Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

A quick look at this week's biggest stories

Issue: "Beyond hate speech," Aug. 20, 2005

NASA "Discovery is home," intoned Mission Control as the first space shuttle flight in over two years touched down in pre-dawn California on Aug. 9. The seven-person crew hit Houston for an overflow celebration marking the successful test flight, while uncertainty hangs over the future of the shuttle program. NASA has postponed future shuttle flights until exterior protections to the spacecraft are more fully investigated and on Aug. 11 also postponed a Mars orbiter.

TERRORISM Omar Bakri Mohammed, radical London cleric who once called 9/11 attackers the "magnificent 19," fled London for Beirut after Prime Minister Tony Blair announced strict new guidelines for foreign nationals. Under Mr. Blair's new rules those "condoning or glorifying terrorism" will face deportation and loss of citizenship. In an Aug. 5 press conference Mr. Blair fingered al-Muhajiroun and its successor organization, both headed by Mr. Bakri. The group maintained links to shoe bomber Richard Reid and suspected 7/7 bomber-ringleader Mohammad Sidique Khan, among others (see "Beyond hate speech").

But how did a Syrian national with dual citizenship in the UK wind up in Beirut using a Lebanese passport? Lebanese authorities are also asking that question, and detained Mr. Bakri Aug. 11. In 1994 Syria used its military control over Lebanon to award thousands with credentials.

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ISRAEL Israeli authorities were prepared to begin an Aug. 15 withdrawal of more than 8,000 settlers from Gaza despite protests from Israelis and the resignation of finance minister and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. If the disengagement plan does not work, Mr. Netanyahu will be poised to take over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's post heading into 2006 elections. The plan is divisive in the United States as well, where not only Jews but U.S. Christians are divided over Israeli-Palestinian claims to the land (see "Engaging Israel's disengagement").

IRAN Iran resumed production of enriched uranium that could lead to nuclear bomb assembly, violating previous agreements it made with European negotiators and the UN's atomic watchdog agency. The Bush administration had warned such action would mean a Security Council sanction but held up introducing a measure as EU-Iran negotiations continued.

BUSH President Bush on Aug. 10 signed the most expensive transportation bill in history. The bill comes with a price tag of $286.4 billion over six years, $30 billion more than the president had requested. But far from threatening a veto, Mr. Bush hailed the 1,000-page bill as crucial to the economy and highway safety. "Highways just don't happen," he said. "People have got to show up and do the work to refit a highway or build a bridge, and they need new equipment to do so." But the bill also contains more than 6,000 pet projects for almost every congressional district, and it bears the marks of heavy political maneuvering: House Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska), for instance, helped ensure that his state received the fourth most money for special projects even though it is one of the nation's least populated states.

ABORTION In a presentation on Aug. 10, British researcher Patrick Carroll revealed that abortion is the best predictor of three breast cancer trends occurring in the British Isles. In a study using national medical data, Mr. Carroll found that upper-class British women are more likely than their less well-off counterparts to develop breast cancer, a fact best explained, he said, by their tendency to abort before, or delay, a first birth. (Later first births correlate highly with breast cancer.) Incidence of the disease among women ages 50-54 is more highly correlated with abortion incidence than with other common breast cancer factors.

MAN KNOWS NOT HIS TIME ABC News said it would take an "indeterminate" time to name a new evening news anchor after Peter Jennings died on Aug. 7.

The network announced on April 5 that its legendary newsman had lung cancer and Mr. Jennings, 67, never appeared on air after the announcement. His death marked the end for a generation of newscasters-both CBS anchor Dan Rather and NBC anchor Tom Brokaw retired this year-and signals the end of the evening-news format dominance. Mr. Jennings and his colleagues branded television journalism to fit a stylized and often liberal agenda that rarely strayed from its roots in the anti-war, anti-establishment mantra of the Vietnam era.

CHINA Authorities snagged two Americans in a Hubei Province raid on Aug. 2 in a continuing crackdown on house churches. The two men are seminary students, one from Westminster Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and the other from Westminster Seminary in Escondido, Calif. According to the China Aid Association, they were about to take part in a worship service when plainclothes policemen swept in and arrested them and 42 Chinese.

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