Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

A quick look at this week's top stories

Issue: "Space: Dawn of Discovery," Aug. 13, 2005

DISCOVERY As the mission timeline for space shuttle Discovery ticked toward landing, NASA engineers grappled around the clock with yet another problem. After astronaut Steve Robinson on Aug. 3 spacewalked to remove fabric protruding from Discovery's underside, NASA weighed the possible repair of a ruffled thermal blanket below the commander's window. Meanwhile, a worldwide team of experts prepared for the shuttle's landing. Throughout this "Return to Flight" mission, the tragic end of Columbia, the shuttle that crashed in 2003, was fresh in the minds of those tasked to bring Discovery home. Said Air Force Colonel Mark Owen, "We've been sitting on the edge of our seats" (see "Bringing her home").

WHITE HOUSE President Bush signed a tariff-reducing trade agreement on Central America, or CAFTA, on Aug. 2 as interest groups battled on for ways to protect certain U.S. industries, such as sugar growers, under the plan.

Mr. Bush is poised to uncap his veto pen, something he has yet to do in office, if Congress passes a bill radically expanding research on embryonic stem cells. The bill has passed the House and received a boost in the Senate when Majority Leader Bill Frist announced his support on July 29. Coming from a doctor and champion of other pro-life causes, the Frist reversal will carry weight among Republicans and Democrats (see "Frist offense").

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UN Five months after Senate Democrats began stonewalling his nomination, John Bolton received a recess appointment as the next U.S. ambassador to the UN from President Bush. Bypassing the Senate means Mr. Bolton's tenure at the UN will be shortened, but it allows him to take over the vacancy during crucial investigations into Oil-for-Food corruption and other UN mismanagement. "His mission is now to help the UN to reform itself," Mr. Bush said.

AIR FRANCE Investigators tried to piece together why an Air France jetliner crashed and burned at Canada's busiest airport. The pilot remained hospitalized and unable to answer questions. Flight 358 from Paris skidded 200 yards off the Toronto runway upon landing and burst into flames. All 309 people on board evacuated within two minutes and survived; 22 were injured.

ELECTION The Democrat glad-handed with Bruce Springsteen and toured Starbucks. The Republican pumped fists at a Waffle House after midnight. Politics in Ohio hasn't quit being a nail-biter since November presidential polls. In the race to replace Republican Rob Portman from the Cincinnati area, Democrat Paul Hackett and Republican Jean Schmidt ran neck-and-neck until Ms. Schmidt emerged victorious, 52-48, on the Aug. 2 special election day. Democrats hoped Mr. Hackett, both an Iraq war veteran and sharp critic of the Bush administration, could deal a blow to Republicans in the state George W. Bush narrowly won in 2004. But in the end, Ms. Schmidt's home field advantage in the traditionally Republican district paid off.

BASEBALL Will Rafael Palmeiro ever join new inductees Ryne Sandberg and Wade Boggs in the Hall of Fame? No one can question the Orioles slugger's numbers, but now everyone is questioning his character. At what should have been the high point of his career, teammates noticed Mr. Palmeiro was even more sullen than usual. On Aug. 1, the world learned what Mr. Palmeiro had known for weeks-he had tested positive for steroids. Now even as he struggles to clear his name, baseball has other, bigger problems. If the quagmire surrounding Kenny Rogers' suspension is any indication, baseball owners have lost control over their game. The 2006 expiration of the present labor deal may be when owners try to take it back.

DEATHS Saudi King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz died on Aug. 1 and was buried in an unmarked desert grave, according to Islamic custom. His recent tenure was likewise unremarkable, as his half brother, Crown Prince Abdullah-now king-has been the de facto leader since a 1995 stroke incapacitated King Fahd (see "Funded by Fahd").

Thirty years ago, only Saudi Arabia practiced extreme Shariah, or Islamic law. But in the last five years, as its influence has spread across the Middle East and north Africa, thousands have died as its victims, according to author Paul Marshall (see "Shariah's evil twin").

Sudanese mourned the death of longtime rebel leader John Garang, who was killed in a helicopter crash July 30. Mr. Garang, inaugurated vice president under a peace agreement just three weeks before his death, told an audience of 500 Sudanese refugees in Washington just weeks ago, "Nobody was defeated . . . everybody has won." But his death sparked rioting in Khartoum that killed over 100 ahead of his Aug. 6 funeral (see "War & Peace").

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