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The Buzz

The latest on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "Katrina: Week 2," Sept. 17, 2005

HURRICANE KATRINA As authorities and rescue workers continued to evacuate residents of New Orleans last week, the Environmental Protection Agency provided even more reason to leave. EPA tests revealed that the floodwaters in the city contained bacteria at levels at least 10 times higher than safety limits allow. "Human contact with the floodwater should be avoided as much as possible," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson.

The warning came as many of the holdouts refusing to leave the city began to change their minds. "Some are finally saying, 'I've had enough.' They're getting dehydrated. They are running out of food," said Michael Keegan, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Congress, meanwhile, voted on Sept. 8 to approve $51.8 billion in relief aid for Katrina's victims, most now scattered throughout the South and struggling to rebuild families, lives, and ministries (see "Katrina: The Sequel"). One federal official estimated that rescue and relief operations were costing as much as $2 billion per day.

SUPREME COURT William H. Rehnquist, chief justice of the United States, died on Sept. 3 after battling thyroid cancer. Nominated to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon in 1971, Mr. Rehnquist became chief justice in 1986. One of the dissenters in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that forced states to legalize abortion, Mr. Rehnquist leaves behind a legacy of strictly interpreting the Constitution (see "In safe hands"). President Bush quickly nominated John Roberts, a former clerk to the late chief justice and one of his pallbearers, to take the seat of Mr. Rehnquist instead of that of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Hearings were scheduled to begin this week.

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POLITICS The California legislature last week became the first in the nation to vote to legalize gay marriage without pressure from a court order. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, though, announced his intention to veto AB 849, a bill that on Sept. 6 passed the California assembly on a 41-35 vote. Only three Democrats voted no on the measure; no Republicans voted yes. This was the fourth time in 2005 that Golden State Democrats have tried to ram through gay marriage in spite of Prop. 22, the 2000 referendum in which nearly two-thirds of voters chose to recognize only traditional marriage as valid in the state. But AB 849 highlights liberal lawmakers' willingness to break rules to advance a homosexual agenda (see "Fishy business").

UNITED NATIONS In its fourth and final report on the United Nations $100 billion Oil For Food program, an independent inquiry faulted the world body's member nations and staff for poor administration and corruption. Still, the 1,000-page report goes easy on Secretary General Kofi Annan, who managed the program and saw his son, Kojo, use UN contacts to secure a lucrative oil contract for a Swiss firm, Cotecna (and even call UN staff "my people in New York"). Inquiry chairman Paul Volcker urged swift reform, including a chief operating officer to manage the daily running of the UN. With blame for the fraud spread around evenly, Mr. Annan indicated he would remain in his job. He aimed to press ahead with a package of changes that has divided the UN's member states.

UKRAINE With the Orange Revolution honeymoon over, infighting and hints of scandal pushed President Viktor Yushchenko to fire his entire cabinet. The trouble bubbled over when his chief of staff resigned and accused a presidential aide and a security chief, Petro Poroshenko, of corruption. Popular Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko also left office. Both she and Mr. Poroshenko helped finance last November's revolution, providing free food and water and sound equipment. Both made their fortunes in murky 1990s business deals and wrangled over how to implement re-privatization.

EGYPT Voters took part in the country's first multi-candidate presidential election on Sept. 7, but as they filtered into schools and clinics to cast ballots, reports of polling fraud trickled out. Analysts had expected for months that President Hosni Mubarak, in power for 24 years, would win, but many hoped that a clean poll would display Egypt's potential for reform. Early indications were unsettling: At some stations, election monitors were not allowed in, voters had to cast their ballots in plain view, and the ruling party offered food and money as bribes. Previous polls in Egypt have simply been referenda, with Mr. Mubarak the only candidate.

HOLLYWOOD Bob Denver, who played the title character on Gilligan's Island from 1964 to 1967, died last week at age 70 of complications related to cancer. Mr. Denver appeared in many TV series and films, but the bumbling, goodhearted Gilligan became his signature role, endearing him to generations of kids and carving out for the series what seems a permanent place in syndication. Mr. Denver "entertained generations, and everybody approached us and him with love and a smile," said Russell Johnson, who played the professor on Gilligan's Island. "That's a tremendous legacy for someone from Hollywood to leave."

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