Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Broken promises," March 25, 2006

SERBIA Comrades of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic put his body on display in Belgrade ahead of a March 18 funeral in a country still ensnared by its communist past and torn by ethnic tensions. Supporters chanted "Slobo! Slobo!" as his body arrived in Serbia, even as the government denied the alleged war criminal and former dictator a state funeral.

In the end he was just a man, dying in his cell of a heart attack March 11 at The Hague, where the 64-year-old Serb ruler awaited trial over war crimes that included the slaughter of over 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995. But in his death (hastened apparently by a drug that neutralized his heart medication, a tactic Mr. Milosevic may have hoped would win him a medical reprieve in Moscow) he retained his mantle, escaping justice at the hands of a protracted UN tribunal and perhaps going down in history as the last of the Soviet-era heroes for negotiating a fragile peace in the Balkans, the Dayton Accords, a decade ago with President Bill Clinton.

IRAQ Iraq's new parliament was sworn in March 16. With parties deadlocked over the actual makeup of the government, the session was largely ceremonial and lasted only 30 minutes. Outside vehicle traffic was banned from streets to prevent car bombings. "We have to prove to the world that a civil war is not and will not take place among our people," senior lawmaker Adnan Pachachi told colleagues as Iraq approached the third anniversary of the U.S.-led war.

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In the first of a series of speeches marking the anniversary, President George Bush told a Washington audience his goal is "having the Iraqis control more territory than the coalition by the end of 2006." The president also promised "more tough fighting and more days of struggle" as insurgents "attempt to ignite a civil war."

PORTS Arab-owned DP World announced March 15 it will sell its U.S. operations to an "unrelated U.S. buyer" in four to six months. The company acquired operations at six U.S. ports after its takeover of a British firm last month, sparking outrage among Democratic and Republican lawmakers who suggested that the UAE-owned firm could compromise port security. Even the backdown didn't soothe all Capitol Hill feathers. The House voted to censure the deal, 377-38, even after the pullout was announced.

TERRORISM Prosecutors in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui may have ended their prospects of winning the death penalty after it was revealed that a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lawyer improperly coached witnesses. It was the latest in a series of setbacks for federal lawyers, suggesting the difficulty of bringing this and other high-profile terror cases to trial. The government contends that Mr. Moussaoui was the "20th hijacker" in the 9/11 attacks, and Mr. Moussaoui has pleaded guilty to planning an attack that involved hijacking a Boeing 747. With much of the government's case tossed out as a result of witness tampering, he may be sentenced to life in prison.

ISRAEL Voting for Israel's general election, scheduled March 28, began at overseas missions March 16. As diplomats cast absentee ballots, voters inside Israel showed little enthusiasm for the first polls since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered an irreversible coma and since his followers broke off from the Likud party to form a new conservative party, Kadima. Pundits expect that voter turnout, which for 55 years until 2003 had never gone below 75 percent, might drop to 60 percent this year (See "One election, two walls").

INDIA A nearly month-long siege in Rajasthan threatens not only Christian ministries but those who lead them. Hindu extremists in the northern state issued death threats against Bishop M.A. Thomas, 71, whose orphanages take in Dalits, or untouchables (See "Under siege").

SPENDING The Senate on March 16 voted 52-48 to increase the federal debt limit by $781 billion to $8.965 trillion, less than a week before Treasury officials said they would run out of wiggle room. The extension marks the fourth time the Bush administration has needed an increase in the federal debt limit. It comes as an analysis of 25 major government programs shows 2000-2005 enrollment growth of 17 percent in entitlements, the largest expansion of social programs since the 1960s. Spending, according to the USA Today analysis, was up 22 percent from 2000 to 2005 to $1.3 trillion, accounting for more than half of all federal spending.

FILM Gospel Films founder and longtime filmmaker Ken Anderson died March 12 at 88. His 1977 film Pilgrim's Progress featured Liam Neeson in his first screen role, and from a base in Warsaw, Indiana, he produced over 200 films carrying Christian themes.


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