Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

A quick look at the latest news and this week's top stories

Issue: "John Roberts: Bush's pick," July 30, 2005


Terrorists attacked London again on July 21, as bomb blasts struck three subway stations and one bus. Early reports indicated the low-level explosions killed no one and injured only one person. The subway system continued to operate after the attacks, which came exactly two weeks after terrorist bombings killed 56 on London subways and a bus. "You can never really expect it, but it's less of a surprise this time," said Siva Rubakumar, a 32-year-old Sri Lankan--born accountant. "But what can you do? You have to keep going on. You don't want these people to change the way you live."

Supreme Court

Retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said President Bush's choice to replace her on the court is "first rate." Mr. Bush nominated federal appeals court judge John Roberts for the post last week, drawing criticism from liberal activists but praise from almost everyone else. "I have watched Judge Roberts since he has been an advocate before our court, and I and my colleagues have been enormously impressed with his scholarship and his skills," Ms. O'Connor said. The Harvard Law School graduate built a conservative record clerking for Justice William Rehnquist and working in the Reagan White House and the Justice Department, but it is a record that some court watchers say does not reveal much about the kind of justice he will be (see "Roberts rules").


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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince smashed sales records worldwide when it hit the shelves on July 16. In the United States, the book sold 6.9 million copies in the first 24 hours after its release, or more than 250,000 per hour. The Mail and Guardian of London reports that sales in Britain and South Africa were 40 times higher than that of a typical book topping the bestseller charts. Fans in costumes flooded bookstores (see "Powerful spell"), but the book itself retains the troubling elements of past Potter books while growing darker and more intense (see "Hogwarts horror").


Iraq's constitution-writing process took another knock when two Sunnis quit the group drafting the document due in August. The two politicians-from an original 15 Sunnis in the constitutional group-resigned after assassins killed two colleagues on July 19 outside a Baghdad restaurant, and demanded an international investigation into the deaths. The boycotting politicians warned Shiite and Kurdish committee members not to push ahead on the constitution without them, suggesting that the document without Sunni input would be illegitimate. Meanwhile, suicide bombings and attacks continued in and around Baghdad, with 15 killed on July 21.

United Nations

Senate Republicans prepared for another fight over United Nations funding, this time over a $1.2 billion proposal to refurbish the world body's headquarters in Manhattan. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on July 21 questioning the bloated price tag, with celebrity real estate developer Donald Trump as a witness. He has said the estimate reflects "theft" or "incompetence." Last year the United States agreed to give the sum in a 30-year loan with 5.5 percent interest; the UN, demanding an interest-free loan, has so far declined the offer (see "Trump card").


The Canadian Parliament last week made Canada the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, following Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands. Charles McVety of Defend Marriage Canada and president of Canada Christian College said he was "very sad that the state has invaded the church, breached separation of church and state, and redefined a religious word." Mr. McVety and other social conservatives vowed they would work to vote out lawmakers who supported the legislation. "A new Parliament is going to readdress this issue and common sense ultimately will prevail," Mr. McVety said. Eight of Canada's 10 provinces and two of its three territories had already recognized same-sex marriages before the Senate passed the legislation last week.


If Sudan's leaders were hoping to butter up Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her visit to the country in late July, they failed miserably. Ms. Rice was outraged when security officials manhandled diplomats and journalists in her entourage. She was due to visit a refugee camp in Darfur, where a two-year government campaign against local tribes has killed more than 300,000 and displaced 2 million. Violence has abated in the region, but Andrew Natsios of the U.S. Agency for International Development noted, "The major reason for that, frankly, is there are not many villages left to burn down and destroy."


Retired Gen. William Westmoreland, 91, commander of U.S. forces during the Vietnam War, died last week at a Charleston, S.C., nursing home where he lived with his wife. Faced with American social turmoil over Vietnam and increasing American casualties, the silver-haired general pressed for and received more soldiers but was strategically restricted. After the 1968 Tet Offensive he called for reinforcements but instead was called home to serve as Army Chief of Staff, a position he held until 1972. Gen. Westmoreland always maintained that the United States didn't lose the war militarily, but that the U.S. government wavered in its commitment to the South Vietnamese. "I have no apologies, no regrets," he told reporters in 1985. "I gave my very best efforts."


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