Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest news on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "Illegal passage," April 15, 2006

IMMIGRATION Senate Republicans worked into the night April 5 to revise immigration legislation that would clear the way for legal status and eventual citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million men, women, and children living in the United States unlawfully. While the proposal has support from Democrats, Majority Leader Bill Frist was close but not certain of support from enough Republicans to avoid gridlock on the most sweeping immigration bill in two decades. At the same time, House Republicans are standing by a stricter bill that would further criminalize not only the act of illegal immigration but also acts of charity toward undocumented workers (See "The new "New Colossus").

WEATHER A swarm of at least 63 tornadoes touched down in eight states in the South and Midwest, killing at least 28 people and devastating thousands of homes. Tennessee suffered the worst damage, where 24 people died and 1,000 homes were destroyed. At least 75 more people in the state were injured, 17 critically. A furniture store in Fairview Heights, Ill., collapsed, killing one man, and winds in Indianapolis were powerful enough to shatter dozens of windows in a downtown high-rise. Tornadoes also killed at least three people in Missouri. In Newbern, Tenn., Larry Taylor, owner of the town's only funeral home, prepared to bury his son, daughter-in-law, and the couple's two young sons, all killed during the storm.

TERRORISM Extra marshals stood guard as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani walked past Zacarias Moussaoui in the final penalty phase of what will become the first U.S. conviction stemming from 9/11 attacks. After the jury ruled April 3 that Mr. Moussaoui was directly responsible for at least one 9/11 death-and thereby eligible for execution-a federal judged opened the penalty phase to testimony from Mr. Giuliani, along with cockpit voice recordings not yet publicized from United Flight 93, which crashed into western Pennsylvania on 9/11.

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IRAQ An Iraqi tribunal indicted Saddam Hussein on charges of genocide stemming from a campaign against the Kurds begun in the 1980s that killed more than 180,000. That trial will likely begin in June, after the current trial against the former dictator is over. Prosecutors last week questioned Saddam for six hours, along with the former head of the Revolutionary court, over the sentencing to death of 148 Shiites, including an 11-year-old boy, for an alleged assassination attempt. Saddam and seven former members of his regime face possible execution by hanging if found guilty.

AFGHANISTAN Christian convert Abdul Rahman was released April 3 from a Kabul prison and whisked to asylum in Italy. Fed by an Afghan judge's insanity ruling and stories from his own family, who brought apostasy charges against him under Islamic law, European papers began circulating dubious accounts that Mr. Rahman had a history of violence and instability.

CONGRESS Faced with a grand jury investigation, U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) apologized on the House floor April 6 after refusing to admit she struck a Capitol Hill police officer at a security checkpoint in a House office building. Police Chief Terrance Gainer says an officer didn't recognize the Georgia congresswoman as she tried to enter the building without passing through security, and an altercation ensured. Ms. McKinney, who is black, accused the officer of "racial profiling." In her floor speech she acknowledged, "There should not have been any physical contact in this incident," and agreed to sign onto a resolution in support of the Capitol Police.

HEALTH CARE Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney promised to sign into law a bill that will make his state the first to require all its residents to obtain health-care coverage. The law, which passed overwhelmingly in the legislature, says all residents must obtain coverage by July 2007. The government will provide subsidies to individuals who cannot afford to purchase coverage, and some employers and individuals will be allowed to use pre-tax dollars to pay for insurance. Those who don't comply will face fines. The plan comes in response to the federal government's threat to cut millions in Medicaid dollars if the state doesn't reduce its uninsured.

ABORTION When mentally retarded teenager Christin Gilbert died after a third-trimester abortion at George Tiller's Wichita, Kan., clinic in January 2005, the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts cleared the controversial abortionist and his staff of wrongdoing. But the board may not get the last word. Kansas law allows citizens to petition for a grand jury investigation when authorities do not act, and about 7,000 residents of Sedgwick County planned last week to ask a grand jury to look into the Gilbert case. Kansas pro-lifers say that with proper medical monitoring, doctors would have discovered the infection that killed Gilbert. "She was victimized every step of the way," Cheryl Sullenger, who was at the hospital when Gilbert arrived with an infection, told the Associated Press.

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