Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "Barrier riffs," Feb. 10, 2007

Politics

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) officially announced his bid for the White House on Jan. 31, and immediately went into damage control over comments he made about potential rival Sen. Barack Obama in an interview with The New York Observer. "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," said Biden. "I mean, that's a storybook man." The senator rebuffed criticism that his remarks were racially insensitive, and found a surprising defender in former presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, who called the statement "a gaffe."

With decidedly less fanfare, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) launched his race for the White House in Spartanburg, S.C., on Jan. 25. One of the least known candidates in the field, Hunter told WORLD that his platform is unique enough to gain traction, and made an unusual start on the campaign trail in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Congress

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The House approved a massive $463 billion spending bill on Jan. 31 with more Republican support than Democrats anticipated. In a 286-140 vote, 57 Republicans voted in favor of the bill that covers nearly one-sixth of the federal budget.

The legislation included a 40 percent increase in funds for fighting AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis overseas, and boosted Pell Grant funding for low-income college students. It provided increases to underperforming schools and grants to state and local law enforcement agencies. The measure also included significant cuts, including a $545 million slash in funding for NASA.

Middle East

High-level negotiations brokered by Saudi Arabia failed to address violence in Beirut that has left four dead and over 150 injured from January riots. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the violence was an attempt by Hezbollah and its allies to distract the world's attention from the fact that Hezbollah "started a war with another country in that region that cost the Lebanese people dearly."

Venezuela

Convening in a downtown plaza in a session that resembled a political rally, Venezuela's lawmakers unanimously gave President Hugo Chavez sweeping powers to legislate by decree and impose his vision for a more egalitarian socialist state. The "enabling law," approved by a show of hands, moves Venezuela closer to a dictatorship barely a month after Chavez won reelection.

Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein, the main Catholic party in Northern Ireland, formally voted Jan. 28 to end decades of opposition to the police in the divided province, a move that should restore a local government of Protestants and Catholics. Sinn Fein cooperation is a historic move for Irish republicans, who have viewed the police, courts, and prisons in Northern Ireland as institutions of British rule-and have fought them-since 1922. Now British and Irish governments seek to persuade Northern Ireland's Protestants to give a go-ahead on power-sharing agreements with Sinn Fein, on hold since 2002.

Abortion

Less than three months after South Dakota voters rejected a ban on abortions that contained an exception only to save the life of the mother, state lawmakers introduced a measure Jan. 31 that would create a revised ban with more exceptions but stiffer penalties for violators.

With 94 percent of abortion clinics located in urban areas, Care Net has launched an urban initiative to reduce the disproportionate number of minority babies dying in abortion clinics. While they make up 13 percent of the U.S. female population, African-American women account for 36 percent of all abortions.

Religion

Physician-geneticist Francis Collins put down the DNA test kit and picked up the guitar long enough to lead the Feb. 1 National Prayer Breakfast in song before the director of the Human Genome Project talked about the relationship between science and religion. The annual multi-faith gathering also heard from President Bush.

Television

Fox's American Idol dominated weekly prime-time viewing pre--Super Bowl, drawing 11 million viewers more than the next most-watched show, according to Nielsen January ratings. Four season-opening shows last month attracted 35 million viewers each on average-and that's just the auditions.

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