Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Abortion: Delta force," Jan. 22, 2005

White House

Even as officials put the final touches on plans for President Bush's second inauguration on Jan. 20, the president himself was putting the final touches on his cabinet makeover. On Jan. 11, Mr. Bush filled the last of nine vacancies, nominating Circuit Judge Michael Chertoff to succeed Tom Ridge as Secretary of Homeland Security.

The son of a rabbi and a former federal prosecutor, Mr. Chertoff gained widespread notoriety in the 1990s by representing Senate Republicans in their Whitewater probe and investigating the suicide of Vincent Foster, Hillary Clinton's former law partner.

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Despite his credentials with the vast right-wing conspiracy, Mr. Chertoff's nomination won immediate support from his home-state senators John Corzine and Frank Lautenberg, both Democrats. Sen. Charles Shumer (D-N.Y.) also praised him.

His confirmation hearings may be less contentious than the inaugural itself. Critics griped about the $40 million price tag for the bash-and the funds kicked in by corporations with lucrative federal contracts. Meanwhile, protesters planned to shut down traffic in the capital with civil disobedience.

Abortion

Roe v. Wade turns 32 on Jan. 21, and pro-life activists around the country erected monuments and held candlelight vigils memorializing babies killed by legal abortion. A display of 2,000 small crosses at the Mississippi Capitol building was canceled after state officials said the crosses would harm the soil. Still, Magnolia State pro-lifers are winning battles in their war on abortion. Meanwhile, baby girls in China may also have won a pro-life victory. To close the widening gap between the number of boys and girls in the country, the Communist nation last week said it will criminalize selective abortions of female babies. Observers blame the gender gap-119 boys for every 100 girls-on China's one-child policy.

Rather-gate

After months of investigation, heads finally rolled at CBS News on Jan. 10 when an independent panel blasted the network's "myopic zeal" in trying to break a story about President Bush's military service. Mary Mapes, producer of the discredited "60 Minutes Wednesday" report, was fired, and three of her superiors in the news division were asked to resign.

Investigators said CBS News had "failed miserably" in trying to authenticate memos suggesting a young Mr. Bush had received preferential treatment in the Air National Guard. After doubts arose, CBS mounted a "strident defense" of the story without "any adequate probing whether any of the questions raised had merit."

Said network president Les Moonves: "We're getting rid of the people we think were to blame." Evidently that didn't include Dan Rather, the CBS anchorman who presented the "60 Minutes" report. He announced last November that he would leave in March, a year before his contract is up.

Tsunami

As the official toll of dead and missing last week soared past 210,000, Indonesian authorities tightened controls on tsunami relief workers. Officials in the region said foreign military units, aid workers, and journalists may remain for only three months, and must provide the government with details of "their current and planned activities . . . [and] exact locations." Meanwhile, faith-based groups including Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, World Vision, Samaritan's Purse, and others continued to shuttle in emergency food and water, as well as tents and "family kits" meant to sustain survivors over longer periods. But while aid groups help rebuild, criminals may be re-victimizing victims: Amid reports of attempts to buy and sell children orphaned by the disaster, the U.S. State Department, International Justice Mission, and other agencies are investigating rising concerns over child-trafficking.

Iraq

At least 14 million Iraqis are preparing to go to the polls despite attacks from election opponents that killed at least 15 civilians in one day. Insurgents also killed Baghdad's deputy police chief and his son and two leading Shiite clerics. If the insurgents have weapons, political contenders have momentum. Election officials have validated more than 73 political parties and 7,200 candidate names for the 275-seat National Assembly. Its chief end will be drafting a permanent constitution ahead of another nationwide poll slated for the end of the year. To keep the will of the people on track, Iraqi police have rounded up hundreds of terrorist fighters, and American troops arrested six suspects in the assassination of Baghdad's provincial governor, killed earlier this month

Mideast

In a second Bush administration, the first foreign dignitary honored with a state visit just might be . . . the president of the Palestinian Authority?

Within hours after Mahmoud Abbas won a landslide election victory on Jan. 9, Mr. Bush invited the moderate Palestinian leader to Washington-a courtesy never extended to his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. Mr. Abbas defeated his nearest rival by a 3-to-1 margin in an election deemed clean by international monitors. Though the terrorist group Hamas urged its members to boycott the balloting, its leaders promised they would "respect" the will of the voters. Israel, too, has a working relationship with Mr. Abbas.

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