Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Big mouth on campus," March 12, 2005

Campus life

The Ward Churchill circus came to town in Whitewater, Wis., where a state college of 10,000 students welcomed the University of Colorado professor who called victims of the World Trade Center attacks "little Eichmanns." Private colleges revoked speaking invitations to the controversial icon of the new-age left after he maligned victims of terrorism and after charges of plagiarism and other dubious scholarly activities surfaced. But the University of Wisconsin used compulsory fees to pay for the writer-painter's student-only event.

Supreme Court

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The high court ruled the death penalty for minors excessive and cruel, overturning 19 state laws that allow convicted criminals under the age of 18 to be put to death. In an overarching majority opinion on March 1, Justice Anthony Kennedy said Americans had reached a "national consensus" opposing capital punishment for juveniles and said the court must acknowledge "the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty." The justices rested their case in part on a claim by the American Psychological Association that underage killers cannot make moral judgments-the same group that decreed teenage girls old enough to decide to have an abortion without parental consent.

The Supreme Court also heard arguments back-to-back on March 2 to decide whether the Ten Commandments may be displayed on government property. Attorney Mat Staver predicted a "favorable" decision when the court rules this summer after questions by the justices suggest they are opposed to eliminating all religious expression by the government.

Terri Schiavo

The rollercoaster right-to-life battle unreeling in Pinellas County, Fla., took more turns last week as attorneys for two Florida media outlets argued that a sealed file in the case should be made public. Attorneys for WFLA-TV and Media General, which owns The Tampa Tribune, told circuit court judge George Greer that he should unseal allegations by Terri Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, that their daughter had been abused and neglected as she lay brain-damaged and disabled for 15 years. The Florida Department of Child and Family Services had filed the document with the court and requested 60 days to investigate. Instead, Judge Greer sealed the file, and on Feb. 8 issued an order clearing the way for Mrs. Schiavo's husband Michael to remove her feeding tube. The media attorneys argued that public interest in the high-profile case superseded standard legal privacy concerns.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Schiavo's parents filed-and Judge Greer denied-a flurry of legal motions in a desperate effort to save their daughter. Judge Greer denied them all, leaving Mr. Schiavo free on March 18 to begin the 10-day process of starving his wife to death.


A family man, a churchgoer, a Cub Scout leader, a dogcatcher, a serial killer? After more than 30 years of fruitless investigations, the Wichita, Kan., police finally think they have solved the BTK serial killings. The arrest of Dennis L. Rader rocked the community because the 59-year-old suspect shatters the common profile of serial killers as narcissistic loners. Mr. Rader, whom police charged with 10 counts of murder, is married with two adult children and lived what appeared to be a quiet life as a code enforcement officer and more recently as an animal control official with Park City, a suburb of Wichita.

Middle East

President Bush demanded in blunt terms that Syria get out of Lebanon. Speaking in Maryland on March 2, the president applauded a joint statement from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier calling for immediate withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and an investigation into the Feb. 14 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

"Both of them stood up and said loud and clear to Syria, 'You get your troops and your secret services out of Lebanon so that good democracy has a chance to flourish,'" Mr. Bush said. The administration also put forth evidence suggesting Syria was behind a deadly suicide attack a week ago in Tel Aviv, as well as Mr. Hariri's assassination.

Opposition leaders and street demonstrators in Beirut hailed the resignation of Lebanon's pro-Syrian prime minister and his cabinet. But they called further for President Emile Lahoud to step down.


Briton Saajid Badat pleaded guilty to conspiring between Jan. 1, 1999, and Nov. 28, 2003, with fellow Briton Richard Reid and a Belgian terrorist to make a "shoe bomb" to be detonated on a transatlantic flight. Mr. Reid is serving a life sentence in the United States for the crime; Mr. Badat, 25, will be sentenced later this month.


British health officials lifted a ban on flu vaccine production in place since last October when 48 million doses scheduled for shipment to the United States were feared contaminated. The ban halved the U.S. flu vaccine supply, but UK officials now say manufacturer Chiron has fixed its problems, and in time to supplement the U.S. flu-vaccine supply for the 2005-06 season.


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