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The Buzz

Issue: "Rick Santorum: Penn Station," April 30, 2005

Vatican Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected on the fourth ballot on April 19 to succeed Pope John Paul II as the Roman Catholic prelate. The appointment of the German theologian and John Paul II confidante drew praise from conservatives and jeers from liberals who oppose his positions on abortion and homosexuality. The German press lampooned the new pope as "Papa Ratzi" and "God's rotweiller" but a rising misery index in Europe teamed with declining Christianity suggests Pope Benedict XVI may be just the medicine for the continent.

Congress Over 90 foreign-policy experts-including former heads of the CIA and Pentagon-endorsed his nomination; 100 leaders of faith-based organizations sent a formal letter of support. But the backing was not enough for Republican Sen. George Voinovich, who derailed the confirmation of UN ambassador-designate John Bolton. Mr. Voinovich sided with Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to postpone a confirmation vote, even though he did not attend hearings where Mr. Bolton and others testified.

A day in the life of a U.S. senator is no piece of cake. Sen. Rick Santorum, already locked in a reelection bid, must field constituent requests, debate the Constitution with grad students, and find time for both the kids and a haircut. Despite grueling 18-hour days, Mr. Santorum fell 14 points behind 2006 rival Democratic state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr. in a poll released Apr. 20.

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UN With a Bolton vote in limbo, U.S. representation at the UN hangs vacant just as the urgency of UN reform is peaking. Two senior investigators with the committee probing corruption in the UN oil-for-food program have resigned in protest, saying they believe a report that cleared Kofi Annan of meddling in the $64 billion operation was too soft on the secretary-general. The committee led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker played down findings critical of Mr. Annan in an interim report released last month, prompting senior investigator Robert Parton, a former FBI agent, and associate Miranda Duncan to quit.

Terrorism Oklahoma City on April 19 commemorated the 10-year anniversary of a blast that killed 168 and left as much psychological residue as physical destruction. Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at a ceremony also attended by former President Bill Clinton and punctuated by 168 seconds of silence. Max Lucado told a gathering at an April 17 candlelight vigil, "What Satan meant for evil, God meant for good.".

Iraq More than 50 bodies recovered from the Tigris River south of Baghdad are believed to be Iraqi hostages seized in the region earlier this month. Separately, 19 Iraqis were shot to death and left against a bloodstained wall in a soccer stadium in Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad. Iraqis charge that the bloodletting is inspired from abroad, notably a Saudi-inspired jihad order to Sunni militants and an Iranian fatwa issued April 21 calling on Shiites in Iraq "to carry arms and fight."

Ecuador Brazil granted asylum to former President Lucio Gutierrez, who was removed from office by Congress on April 21 amid street protests calling for his ouster for abuse of power and misrule. Mr. Gutierrez vowed to remain in office after calls for his resignation began in December, when he dismissed 27 of 31 Supreme Court justices.

Sports Cycling tour de force Lance Armstrong announced that he will retire after competing in the upcoming Tour de France. The six-time Tour de France champ raced well against many of the rivals he will face in the Alps this summer in this month's Tour de Georgia, but complained: "I don't have the speed in my legs this year that I had last year."

Obit Diane Knippers, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), recently named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential U.S. evangelical leaders, died on April 18 of cancer. She was 53.

Under her leadership, IRD challenged mainline church leaders' ultra-liberal positions on social and doctrinal issues. She also led it to work on behalf of persecuted Christians abroad, especially in Africa. As a key conservative Episcopalian activist, she was an ally of renewal leaders throughout mainline denominations. "There's a quiet determination to draw the line," she told an interviewer this month. "The religious left is all smoke and mirrors. In terms of the religious landscape right now, the initiative is ours."

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