Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Supreme Court fight," July 23, 2005

Terrorism

Sleeveless tourists, suited stockbrokers, and scarved Muslim mothers all paused across the United Kingdom-from London to Belfast and beyond-for two minutes of silence marking the one week anniversary of London's worst attack since World War II. Police identified three of four now-dead bombers they believe carried out the suicide attacks on the city's transit system July 7, which killed 52 and wounded 700, but said the hunt for terror planners continues. The suspects were British born of Pakistani descent and from the city of Leeds. At least one studied Islam in Pakistan. • Shehzad Tanweer: Age 22, born Bradford, lived Beeston, Leeds. Studied religion in Pakistan. Forensic evidence links him to Aldgate blast. • Hasib Mir Hussain: Age 18, lived Holbeck, Leeds. Reported missing on day of bombings. Said to have turned very religious two years ago. ID found in No. 30 bus. • Mohammed Sidique Khan: Age 30, from Beeston, Leeds, recently moved to Dewsbury, married with baby. ID found at Edgware Road blast site. • Fourth bomber: Still a question mark over his identity. Believed to be a friend of the others and from same area. [Source: BBC.]

Iraq terror

Iraqi forces shot and captured a suicide bomber before he could set off explosives July 14 in an attack coordinated with two other suicide bombers at a checkpoint leading into Baghdad's Green Zone, where U.S. government activities are headquartered. The hampered attack, involving a car bomb and two men on foot, killed two bystanders. But the capture may yield a rare firsthand glimpse into the pedigree of Iraq's terror cells. Motive, however, is another thing. A car bomber killed one U.S. soldier and 18 children in east Baghdad July 13 as U.S. forces handed candy to boys and girls gathered in the street. U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. George Casey said the level of attacks had been 450-500 a week, about the same as a year ago, but has risen to as many as 900 attacks per week recently.

Courts

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U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 80 and undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer, entered the hospital with a fever-sending to fever pitch speculation about President Bush's pick for one-and possibly two-Supreme Court vacancies. White House officials seemed to float U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as the favorite to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But conservatives question his judicial philosophy and stand on abortion (see "Momentous decision"), while pragmatists point out he would have to recuse himself from multiple high-court cases involving the Justice Department.

NASA

A faulty fuel gauge on Discovery's external tank forced NASA to call off the July 13 launch of the first shuttle flight since the Columbia disaster 2 1/2 years ago. The space agency did not immediately set a new launch date. The decision came with less than 2 1/2 hours to go before launch, as the seven astronauts were boarding the spacecraft and with Columbia widows looking on. The fuel-gauge problem cropped up during a launch-pad test in April, and the space agency then said that it believed it had worked around it.

Education

Educators received a brassy response from the Golden State governor's office as they gathered in Los Angeles for the annual NEA convention. Delegates accused Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of cutting school spending, including teacher pay. Mr. Schwarzenegger, who will put educators and unions to the test in a specially called election this November (see "Gamblin' man"), said his plan raises per-student spending to $10,000 despite other cuts. "Schwarzenegger did not create this mess; he inherited it," said spokeswoman Margita Thompson. The 9,000 delegates of the 2.7-million-member union approved a proposal by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus to "develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with the new and more sophisticated attacks on [school] curricula, policies, and practices that support GLBT students, families, and staff members in public schools."

Hollywood

Fantastic Four co-producer Ralph Winter helped create what he calls "a fun, summer, popcorn movie," and it certainly lifted the spirits of Hollywood last week. Bringing in $56 million in its first weekend, Fantastic Four helped break a 19-weekend streak in which movies made less money than the corresponding weekend in 2004. In an interview with WORLD, Mr. Winter said the light-hearted nature of the film was the key: "It's fortunate that, ironically, with some of the darker-themed movies of this summer, we happened to be happier, lighter fare, and I think the audience embraced that" (see "Movie review: Fantastic Four"). But Hollywood's 19-week losing streak was actually part of a longer-term trend that one movie will not fix: Americans have been buying fewer movie tickets each year since 2002 (see "Money: Exit signs").

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