Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

A quick look at the week's biggest stories

Issue: "Salting Hollywood," Sept. 3, 2005

IRAQ A draft constitution expected to be put before Iraqi voters in an Oct. 15 referendum begins with a quote from the Quran in its preamble and declares in Article 2: "Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation." That statement along with disputes over how federal the government will be and how to divide the nation's oil resources were key sticking points that delayed by over a week completion of the document. The role of Islam is more likely to be resolved in practice than in ink. The new constitution further states, "No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam," while at the same time asserting no law can be passed "that contradicts the principles of democracy."

The Bush administration wants to believe the pro-Islam provisions won't trump the pro-democracy ones and cites Afghanistan's new constitution as its precedent. But human-rights advocates are cautious. "One of our concerns is the U.S. government is not sufficiently aware of the possible meanings and consequences of Shariah," Freedom House expert Paul Marshall told WORLD, referring to Islamic law.

ISRAEL Defense forces finished extracting 15,000 Israeli settlers and supporters from Gaza and some of the occupied West Bank on Aug. 23, two weeks ahead of schedule, under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to "disengage" from conflict with Palestinians. President Bush called for a return to "roadmap" talks after Israel completed the dismantling of 25 settlements in just six days. A full military pullback is likely to take another month. Israel retains control of sea lanes and airspace in the area and jointly monitors with Egypt the Rafah gate leading into Gaza.

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COURTS Democrats and liberal groups branded Supreme Court nominee John Roberts soft on civil rights. Then they labeled him anti-woman. Now Senate Democrats Russ Feingold and Charles Schumer are questioning his ethics. In a letter to Mr. Roberts, the senators noted that while he was being interviewed for the high-court slot, the nominee sat on a three-judge panel that decided a terror-related case in the Bush administration's favor. Why, Sens. Feingold and Schumer want to know, did Mr. Roberts not recuse himself?

Chapman University Law Professor John Eastman called the entire question "ridiculous." Like Mr. Roberts, he said, Supreme Court justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, both Clinton nominees, were circuit court judges while scrutinized for the high court. "Both of them undoubtedly heard cases involving the Clinton administration, particularly Ginsburg, who was on the [Supreme Court] short list for a couple of years before she finally got the nod," Mr. Eastman said. "Yet nobody thought to question those judges for not recusing themselves."

ECONOMY Crude oil prices hit $68 a barrel on Aug. 25 as China announced its crude oil imports rose 15 percent in July compared to a year earlier. China's quickening appetite for oil is one of the lead factors driving costs, and analysts say it is a question of when, not if, per-barrel oil tops $70. Anxiety over prices now focuses on the effect of crude oil prices on natural gas and heating oil, but no one can ignore high numbers at the pump. Gas prices in August hit an average $2.61 per gallon, fueling interest in hybrid vehicles (See "Hybrid highway").

ABORTION A team of doctors said fetuses probably cannot feel pain in the first six months of gestation and therefore do not need anesthesia during abortions. The team is publishing its findings in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, but won't mention that one team member is an abortionist and the lead author once worked for NARAL.

CRAWFORD "Peace mom" Cindy Sheehan returned to her vigil outside the president's vacation compound in Crawford, Texas, to reignite a flagging anti-war movement. Despite the support of Democratic sympathizers MoveOn.org and Air America, campers could not keep away a growing counter-protest of pro-war demonstrators, also led by a parent of a soldier killed in Iraq. Both sides threaten to overwhelm the Texas town of 700 (See "Woodstock it ain't").

CRIME Ed Liu was booked on two murder counts on Aug. 23 for the deaths of two Wal-Mart employees gunned down earlier that day in the parking lot of a suburban Phoenix store as they collected shopping carts. The 56-year-old had no criminal record and did not know the employees, Anthony Spangler, 18, and Patrick Graham, 36, who were wearing their blue Wal-Mart vests when they were hit. "He was just a quiet guy and one of those people you would least suspect," said Liu neighbor Judy Devlin. "I want there to be a reason. I don't know why, but to me it seems like there has to be," said Graham's wife Anita.

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