Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on this week's biggest stories

Issue: "GOP downfall," Nov. 18, 2006

Iraq

"Finally, we folded the book of tyranny in Iraq," read one comment on Baghdad's Sooni blog after former president Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging Nov. 5. An appeals process could run through the month, even as Saddam began new proceedings Nov. 7 on charges of mass killings in northern Iraq.

Former Iraqi vice president Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, now a fugitive with a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head, has reportedly ordered Sunni fighters loyal to Saddam to cease operations, said four officials in the Iraqi government. But Iraq's parliament voted to extend the nation's state of emergency another 30 days in a bid to stem violence.

Election '06

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A week that began with a victory for Iraqis who long sought justice against Saddam Hussein ended in defeat for American constituencies who supported President Bush in that cause. Democrats could gain as many as 39 seats (with a handful of races undecided) to take control of the House for the first time in 12 years. Democrats will take a 51-49 majority in the Senate after winning hotly contested races that hinged on the Bush administration's handling of the war.

But the 2006 election was not only about Iraq: At least eight GOP House seats and possibly one Senate seat fell because of scandal, including campaign ties to now-indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Nonetheless, Bush announced Nov. 8 that he will replace Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with former CIA director Robert Gates in a dramatic turnabout to bring "fresh eyes" on the Pentagon's war strategy.

Courts

New court, new vote? Government lawyers defending a partial-birth abortion ban before the Supreme Court Nov. 7 hope so. When Congress passed the law in 2003, pro-abortion activists mounted immediate legal challenges. And though the court struck down a similar statute in 2000 on a 5-4 vote, analysts believe the new court could uphold the ban on a slim one-vote majority. Justice Samuel Alito gave no hints on how he might vote. In fact, the justice didn't speak at all on the opening day of arguments. Chief Justice John Roberts, also a Bush appointee, signaled he might be inclined to uphold the ban, as tense proceedings were interrupted when liberal Justice John Paul Stevens insisted one of the lawyers use the word fetus rather than baby.

Church

Churches across the nation are reexamining their systems of accountability after witnessing the moral failure of pastor and prominent evangelical leader Ted Haggard. The former president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor to 14,000 members of New Life Church in Colorado Springs admitted sexual immorality with a gay prostitute. Other pastors in the city have vowed to support and pray for New Life. "Whenever you have a change in leadership, even a healthy church can lose about 10 percent," said local pastor Steve Holt, a personal friend of Haggard who considers such losses likely. "That's about 1,400 people."

Nicaragua

In a victory for Latin America's far left, former Sandinista dictator Daniel Ortega regained the presidency after 16 years. His closest contender, banker Eduardo Montealegre, said he will "use every connection I have to make the relationship with the U.S. work. . . . We can't afford to give Ortega an excuse to let his only support be Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez."

Nepal

Maybe royals, Maoists, and democrats can get along after all. A 10-year Maoist rebel insurgency that has killed 14,000 could be ending in the strife-ridden Himalayan nation. The Maoists signed a peace deal Nov. 7 that will allow them to join the government. The breakthrough is the latest sign of progress since King Gyanendra ended his absolute rule in April following uprisings.

Man knows not his time

Ed Bradley, a 19-time Emmy-winning journalist who broke racial barriers in the broadcast business while creating a formidable body of work during 26 years on 60 minutes, died Nov. 9 of leukemia at age 65.

Bradley grew up in tough, inner-city Philadelphia, where he said his parents each worked two jobs requiring 20-hour days. He joined CBS as a stringer in 1971 and was wounded while on assignment in Cambodia. He later became the network's first black Whie House correspondent, but his best-known assignments included essay pieces on Vietnam's boat people, a report on sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, and a perennial love for covering jazz.

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