Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on this week's biggest stories

Issue: "The people have spoken," Feb. 4, 2006

MIDDLE EAST When President George W. Bush began to campaign for growing democracy in the Middle East, he might have thought it unnecessary to expound on the difference between Jeffersonian and Jacksonian models. Now he might want to think again: Thomas Jefferson stressed the need for qualified leadership chosen by an informed electorate, while Andrew Jackson's movement championed the power of the common citizen. In a pure Jacksonian moment, Palestinians went to the polls Jan. 25 and gave the terrorist organization Hamas a victory so large it is likely to seat 70-80 of its own in parliament, a clean majority for the 132-seat body.

Frustrated by Israel's domination and the long-ruling Fatah Party's corruption, Palestinian voters latched onto Hamas claims that it drove Israel to vacate the West Bank last year, and to Hamas social services made possible by the militant group's Iranian backing.

With the results, Fatah prime minister Ahmed Qurei resigned Jan. 26. The party, along with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, refused offers from Hamas to form a coalition government.

We see you’ve been enjoying the content on our exclusive member website. Ready to get unlimited access to all of WORLD’s member content?
Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.
(Don’t worry. It only takes a sec—and you don’t have to give us payment information right now.)

Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.

Hamas is believed to have killed more than 500 people in 350 separate terrorist attacks since 1993. Its founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel. What Western leaders can hope for now is that Hamas will change its creed. What they can count on is that-despite steps toward democracy-Israeli-Palestinian relations will continue to be volatile and violent (see "The people have spoken").

ELECTIONS Canadians veered right in electing Conservative Leader Stephen Harper Jan. 23 to replace scandal-ridden Prime Minister Paul Martin. Bolivians inaugurated President Evo Morales Jan. 22, the first indigenous Indian to lead the country since its independence in 1825. Mr. Morales is the latest socialist to become a Latin American head of state-a leftward trend highlighted as the World Social Forum opened in Venezuela the following week. Thousands joined an anti-war march in Caracas featuring California anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan. The annual meeting, with 60,000 in attendance this year, poses as an ideological alternative to the World Economic Forum of business leaders opening this month in the Swiss resort of Davos.

SUPREME COURT After a party-line vote sent Judge Samuel Alito's Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate, Democrats on Jan. 25 opened a debate that seemed to be less about the nominee's qualifications than the Democrats' 2008 platform. Speaking to the judge's views on executive power, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) said, "The founders understood human nature. . . . They knew that unchecked power would lead to abuses, and we've seen some of that right here in Washington over the last five years." Sen. Clinton was referring in part to the controversy over President Bush's authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens with suspected terror ties.

The program-though reviewed by career officials at the Justice Department and both congressional intelligence committees, then vetted by the chief judge of the federal Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court-enabled Democrats to form an anti-Alito argument that isn't about abortion. During floor debates, several charged that the judge's record shows him too deferential to executive authority.

Republicans, meanwhile, accused Democrats of smear tactics. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Mr. Alito "is highly qualified" and that Democrats "are so intent on manufacturing a case against this nominee that they brush aside this seemingly minor detail of his qualifications."

WEATHER Russia bid a happy farewell to its coldest January in a quarter-century, with temperatures that at one point dipped as low as minus 57 F. Neighboring Georgia, while not as cold, may have it worse. With nighttime temperatures in the single digits, Georgia has been without its natural gas supply and with limited electricity from Russia for a week following a pipeline explosion and downing of a major high-voltage transmission line in high wind Jan. 26.

ECONOMY Jan. 31 marks the end of a banking era as Alan Greenspan leaves the Federal Reserve Board after an 18-year tenure as chairman. Mr. Greenspan departs with a record of low inflation and strong growth, but his successor, Ben Bernanke, likely will face an entirely new set of challenges that include potential debt and housing crunches and the retirement of the baby boomers (see "Money: End of an era").

RELIGION Pat Robertson won't be speaking at the National Religious Broadcasters convention on Feb. 21. The controversial television host cancelled his scheduled speech at the closing banquet, reportedly under pressure from NRB leaders concerned that Mr. Robertson's appearance would distract attention from other issues. Mr. Robertson is still reeling from controversy over remarks he made suggesting that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's recent stroke was divine punishment for withdrawing from Gaza (see "Religion: Episcopal exodus").


You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading


    Troubling ties

    Under the Clinton State Department, influence from big money…