Illinois Sen. Barack Obama set up a presidential committee Jan. 16 aimed at mapping his 2008 run for the White House. With a formal announcement from Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) expected close behind, Washington pundits waxed eloquent about "one of the most historic and compelling contests ever" (Post correspondent Dan Balz)-a fight that could come down to the party's first female nominee for president or its first African-American.
To win a key vote bloc in '08, lead Democratic candidates are looking now to five religious advisors to help them shape a message appealing to conservative Christians.
Not content with a resolution condemning President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) promised a legal challenge to the president's constitutional authority to "escalate" the war and floated potential legislation to prevent U.S. troops from entering Iran or Syria. With Republican support for the president wilting, most legal experts say Congress nevertheless has an uphill battle against the commander-in-chief. "Given that Congress authorized this war, it will be very difficult for them now to try to micromanage the way the president conducts it," said Boston University professor Andrew J. Bacevich.
A string of car bombs, including a deadly attack in Baghdad that killed more than 70 university students, appeared to be the work of Sunni insurgents against Shiites. Yet in an apparent political move to shore up his credibility, Iraqi president Nouri al-Maliki on Jan. 18 arrested over 400 Shiite fighters, members of the Mahdi army, which has supported his own government. Another ambush by gunmen left four human-rights workers, including an American woman, dead.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice finished a Mideast tour in Europe, saying she heard strong encouragement in the region for quick progress toward a Middle East peace agreement. "Two years are enough to conclude a detailed agreement," said Israel's deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh, who warned that the window won't remain open forever. "We have to do it very, very quickly."
Opponents of Jimmy Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid stepped up their campaign against the former president after 14 members of the Carter Center's board resigned Jan. 11, telling Carter: "We can no longer endorse your strident and uncompromising position. This is not the Carter Center or the Jimmy Carter we came to respect and support."
Winter storms caused at least 65 U.S. deaths and left hundreds of thousands last week without power. The south-central Plains took the hardest hit, as a blanket of ice shut down cities as far south as San Antonio and caused a reported 23 deaths in Oklahoma. Missouri officials opened 85 shelters as thousands in that state lost power and even running water. "It looks like a frozen tornado hit my beautiful city," said Jenny Fillmer Edwards of Springfield, Mo., which had been a designated Tree City USA. With branches snapping under the thick coating of ice, she said, "the entire landscape has changed."
On the heels of the Golden Globe awards, which awarded the R-rated international thriller Babel best motion picture Jan. 16, the Hollywood elite wait anxiously for Jan. 23's nominations for the 79th Academy Awards. With films like Babel, Dreamgirls, The Departed, and Little Miss Sunshine in the running, the awards show will broadcast its winners Feb. 25.
Man knows not his time
A year ago humorist and renowned columnist Art Buchwald made headlines for refusing dialysis treatment and awaited what doctors said would be an imminent death from kidney failure. Months later he said, "I'm feeling pretty good, apparently, because I was intending to go to heaven, and now it turns out I'm going to Martha's Vineyard."
Buchwald not only traveled but wrote a book about his remarkable survival before he died quietly at his Washington home Jan. 17. "It's said that when facing death, a man's life passes before him," mused National Society of Newspaper Columnists president Suzette Martinex Standring after spending two days with Buchwald. For him, she said, that includes "his fears (none), regrets (none) and any spiritual expectations (he's not sure, but probably none)."