Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Schiavo’s fight for life," April 2, 2005

Terri Schiavo

A week that began with Congress in overnight weekend sessions and a president hauled from vacation to sign legislation at 2 a.m. ended with the family representatives of Terri Schiavo back before lawmakers to plead her increasingly desperate case. At issue: Michael Schiavo's decision to remove his wife's feeding tube vs. her parents' and siblings' wish to keep it in place. The wider war-likely to outlive Mrs. Schiavo-pits pro-life forces against euthanasia advocates, and the legislative and executive branches of government against the judiciary, in what may become the biggest showdown since FDR.

Social Security Social Security trustees announced that the government retirement program's trust fund will be exhausted in 2041, a year earlier than their prior estimate. The program's annual revenue will fall behind annual expenses in 2017, also a year earlier than predicted. The new estimates differ from those of the Congressional Budget Office, which earlier in March said that the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted in 2052 and that revenue would fall behind expenses in 2020.

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Iraq

Iraqi forces operating under protection of U.S. helicopters captured a terrorist base north of Baghdad on March 23, killing 85 insurgents and overrunning the compound. Seven Iraqi soldiers were killed in the two-hour firefight-the largest Iraqi-U.S. coordinated attack to date-but there were no U.S. casualties. After entering the camp, Iraqi commandos found non-Iraqi passports, training publications, propaganda documents, weapons, and ammunition.

The battle followed a March 20 ambush on a U.S. convoy that went awry for insurgents. The Kentucky National Guard unit was traveling south of Baghdad when 50 militants attacked from a grove of trees and a roadside canal. Returning fire, the Guardsmen killed 26 insurgents. Seven U.S. soldiers were wounded.

Baghdad shopkeepers also exacted casualties on terrorists. When hooded insurgents opened fire on March 22 along a main thoroughfare, shopkeepers and residents responded by pulling out their own guns and killing three assailants-another blow to an insurgency seeking to organize larger ambushes.

Sudan

The UN calls it genocide. African neighbors are pledged to monitor it. And now Congress wants to punish the perps by imposing trade sanctions and blocking visas. But no one seems to be able to stop the death and destruction in Darfur, Sudan's western province, where an estimated 300,000 are dead and over 2 million homeless after government-sponsored militia attacks on poor farmers. Now a former U.S. Marine Corps captain has returned from a six-month mission in Darfur with evidence that the government's campaign is continuing-and targeting civilians, including women and children, with anti-personnel rockets and terrifying helicopter raids on villages.

School shooting The kind of violence that left five teenagers dead at Red Lake High School is rare, according to a pastor at the Minnesota Indian reservation, but family dysfunction and violence are not. "There's an awful lot of pain in Red Lake because of the breakdown of the family," Mr. Pollock told WORLD. Rampant gambling and drug and alcohol abuse leave kids dejected and alone. Those factors all seem to have figured into what led 16-year-old Jeff Weise to kill nine and wound 14-before shooting himself-in a March 21 rampage, the largest school shooting since Columbine in 1999.

Religion

Edmund P. Clowney, towering Presbyterian educator and gifted preacher, author, and pastor, died of pneumonia in Charlottesville, Va., on March 20. He was 87. Ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, he taught theology at Westminster Seminary in suburban Philadelphia for 32 years, and served as the school's first president from 1966 to 1982.

North Korea

On the tail end of her first tour of Asia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stopped in Seoul on March 20, dishing out pep talks on democracy-and some unintentional irony. As Ms. Rice walked in for a meeting with South Korean internet reporters, a veteran human-rights activist jumped in to catch her attention.

"Miss Rice, the North Korean people are dying and they are crying for your help," yelled Norbert Vollertsen, a German doctor who was once an aid worker in the North. He held up a poster that read, "Freedom for North Korea: 50 Years Overdue."

He did not get far however: U.S. embassy officials recognized Mr. Vollertsen and ordered security guards to remove him. The guards wrestled him to the ground and muffled his voice, while an embassy official ripped his poster in two.

Mr. Vollertsen, whom South Korean police have beaten before for protesting, compared the latest incident to a scuffle he had with North Koreans in Daegu, in 2003: "I was only surprised that when I was long outside the room and not 'yelling' any more, they still jumped on my arms, kicked me and pushed my face to the floor-something even the North Korean guys in Daegu were not doing. Maybe this is U.S. State Department policy regarding human-rights issues."

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