced for a close-and chaotic-finish. With legal challenges in toss-up states, some election officials warned their states' votes might not be certified for weeks. In Ohio, a Clinton-appointed federal judge on Oct. 27 ordered that six county election boards should stop reviewing 35,000 new registrations that GOP election-watchers feared might be fraudulent. Meanwhile, investigators in heavily Democratic Broward County, Fla., were looking into complaints that thousands of absentee ballots had never been received weeks after officials mailed them out. Forty new workers were added to field calls from irate voters, and county elections supervisor Brenda Snipes said she would immediately resend about 20,000 of the 58,000 ballots originally mailed on Oct. 7. And in Iowa, a judge agreed with Secretary of State Chet Culver that voters could cast provisional ballots outside their home precincts. Republicans promised an appeal, arguing that contested ballots in the wrong precinct would invite fraud and cause vote-tallying delays.

IRAQ Election jitters did not prevent U.S. forces from launching a new offensive against Islamic radicals in Fallujah, where U.S. planes bombed rebel sites. British soldiers moved north out of southern Iraq to free U.S. ground forces for a possible Fallujah assault-the first time British forces entered central Iraq since the Saddam Hussein regime collapsed. Stepped-up pressure on Moqtada Sadr and his militant affiliates comes with signs that the Fallujah rebellion is collapsing from within. Insiders report that residents have turned on the ardent brand of Islamic law militants have tried to impose on the city. Food and other shortages provoke growing resentment that Fallujah will be isolated, particularly as election season begins. Iraq's government opens voter registration across the country on Nov. 1, including in Fallujah and other hot spots. Despite tepid UN support for the electoral process, Iraqi leaders vow the elections will happen by Jan. 31 as mandated by the interim constitution.

WEAPONS Sen. John Kerry launched a last-minute offensive on the president's war policy in Iraq after The New York Times reported that 370 tons of explosives are missing from a closely watched weapons facility. Mr. Kerry said Mr. Bush failed to monitor the cache, but Pentagon records show U.S. forces inspected the facility three times in May 2003 without finding the explosives. Defense officials believe they were removed by Russian special forces before the war, according to documents retrieved from Saddam's ministry of military industrialization.

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ISRAEL Israel's parliament approved withdrawal from Jewish settlements in Palestinian-controlled Gaza and parts of the West Bank at the request of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. As chief architect of settlements in the 1970s and '80s, Mr. Sharon declared his extraordinary turnabout "a necessary step during a period in which negotiations are not possible." The longtime hawk told Knesset members on Oct. 25: "This will decrease hostility, and will lead us forward on the path to peace with the Palestinians." Meanwhile, Palestinian icon Yasser Arafat collapsed in his West Bank home on Oct. 27 and was likely to be transported overseas after he failed to make a full recovery from a two-week illness precipitated by gallstones. Palestinian faithful took up round-the-clock vigils outside his headquarters. "He is the safety valve for everything here," said Imad Samara, a 38-year-old teacher from Gaza City.

CONGRESS House Republicans blame the Senate. The Senate blames House Republicans. And 9/11 families blame the Bush administration, the Pentagon, and House Republicans for the deadlock in transforming the 9/11 Commission's recommendations into law. Lawmakers last week met repeatedly but appeared no closer to bridging the gap between separate bills to implement the commission's recommendations. The sticking point: a dispute over the powers of a proposed national intelligence director (NID). The Senate bill would grant the NID more budget and personnel authority than that crafted by the House. Any 9/11 bill will likely languish until it can be considered by a postelection lame-duck Congress.

IRAN Britain, France, and Germany offered Iran one more chance to halt the enrichment of uranium in violation of UN controls-to "avoid miscalculations that might bring us into a very serious situation." Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. But U.S. and Western intelligence services have convincing evidence that the Iranian nuclear program is bent on developing a nuclear warhead for Iran's 620-mile-range Shihab missile.

AIDS President Bush's $15 billion AIDS plan looks like a case of new ideas poured into an old bureaucracy. It pushes sexual abstinence and faithfulness in preventing the disease, but overseas U.S. officials keep pushing condoms. U.S. condom distribution around the world has tripled since 1999. In Uganda, old condom-peddling family-planning groups have continued to receive funding despite opposition from as high as first lady Janet Museveni's office.


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