Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "Kids' books," Dec. 2, 2006

Politics

House speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) chose her words carefully after a surprise defeat for her endorsed candidate in the bid for House majority leader. "Stunning," she said after Maryland colleague and archrival Steny Hoyer trounced John Murtha for the post, 149-86. Just after her own unanimous election as the next speaker of the House, Pelosi lobbied hard for the Pennsylvania Democrat, who is one of the Bush administration's harshest critics. Murtha called for complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq over a year ago. When Murtha lost, Pelosi declared an instant ceasefire: "As we say in church, let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with us."

But the vote for Hoyer, a moderate, signals that Democrats may have a harder time post-election speaking with one voice on Iraq.

Iraq

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The White House--sponsored Iraq Study Group is expected to release recommendations on U.S. military involvement in Iraq this month. And an independent Pentagon panel this month debates three post-Rumsfeld options: increasing troop force, decreasing troop levels but prolonging the mission to train and advise Iraqi forces, or withdrawing troops altogether.

The commander of U.S. forces in the region, Gen. John Abizaid, went on offense to press for sustained if not increased support for U.S. forces in the Middle East. At Harvard Nov. 17 he compared the rise of militant Islamic ideologies in the region to the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. "If we don't have guts enough to confront this ideology today, we'll go through World War III tomorrow," he said.

Israel

Palestinian militants fired at least nine rockets into southern Israel Nov. 20. Israeli troops and tanks pushed deep into the Gaza Strip in two separate raids the following day in an ongoing offensive to root out Hamas-linked militants targeting Israeli residents. About 30 tanks entered Zeitoun, a district of Gaza City, and Israeli military confirmed that ground troops are operating in Gaza despite an Israeli pullout over a year ago.

Lebanon

Pierre Gemayel, an anti-Syrian politician and son of Lebanon's most prominent Christian family, was gunned down Nov. 21 in an assassination that heightened tensions amid a showdown between opponents and allies of Syria. On Nov. 19 Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah threatened a wave of street protests to topple the government "in the very near future."

Gemayel, 34, was the fifth anti-Syrian figure to be killed in the past two years and the first member of the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora to be slain.

Europe

On election eve in the Netherlands an assured victory by right-leaning Christian Democrats turned questionable after the center-right government announced Nov. 17 that it will introduce legislation to ban burqas and similar garments in public places. The full-body covering, worn by a small number of Muslim women in the Netherlands, poses a security threat, officials say, as terrorists may hide behind the garments to skirt security checkpoints. Long priding itself on tolerance, the Netherlands in recent years has faced divisive elections over immigrant-related issues. In 2002 right-wing frontrunner Pim Fortuyn was assassinated nine days before elections after campaigning on the anti-immigrant slogan "the Netherlands is full." Two years ago filmmaker Theo van Gogh was shot and knifed by a Muslim extremist during election season.

Man knows not his time

Milton Friedman was a short man, but he was a towering figure in both the economics profession and U.S. politics. The Nobel laureate was 94 when he died on Nov. 16 in San Francisco.

The libertarian Friedman was a pioneer in the school-voucher movement and a high-profile supporter of drug legalization, but he was best known as a leading theorist of Monetarism. The Monetarist school of thought, which Friedman championed at the University of Chicago and later at the Hoover Institution, argues that at the root of inflation is loose monetary policy. "Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon," he famously stated. With the government providing a steady and slow-growing supply of money, Friedman said, market forces would solve inflation and other economic problems.

He predicted the stagflation of the late 1970s long before it happened, and former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker embraced his views in bringing down that era's high inflation rates. "Among economic scholars, Milton Friedman had no peer," said current Fed chairman Ben Bernanke. "The direct and indirect influences of his thinking on contemporary monetary economics would be difficult to overstate."

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