Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Bush: Hail to the chief," Jan. 29, 2005

Inauguration

President George W. Bush was sworn in at inaugural ceremonies on Jan. 20 for his second term as the 43rd president. He is the 16th president to serve two terms, and the second son of a U.S. president. His speech emphasized security and democratization abroad, but unity at home. "Americans, by choice and by birth, are bound to one another in the cause of freedom," he said.

Mr. Bush begins his second term with an unprecedented GOP mandate: In addition to the executive branch, Republicans have increased control in both houses of Congress, hold 28 out of 50 governors' offices-including those in the four largest states-and control legislatures in 21 states.

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Cabinet

Nine new members are slated to join six returning officers in the Bush cabinet. U.S. Sen. and former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (D-Mass.) voted against confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state and worked with Democratic colleagues to force a delay in full-Senate confirmation of Ms. Rice and attorney general designate Alberto Gonzales.

Mr. Kerry and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) were the lone dissenters in a 16-2 Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote one day before the full Senate was expected to confirm her as the first black woman to hold the office. Both key Cabinet appointments are expected to win Senate approval, but Democrats held up the votes over concerns about Ms. Rice's involvement in crafting Iraq war policy, and over Mr. Gonzales's response to questions about the application of Geneva Convention

rules to terrorist suspects held by the U.S. military.

Tsunami toll

The global death toll in the Asian tsunami rose above 226,000 as Indonesia's Health Ministry confirmed the deaths of tens of thousands of people previously listed as missing. The new calculation raised Indonesia's death toll from 95,450 to 166,320 as of Jan. 19. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, announcing that over 617,000 people remain homeless in northern Sumatra, said the catastrophe defies description. "We will never know the exact scale of the human casualties," he said.

German physician Norbert Vollertsen, working in Banda Aceh with a Korean medical relief team, noted an influx of serious ailments, including pneumonia, during the third post-tsunami week. Most of the sick are suffering from salt water ingestion or living on nothing but salt for weeks following the tidal wave. "There simply are too many people in need of medical attention," he said.

Iraq

Leading officials in Iraq predicted strong voter turnout and a defeat for the interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. "For a lot of people in Iraq, the Iraqi government exists only on television," said Mohammad Tawfiq, a leading Kurdish official. Despite a blunt style and close attention to security, Mr. Allawi dismayed many voters by ignoring Bush administration policy and retaining known Baathist Party members in the government. That has allowed Saddam loyalists to gain insider info rmation used to undermine Iraq's nascent security forces, critics say. Of over 100 lists of candidates up for Jan. 30 elections, Shiite candidates are expected to fare best, followed by Kurdish leaders, who stand to win one-third of the seats in the national assembly.

China

Police cinched security in Beijing following the death of former Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang on Jan. 17. Once a prominent member of China's Central Committee, Mr. Zhao was purged and held under house arrest after he opposed the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in 1989. As 400-500 mourners gathered outside Mr. Zhao's home, more than 100 uniformed and plainclothes police arrived to monitor their activities. Former Tiananmen Square activists say they were restricted to their homes or followed, in an apparent attempt to discourage Tiananmen remembrances following Mr. Zhao's death. Police outnumbered mourners nearly 2-1 at one such gathering in Shanghai.

Economy

The nation's Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose 0.2 percent in December, the Conference Board reported last week, marking the second straight monthly increase. The index, which predicts future economic activity, had declined for five straight months before November, and some economists said the two-month gain was reason for optimism. "Basically, this tells us that the economy is experiencing very broad-based growth," said Haseeb Ahmed, senior economist with Economy.com, a consulting firm in West Chester, Pa.

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