Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on this week's biggest news

Issue: "Rita: After the storms," Oct. 8, 2005

SUPREME COURT After 21 Senate Democrats acknowledged Judge John Roberts had "a brilliant mind," it was all over. Mr. Roberts won a 78-22 confirmation from the Senate Sept. 29 and became the 17th Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. At 50, he is the youngest justice to preside over the bench in 200 years and will take his oath as the high court opens its next session Oct. 3.

TERRORISM U.S. and Iraqi forces said they killed al-Qaeda's No. 2 man in Iraq, Abdullah Abu Azzam, in a weekend raid in Baghdad. Azzam was top deputy to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and led al-Qaeda operations in Baghdad, planning a brutal wave of suicide bombings in the capital since April, killing hundreds of people. He also controlled the finances for foreign fighters flowing into Iraq to join the insurgency. An Iraqi on a list of Iraq's 29 most-wanted insurgents issued by the U.S. military in February, Azzam had a $50,000 bounty on his head.

A Spanish high court convicted al-Qaeda cell leader Imad Yarkas of conspiring to commit murder in the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States and sentenced him to 27 years in prison. The Sept. 26 verdict concluded Europe's biggest terrorist trial. Sixteen of 24 defendants-including a reporter for Al Jazeera-were found guilty of conspiring with a terrorist organization.

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HURRICANES Hurricanes hath no fury compared to a bureaucrat scorned. Discredited FEMA director Michael Brown appeared before a congressional committee to deflect blame for a poor federal response to Hurricane Katrina. "My biggest mistake was not recognizing . . . that Louisiana was dysfunctional," Mr. Brown said. In addition to berating Louisiana officials by name he also bitterly criticized the White House for yanking him from direct involvement in Katrina recovery.

Heads will roll in New Orleans also. Police chief Eddie Compass resigned, as the city announced that about 250 officers-roughly 15 percent of its police force-could be charged with desertion in Katrina's aftermath.

Katrina lessons in hand, local officials took extra precautions ahead of Hurricane Rita. Beaumont, Texas, mayor Guy Goodson sent city vehicles out to sea to ride out the storm aboard Navy cargo vessels and put his entire police force on foot patrol (see "Up and down").

CAPITOL HILL House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted on charges of a conspiracy to violate state campaign laws by a Texas prosecutor who touted the indictment on his website, www.ronnieearle.com. Scandal charges have dogged Mr. DeLay, and House leaders moved quickly to replace him with Missouri lawmaker Roy Blunt. Is the GOP better off without Mr. DeLay? No, or mostly no (see "Missouri boat ride").

IRAN In a triumph of diplomacy posing as decisionmaking, the 35-member governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted Sept. 24 to express an "absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes." U.S. officials took it as a victory that Russia and China abstained, and that India voted for censure. Now IAEA may actually refer Iran's case to the UN Security Council at its next meeting in November. Iran's nuclear-hungry mullahs must surely be waiting with bated breath.

KENYA Opponents of Islamic law have successfully lobbied against specifically codifying Islamic courts in a new constitution, but the compromise language leaves the country's Christian majority less than satisfied-and divided-ahead of a national referendum next month (see "African fruit basket").

IRAQ Lynndie England, the U.S. soldier pictured holding a leash to a naked Iraqi inmate at Abu Ghraib prison, apologized in court to "coalition forces and all the families" just before the U.S. military court sentenced her Sept. 27 to three years in prison and gave her a dishonorable discharge. She had faced a maximum of nine years behind bars.

CHINA Chinese authorities released a prominent house-church historian, Zhang Yinan, Sept. 25 after he served a two-year sentence in a labor camp under what the UN Commission on Human Rights concluded was arbitrary detention. Worldwide condemnation proved important: Officers from the city of Zhengzhou reportedly told Mr. Zhang in the last month he would serve only two years because of international pressure.

BASEBALL Baltimore Orioles team management told slugger Rafael Palmeiro not to bother returning for the remainder of the season. The all-star first baseman, who earlier this year became the fourth player in Major League history to amass 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, was suspended from the league Aug. 1 for steroid use even as he maintained his innocence. Team execs, however, said his drug problems had become a distraction and he may not be welcome back.

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