Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "MS-13: Criminals next door," June 18, 2005

Judiciary Four years after President Bush first nominated her to the federal bench, former Texas judge Priscilla Owen was sworn in June 6. "This has been a long road," Ms. Owen, 50, said after the ceremony. The Senate approved her appointment to a seat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals as part of a bipartisan deal reached last month. The logjam broke for other long-held judicial nominees as well: The Senate approved Janice Rogers Brown on June 8 and was set for an up-or-down vote on William Pryor. With Bush nominees benefiting from the compromise of so-called moderate Democrats like red-stater Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), the question is: Will those Democrats now keep their seats at the expense of Republican challengers?

Gender Seattle pastor Ken Hutcherson, who won national attention for his opposition to gay marriage and threats to boycott Microsoft, could lose his congregation's meeting place. The 3,500-strong Antioch Bible Church leases a local high-school gymnasium for Sunday services. Trouble is, the president of the teachers union, Kevin Teeley, is gay. He has called Mr. Hutcherson a bigot for declaring homosexuality sinful and urges community pressure to force the pastor to leave, even though state law requires that school districts allow groups to rent their facilities if no scheduling conflict with school activities exists.

Mr. Hutcherson-style activism has not stopped 70 jurisdictions nationwide from adding "gender identity" to anti-discrimination ordinances. One such measure in Eugene, Ore., would allow men and women to choose their public restroom based on self-appraisal: Do I feel like a man or a woman today?

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Congress Senate Republicans appeared determined to press through confirmation of John Bolton to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to the UN, despite Democrats' work to block the State Department arms control chief, who was nominated to the post in March. The White House says no deal on this one: Democrats want the Bush administration to release classified documents in exchange for voting through Mr. Bolton, who has been highly critical of UN operations.

House Republicans too are ready to act on the UN. A House committee on June 8 approved legislation that would withhold half of U.S. annual "dues" unless the UN streamlined its bureaucracy, barred countries that violate human rights from UN human-rights bodies, and created an independent oversight board and ethics office. Congress withheld dues up until two years ago over UN expenditures.

New Jersey Business roots trumped social issues in a closely watched gubernatorial New Jersey primary that pitted Republican businessman Doug Forrester against social conservative Bret Schundler and five other candidates. Mr. Forrester, a pharmaceutical exec and former mayor, will face Sen. Jon Corzine, the Democratic primary winner and former Goldman Sachs chairman. The two deep-pocketed millionaires will square off chiefly over New Jersey property taxes, the highest in the nation. New Jersey's election came after Democratic Gov. James E. McGreevey resigned following an announcement that he had an extramarital affair with a man while in office.

Zimbabwe Opposition parties organized a two-day strike in Harare to protest an ongoing crackdown by President Robert Mugabe. Soldiers and police have rounded up 22,000 people in an attempt to quell discontent over rising rates of homelessness and a deepening food and economic crisis. Shops opened last week but streets remained empty and many refused to report to work during the stoppage-a success for opposition parties, considering government tactics. Soldiers and police in residential suburbs distributed fliers urging workers to report for work. The country's second-largest mobile phone network, owned by the government, was also drafted, sending phony messages through SMS (short message service) to subscribers that the job action had been called off.

Bolivia President Carlos Mesa resigned on June 6, telling Bolivians in a televised address, "This is as far as I can go." Street protests in Bolivia are not uncommon, but the latest round is the worst many long-time observers have seen: A blockade of the capital, La Paz, drained city gas stations of all fuel by June 5 and exhausted food supplies. Travelers arriving at the capital area's John F. Kennedy International Airport found no public transportation; they had to walk nine miles to reach La Paz. For over a month, a hodge-podge of leftists, unionists, and indigenous Indians have been demonstrating against the government's energy policy, which they say benefits foreign oil corporations at the expense of the local poor. But support for the narcotics trade may be the underlying reason protesters have sought Mr. Mesa's ouster. Many support Evo Morales, a congressman who opposes coca-leaf eradication, to succeed him.

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