Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Tighter lips?," Feb. 18, 2006

ISLAM Thousands of Hezbollah-led demonstrators filled Beirut streets Feb. 9 to rekindle flagging protests over cartoons satirizing Muhammad. More than a week of protests worldwide left about a dozen mob-goers dead. The riots drove international monitors from the West Bank and prompted an emergency NATO meeting after rioters attacked NATO troops in Afghanistan and burned diplomatic posts in Beirut and Damascus. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on the European parliament to ban newspapers from insulting Muhammad.

But the controversy, coming five months after a Danish paper first published the offending cartoons, is about more than Muhammad and highlights the contrast between Western free speech and Arab suppression and between Jesus and Muhammad.

IRAN Iran announced an end to its voluntary cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Feb. 5 and said it planned to start uranium-enrichment activities, paving the way for the development of nuclear weapons. The decision halts any surprise inspections of its nuclear facilities by the IAEA, with Iranian officials set to meet to discuss uranium enrichment on Feb. 16 in Moscow.

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BUDGET President Bush unveiled his federal budget for the next fiscal year. The proposed budget would freeze non-security discretionary spending and makes earlier tax cuts permanent, but it does little to address the long-term problems of massive entitlement growth.

NATIONAL SECURITY Attorney General Alberto Gonzales went to the president's aid before the Senate Judiciary Committee, defending the legality of the administration's domestic surveillance program as necessary to combat terrorism and within the scope of executive powers in time of war. Despite the politicized atmosphere, Mr. Gonzales found one of his toughest questioners in conservative Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The "inherent authority argument," he said, "deals the Congress out, it deals the courts out." But, as The Wall Street Journal noted, Congress is looking less to deal itself back in than to expand the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the oversight of its secret court. That would potentially put the 4-year-old wiretapping program, now reauthorized every 45 days and under scrutiny of Congress, at the mercy of an unelected judge.

CORETTA SCOTT KING Former President Jimmy Carter was criticized on left and right after remarks at the Feb. 7 funeral of Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr. Mr. Carter politicized the service honoring Mrs. King with comments equating the illegal FBI wiretapping of Mr. King with the current controversy over domestic wiretapping of al-Qaeda suspects. He also noted that "the struggle for equal rights is not over," saying that "those who were most devastated by Katrina know there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans."

Four presidents and about 10,000 others attended the service at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church near Atlanta. By evening, programs from the service were fetching $450 bids on eBay.

GLOBAL WARMING The Bush administration announced Feb. 8 that it will study a proposal to add polar bears to the U.S. endangered species list. The designation would be a first for mammals to be protected as a result of climate change. That announcement cheered 86 evangelicals who the same day gathered in Washington to call for mandatory limits on greenhouse gases. The Evangelical Climate Initiative will launch a nationwide ad campaign with the headline, "Our commitment to Jesus Christ compels us to solve the global warming crisis." But it failed to win formal support from the National Association of Evangelicals after several leaders, including prominent evangelical James Dobson, urged that the group "not adopt any official position. . . . Global warming is not a consensus issue."

NEPAL Thousands of protesters filled Katmandu streets on Feb. 9 after pro-government candidates swept local elections. King Gyanendra seized absolute power a year ago but promised to revive elections in the parliamentary system once a Maoist rebellion was subdued. The State Department called the elections a "hollow attempt" to solidify power in one of the world's most closed countries.

GRAMMYS U2 added to its stack of 2005 accolades-including lead singer Bono's designation as Time's man of the year-with a record number of Grammy awards Feb. 8. In what one tabloid called a triumph of age over beauty, the 25-year-old rock band won five Grammys, including album of the year (How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb) and song of the year ("Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own").

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