Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Senate wars over judges," May 14, 2005

White House President Bush joined evangelical leaders and others in the East Room of the White House on May 5, launching the 53rd annual National Day of Prayer. Mr. Bush, accompanied by his wife, Jim and Shirley Dobson, Max Lucado, Bill Bright's widow Vonette, along with Catholic and Jewish leaders, noted that prayer is a gift no government can take away. He said: "We ask that our hearts may be aligned with His, and that we may be given the strength to do what is right and help those in need." The presidential prayer met with a spontaneous "amen" after he prayed for the nation's armed forces. "We seek God's blessing for the families they have left behind, and we commit to heaven's care those brave men and women He has called home," he said.

Congress Debate over Mr. Bush's judicial nominees shifted from Capitol Hill hearing rooms to living rooms as interest groups on both sides launched TV spots in an escalating ad war. The conservative Progress for America began running ads on May 2 in the states considered pivotal to whether the Senate changed its rules to prevent filibusters-the so-called "nuclear option" Republican leaders threaten to use to break the Democratic block on nominees. People for the American Way, a liberal group, responded with ads portraying the filibuster as a necessary tactic to prevent "radical" nominees like California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown from rising to the federal bench. The ad's ominous tagline: "Power. And too much power's a dangerous thing."

But power plays of the left were at work in the defeat of Judge Charles Pickering's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Mr. Pickering, No. 1 in his law school class and a groundbreaking civil-rights leader, found even a favorable rating from the American Bar Association insufficient to overcome profiling by the left. His weakness: being a white male pro-life Republican.

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UK Election Tories faced a significant challenge as voters went to the polls in Britain on May 5: how to run against Labor incumbent Tony Blair when most British conservatives support the war. The prime minister's loudest opponents hailed from his own party, where many oppose his alliance with President Bush and his sending troops to fight in Iraq.

Conservatives led by Michael Howard tried to run on domestic policies, which include under Mr. Blair liberal spending on poor-quality health care and education, pension spending, and lax immigration policies. But Mr. Blair, who won landslide victories in 1997 and 2001, looked set to squeeze a slim victory on what will be seen as a referendum on the war. A too-thin margin could set the stage for a parliamentary debate on keeping troops in Iraq. It could also set up a mid-term handover to Labor Treasury Minister Gordon Brown, the heir apparent to Mr. Blair.

Saudia Arabia One week after arresting 40 Pakistani Christians, Saudi Arabia's mutawaa religious police broke into another private worship service, arresting five expatriate Christian elders in Riyadh. High-ranking Muslim sheikhs reportedly took part in the April 29 raid on a congregation of 60 Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians who had gathered for prayer. The police confiscated the worshippers' personal Bibles and one woman's cross necklace. The crackdown on Christians has yet to provoke the Bush administration to enforce sanctions more than six months after naming the Saudi kingdom one of the world's worst religious persecutors. "We don't want to offend governments by announcing something prematurely," a State Department spokesman told WORLD.

North Korea The horrors of life in North Korea are on view in a traveling exhibition documenting human-rights abuses smuggled out of the Stalinist state: crayon drawings and sketches made from memory by refugees showing cannibalism, starvation, executions, and torture.

Among the artifacts are pants and a jacket with SOS messages scribbled on the inside linings. Photographs show refugees hiding in China, and a clandestine video shows summary executions of would-be refugees. The exhibition will be in Los Angeles May 6-14; Toronto, Canada, at the end of June; and Texas in July and August. Organizers plan to add more cities as the tour progresses.

Israel Israeli Cabinet Minister Natan Sharansky resigned his cabinet position May 2, citing the Sharon government's failure to link disengagement from Gaza and the West Bank to democratization among the Palestinians. He called unilateral withdrawal "a missed opportunity of historic proportions." His letter of resignation lamented "that Israel, the sole democracy in the Mideast, still refuses to believe in the power of freedom to transform our world."

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