Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "Red & blue all over," Sept. 23, 2006

National security

President Bush capped a week that began with solemn pilgrimages to the three sites of 9/11 attacks by journeying to Capitol Hill to fight lawmakers over how to thwart future attacks. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner broke with the White House, sending to the Senate floor a bill that rejects the president's request for new authority to try captured al-Qaeda leaders behind 9/11, the bombing of the USS Cole, and 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa.

The administration says the Senate measure will halt its "high-value" detainee program, which led to the capture of about 100 al-Qaeda leaders who officials say accounted for 50 percent of everything U.S. intelligence has learned about the terrorist network since 9/11. Earlier this month Bush ordered the release of 14 of the detainees, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, in hopes that Congress would agree to special tribunals ahead of election-season recess.

Primaries

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Nearly eight weeks before Election Day in the most contested midterm election in 12 years, primary season entered its final stretch in nine states on Sept. 12. In New Hampshire and New York, Democratic candidates backed by the party lost, while in Arizona Republican Randy Graf won his House primary without backing from the national GOP. Massachusetts, Washington, and Hawaii will hold primaries before the end of September leading into the nail-biting lap to Nov. 7.

Syria

The State Department moved to reduce its diplomatic presence in Damascus after Syrian guards foiled a Sept. 12 attempt by militants to blow up the U.S. Embassy. The guards exchanged fire outside the compound's walls with gunmen shouting Islamic slogans as they tried to storm in with automatic weapons and did unleash hand grenades. Syrian guards killed three of the attackers in the shootout and a fourth later died of his injuries.

Wages

In a show of bipartisan compromise, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law one of the highest minimum wages in the nation. The law boosts the lowest mandatory wage for more than 1.4 million people from $6.75 to $8 an hour. The move stole thunder from Democratic gubernatorial challenger Phil Angelides, who had criticized Schwarzenegger's economic policies as harmful to working families.

In Chicago's city council a first-in-the-nation campaign to impose minimum wage regulations on big-box retailers fell three votes short Sept. 13. Only weeks before, aldermen had voted 35-14 in favor of requiring Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, and others to pay at least $10 an hour by 2010. Support for the mandate eroded after pressure from retailers and Mayor Richard M. Daley's office.

AIDS

During President Bush's time in office, U.S. aid to Africa has risen 67 percent, including $15 billion committed over five years for programs to fight HIV and AIDS. But that doesn't mean AIDS-fighting advocates are happy. Toronto's recent international AIDS conference hammered the United States for spending too much money on abstinence and not enough on condoms-even though shipments to focus countries have doubled.

Episcopalians

The Episcopal Church (TEC) took one step closer to schism after a three-day private meeting this month in New York collapsed. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams called the meeting of 11 bishops after seven conservative TEC dioceses appealed for alternative oversight-a way to remain in the worldwide Anglican Communion but not under the liberal authority of TEC. The bishops, who included TEC's top two leaders, in a joint statement on Sept. 13 finally announced they "were unable to come to common agreement on the way forward."

Man Knows Not His Time

Ann Richards, the quick-witted and silver-tongued grandma politician and former Texas governor, died Sept. 13. She was 73. Richards became a star in 1988 when she delivered a memorable keynote address to the Democratic National Convention laced with laugh lines. "Poor George," she said, poking fun at the 1988 GOP nominee and fellow Texan George H.W. Bush. "He can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth." With her star on the rise, Richards became the state's governor in 1990 but lost the job to George W. Bush in 1994. She was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in March.

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