Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "'Into captivity they shall go'," Feb. 24, 2007

Slavery

Wilber-who? Only 4 percent of Americans say they have heard of William Wilberforce, the British abolitionist whose work to end slavery in the 19th century remains a model for Christian political activism in the 21st century. Undeserved obscurity may end with the nationwide theater release Feb. 23 of Amazing Grace, a film chronicling the 5-foot parliamentarian's two-decade crusade.

Americans mark the bicentennial starting this month, but in Britain events kick off March 25 (the 200th anniversary of final passage of the Slave Trade Act) when Wilberforce House Museum-birthplace of the abolitionist in Hull, Yorkshire-reopens after a $3 million renovation. Name recognition seems not to be a problem: One Wilberforce education program has sold out through September.

Business

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Chrysler became the last of the Big Three automakers to abandon hope of growing its way out of financial trouble. It announced Feb. 14 that it will lay off 13,000 workers and close factories-likely an SUV assembly plant in Delaware and a truck factory near St. Louis. The setback reflects not only the hardship unionized automakers face but a shift from trucks and SUVs, which fueled profits in the past, to more energy-efficient vehicles. Chrysler has 83,000 workers-including more than 61,000 hourly wage earners-in North America, along with 12 assembly plants and 17 factories. The layoffs bring to nearly 100,000 the number of hourly and salaried workers terminated by the three leading U.S. automakers since 2005.

Iraq

With the House expected to vote Feb. 16 on a resolution opposing a troop increase in Iraq, at least 11 Republicans broke ranks with the White House and sided with the Democratic-led measure.

"I think you can be against my decision and support the troops, absolutely," Bush said at a Feb. 14 news conference. "But the proof will be whether or not you provide them the money necessary to do the mission." In the Senate, Republican Tom Coburn called for "an honest debate about what the spending priorities are for this country" on the eve of a threatened filibuster over a budget bill to keep all government programs running after March 1.

Middle East

Bombs ripped apart two buses in a mountaintop Christian community near Beirut Feb. 14, as the country marked the two-year anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. The blasts killed three and injured dozens. They were widely blamed on militants connected to Hezbollah and timed as the UN Security Council nears a vote on a tribunal to investigate the group and Syrian involvement in the assassination.

Disaster

A deadly tornado slammed into New Orleans on Feb. 13, tearing through a neighborhood already badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina, killing one person and injuring at least 30. The storm destroyed at least 50 FEMA trailers and dozens of homes, many of which were still under repair from Katrina's ravages nearly 18 months ago.

Stella Chambers, 85, was waiting on a final utility hookup before moving back into her nearly repaired home in the Gentilly neighborhood. She died when the tornado ripped apart her FEMA trailer. Mervin Pollard said the tornado flattened the home he was repairing for his 81-year-old mother: "How do you start over again when you are already trying to do that?"

Weather

A powerful winter storm brought blizzard conditions to much of the Midwest and Northeast, causing several state governments to nearly shut down and leaving the southern Adirondacks in New York under a 42-inch pile of snow. The storm dropped almost two feet of snow in New Hampshire and 15 inches in Cleveland, and in many areas a thick layer of ice as well. In Pennsylvania, traffic ground to a halt on a 30-mile stretch of Interstate 78 on Feb. 14, prompting National Guard troops to bring blankets and fuel to stranded motorists. By Feb. 15 the storm had passed, leaving people from Illinois to Maine to dig out from under the ice and snow. "You can't even shovel it," Wes Velker, an electrician in Toledo, Ohio, told the Associated Press. "You have to take it off in layers."

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