Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "Marathon man," Feb. 17, 2007

Iraq

After weeks of congressional haggling over a non-binding resolution to oppose the president's troop surge in Iraq, Senate Republicans blocked a full debate on the measure last week, saying Democrats refused to give equal consideration to a bill that would protect funding for troops in combat. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised that the House would vote on its own version of the bill within a week.

Meanwhile, U.S. and Iraqi troops launched a new security crackdown in Baghdad. Military officials say the new operation will eventually double the number of troops in the war-torn capital and will involve about 90,000 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers working side-by-side.

China

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Ethnic Chinese throughout the world will celebrate the Year of the Pig as the Chinese New Year rings in Feb. 18. A zodiac sign that the Chinese associate with wealth and prosperity, the pig came under a cloud early this month as China's state-run broadcaster banned ads featuring pigs to avoid conflict with China's 20 million Muslims.

Misplaced sensitivity is also at the root of a campaign led by evangelicals to apologize for Opium Wars that led to massacres in China 150 years ago. Critics worry that the plan will lead to further persecution of Christians in China.

Nicaragua

Tensions grew between Washington and Managua last week when leftist Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega halted plans to destroy hundreds of the country's Cold War--era surface-to-air missiles. Ortega said his country needs the missiles because neighboring Honduras is buying U.S. military planes. The U.S. embassy released a statement pointing out that the United States is selling only eight small planes to Honduras for use in fighting drug traffickers.

Crime

After one of its astronauts morphed overnight from female role model to criminal suspect, NASA is pledging to retool its psychological screening process. Orlando authorities on Feb. 6 charged Navy Capt. Lisa Marie Nowak, 43, with kidnapping and attempted murder after she allegedly attacked Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, spraying her with a chemical substance as Shipman sat in her own car at an Orlando airport. According to police, both women were involved in relationships with another astronaut, space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein, 42.

The bizarre elements of the attack-Nowak wore a trenchcoat and a wig, and told police she wore a diaper to avoid making restroom stops as she drove from Houston to Orlando to confront Shipman-spawned tabloid headlines like "Lust in Space." Nowak, a high-school valedictorian and Naval Academy graduate, is considered an expert at operating the shuttle's robotic arm. But stresses had mounted, friends say, including a recent separation from her husband of 19 years.

Politics

With a record as a social liberal but effective crime fighter, former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani last week formed an exploratory committee for a 2008 presidential run. Early polls place Giuliani at the top of a crowded pack of potential GOP candidates, ahead of Sen. John McCain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

But those poll numbers don't daunt another GOP hopeful, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. "If you're in first place right now, there's really only one direction you can go, and it's not a good one," Huckabee told reporters. In many ways the philosophical opposite of Giuliani, Huckabee's pastoral ability to connect could move him from long shot to first tier.

Sports

The Indianapolis Colts returned home last week as Super Bowl champions. After a frigid victory parade through downtown Indianapolis, 40,000 fans crowded into the RCA Dome on Feb. 5 to celebrate the team's 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears. With two of the league's six black coaches making it to the title game, Super Bowl XLI was also a victory for the NFL's "Rooney Rule"-a mild form of affirmative action that helped the Colts' Tony Dungy and the Bears' Lovie Smith prove their coaching ability.

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