Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "The surge is on," Feb. 3, 2007

Iran

Russia followed through on a $700 million contract to deliver advanced Tor-M1 missile systems to Iran Jan. 24, setting the stage for three days of military exercises-its first since the UN approved sanctions against Iran in December-and a growing confrontation with the United States and its allies.

The Iranian regime also denied access for 38 international atomic energy inspectors to its nuclear sites last week, a violation of the UN resolution on Iran.

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USS John Stennis departed San Diego Jan. 20 for the Persian Gulf, doubling U.S. naval strike force capacity there to confront new threats in the region. The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet Feb. 13 to discuss expanding sanctions against Iran.

Politics

Appearing confident, President Bush stood nearly an hour before a joint session of Congress to deliver what is likely to be his next to last State of the Union address. Much of the speech promoted domestic policy changes, including a dramatic overhaul of health care spurred by a "standard deduction" that would give every family a $15,000 deduction regardless of its health insurance choice. The Wall Street Journal estimates that about 80 percent of the 160 million employer-insured Americans would benefit, and the 17 million Americans who buy their own insurance would be the biggest winners of all.

Election '08

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) wasted no time after declaring her presidential candidacy to hit the campaign trail. She quickly arranged a weekend in Iowa with Democratic supporters Jan. 27 and planned to hit New Hampshire beginning Feb. 3. Early visits to traditional launch sites by Clinton, who officially declared her candidacy Jan. 20, will set a swift pace in the campaign for the White House.

Iraq

New in Baghdad: Apaches overhead 24/7 and Strykers on the streets. The massive armored vehicles are creating new headaches in the form of blocked streets, even as Baghdad residents report a markedly stepped-up presence by U.S. forces. "Typically a patrolling unit will choose a number of homes to meet their occupants. It's more like getting familiar with the locals than searching; the commander of the patrol talks to the head of the household and meets the members of the family," said Iraqi correspondent Mohammed Fadhil. The exchanges often end with U.S. patrols snapping a photo with the family.

Door-to-door surveillance procedures were outlined for lawmakers Jan. 24 by Gen. David Petraeus at Senate confirmation hearings. Despite vocal opposition from committee members to increasing troops in Baghdad-a plan laid out in a Pentagon manual co-authored by Petraeus-the general, with two tours of duty in Iraq already under his belt, was expected to win easy confirmation to command troops in Iraq and a fourth star Jan. 26.

Indonesia

Human-rights activists warned last week that al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi have opened a new front in their terrorism campaign after a gun battle Jan. 22 saw nine jihadists and one police officer killed, 18 terrorists captured, along with a large cache of bombs and weapons. Islamic extremists long have been blamed for attacks near Poso, largely on Christians and churches, but this represents "a dangerous development," according to Sidney Jones, director of the International Crisis Group in Jakarta. She said it signals "an energizing of the jihadist movement, which in my opinion had been steadily weakening."

March for life

Hundreds of thousands of pro-life activists braved an overnight snowfall to march on Washington protesting the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion 34 years ago Jan. 22. But don't expect to hear about it. Media coverage of the massive, colorful, snow-booted crowd was nearly nonexistent in an annual rite increasingly overlooked, if caricatured. "I'm all too aware of how that underreporting contributes to the rampant stereotyping of pro-lifers as middle-aged white males. I actually saw very few of those today!" reports activist Barbara Curtis. "What I saw were hundreds of thousands of people willing to brave the cold to affirm that a baby in the womb is not property to be destroyed, but a person that those committed to human rights must defend" (complete chronicle and photos at picasaweb.google.com/BarbarasMommyLife/MarchForLife2007).

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