Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Rice: Starboard at State," Dec. 4, 2004

WASHINGTON Fresh off a 20-point reelection victory, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) promised some hard questions in the confirmation hearings of Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice, the woman once touted as a potential political rival for the liberal California lawmaker.

"It's causing me to lose sleep at night," Ms. Boxer said of the hearings, expected to begin this month. "My one issue that I must get at is, 'Did she mislead the American people . . . on the many issues surrounding the Iraq war?'"

With a six-year reprieve before she has to face the voters again, Ms. Boxer is well positioned to harass the president's nominee. Still, experts of all political stripes predict that Ms. Rice's flawless foreign policy credentials-and her up-by-the-bootstraps personal history-all but guarantee her eventual confirmation. She will be the first African-American woman ever to hold the cabinet's top post.

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PRESIDENTIAL SECURITY Usually one to delegate authority, President George W. Bush took matters into his own hands during a state ceremony welcoming the president and first lady and other heads of state to Santiago. When Chilean security guards refused entry to a member of Mr. Bush's Secret Service detail, Mr. Bush turned his back on the dignitaries long enough to reach into a brewing fight and rescue lead agent Nick Trotta. The Secret Service insists on extraordinary cordons around the president, and with good reason. A Vermont court this week convicted 25-year-old William Erno of two felony counts of threatening the president-underscoring persistent threats to Mr. Bush's security. Mr. Erno pleaded guilty to mailing a letter he claimed contained anthrax and sending letters to public officials announcing Mr. Bush was on his "to kill" list.

GREAT BRITIAN British security thwarted a 9/11-style terror attack on Heathrow Airport and skyscrapers in London's Canary Wharf financial district. Authorities upended training for suicide pilots to crash planes into the targets earlier this month, but officials gave no details on the plots or how they were discovered.

IRAQ Iraq's interim government set Jan. 30 as the day for nationwide elections of 275 members of a new national assembly. The body will be responsible for drafting a permanent constitution and laying groundwork for a permanent representative government. A Sunni cleric who tried to block the elections was shot dead at his home in Mosul on Nov. 22. Mohammed Bashar al Faidhi, a spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars, said elections "will be a laughing-stock and not credible among Iraqis," after encouraging the violence against U.S. and Iraqi forces aimed at thwarting the polls.

UNITED NATIONS The UN staff union, for the first time in its 60 years, passed a resolution on Nov. 20 denouncing senior management-saying it "no longer displays the level of integrity" expected of the world body. The no-confidence vote was a stunner for Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a UN careerist whose appointment to the top post was initially hailed by UN staff. Mr. Annan now finds himself at the center of the largest financial scandal in history, the UN's Oil For Food Program in Iraq. Congressional investigators on Nov. 23 questioned French bankers who oversaw the oil revenues, which netted Saddam Hussein over $21 billion. They also learned that Saddam diverted money from the UN program to pay millions of dollars to families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Meanwhile, three UN workers kidnapped in Afghanistan were released unharmed after nearly a month in captivity. The Philippine, British, and Kosovar diplomats were taken to a NATO hospital shortly after U.S. and Afghan forces raided two houses and made arrests in connection with the abductions.

CHINA Authorities prepared to release early one of China's best-known imprisoned political dissidents, Liu Jingsheng, on Nov. 27, according to U.S. watchdog Human Rights in China. Mr. Liu helped establish the China Freedom and Democracy Party after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, activities that earned him his 1992 arrest and 15-year sentence. Chinese leaders have also been quick to announce they will allow more religious freedom. But a newly released high-level Communist Party document from May shows that the opposite is happening: Officials ordered the active spread of Marxism against a tide of "superstition," leading to an increasingly harsh crackdown against Christians.

MIDDLE EAST In probably his last major push for Israeli-Palestinian peace, Secretary of State Colin Powell met with leaders from both sides, winning assurances that Israel will help organize a smooth Palestinian election to replace Yasser Arafat, who died Nov. 11.

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