Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Memorial Day 2005," May 28, 2005

War Memorial Day events in the nation's capital will include tributes to veterans of Iwo Jima on the 60th anniversary of the battle, along with ceremonies honoring fallen soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 1,100 U.S. military personnel have died in hostile action in Iraq since fighting began in 2003; more than 12,000 have been wounded. In Afghanistan the number of soldiers killed in action is far lower-182 since 2001-and the cause largely forgotten. "You don't hear hardly anything about Afghanistan," said Keith Koele, who on March 16 lost his son to injuries sustained when the soldier's Humvee struck a landmine. Survivors say a national amnesia has set in, with many Americans forgetting the good works, new government, and freedom from terrorist attacks on U.S. soil for which ordinary families have sacrificed their sons and daughters.

Iraq Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Baghdad on May 15, underscoring U.S. concern over stepped-up bombings and violence. The swift and secret trip highlighted both the security challenges and the priority U.S. leaders place on supporting Iraq's new government. "The insurgency is very violent, but you defeat insurgencies not just militarily," Ms. Rice said. "The Iraqis . . . are now going to have to intensify their efforts to demonstrate that in fact the political process is the answer for the Iraqi people."

Islam After Newsweek reported on May 9 that U.S. interrogators at Guantanomo Bay desecrated the Koran, Pakistani political opposition leader and cricket legend Imran Khan read the report at a news conference. Then more than 300 Muslim clerics called on President Bush to hand over the perpetrators "or we will launch jihad against America." In rioting that followed such incitement, 16 people were killed. Newsweek apologized for the report-which had just one anonymous source-but did not come clean on its standard or name the U.S. government informant.

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Scandal British MP George Galloway vehemently denied charges that he accepted oil receipts from Saddam Hussein and accused U.S. Senate lawmakers of installing a "puppet" regime in Baghdad. At one point labeling Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) a "neo-con, pro-war hawk" in his Capitol Hill testimony, the maverick parliamentarian told Mr. Coleman: "I have a rather better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do." But the theatrics may catch up with Mr. Galloway: Memos from Iraqi intelligence files indicate Mr. Galloway received nearly $600,000 a year-in part from UN Oil for Food revenues-and that he lobbied for more. Mr. Coleman vowed there would be "consequences" if the MP were found in contempt of Congress.

Asia Political dissidents "must be shot in the forehead," Uzbekistan dictator Islam Karimov once said, a promise he delivered on. Violence in the Central Asian nation left as many as 800 people-including women and children-dead last week. Militants in Andijan stormed a prison where the Uzbek government had incarcerated 23 businessmen on dubious charges, sparking street riots and protests that climaxed when Mr. Karimov, a U.S. ally in the war on terror, instructed his soldiers to open fire on demonstrators.

Cinema From Los Angeles to Lima, Star Wars fans around the world dressed in Jedi brown or Darth Vader metallic and waited in midnight lines for the opening of the final installment in George Lucas' six-film, 27-year saga. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith opened May 19 on nearly 20,000 screens around the world (including 9,700 in North America) and was expected to gross more than $100 million in its weekend debut. The five previous Star Wars films have made nearly $4 billion.

Judges Feminist leaders joined Democratic lawmakers in a march from the House to the Senate to denounce President Bush's top female picks for appeals court positions, Judges Priscilla R. Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. But the troupe had no corner on protecting women or minorities in the ongoing battle over judicial nominees. On May 19, Harry Jackson, pastor of 3,000-strong Hope Christian Church, along with other socially conservative black clergy, joined Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to depict Democrats as "against people of faith" for their judicial blockade. The Capitol Hill rally signaled black support for Justice Brown and a Republican-led rule change to end Democratic filibusters.

Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa defeated one-term Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn to become the city's first Latino mayor in more than a century. Mr. Villaraigosa, 52, won a crushing, 17-point victory by appealing not only to his Democratic and ethnic base but also by reaching out to Jewish voters and young people. He doubled his support among blacks from a 2001 mayoral contest that he lost. A high school drop-out and son of Mexican immigrants, he told supporters: "It doesn't matter whether you go to work in a fancy car or in a bus, or whether you worship in a cathedral or a mosque. We are all Angelenos and we all have a difference to make."

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