Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "Tortilla wars," March 10, 2007

Politics

Sporting pin stripes and panache, Sen. John McCain appeared on David Letterman's late-night talk show on Feb. 28 to announce his bid for the presidency. Actually, the Republican senator announced that he would announce his candidacy in April. "You know you drag this out as long as you can," McCain joked to Letterman.

McCain's announcement was no surprise, but the venue suggested that the 70-year-old senator aims to be savvy. When Letterman asked if the Vietnam veteran would consider the vice presidency, McCain quipped:

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"You know, I spent all those years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, kept in the dark, fed scraps -why the heck would I want to do that all over again?"

Mexico

President George Bush is scheduled to arrive in Brazil on March 8 to begin of a Latin American tour that will also take him to Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who accused the United States of plotting a coup against him, called for peaceful protests of the visit throughout the region.

Should protesters turn out in Mexico, they are likely to be thinking of a close-to-home commodity: corn. The price of a tortilla in Mexico has doubled, and many Mexicans believe it is because the price of U.S. corn imports has risen as Americans demand more of the crop for producing the biofuel ethanol.

Iraq

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirmed to members of Congress that U.S. representatives will sit down with Iranian and Syrian officials this month at a security conference convened by the Iraqi government in Baghdad. The session is to include Iraq's neighbors and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Sudan

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued warrants against Sudan's deputy humanitarian affairs minister, Ahmad Muhammad Harun, and militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman (also known as Ali Kushayb) for crimes against humanity in Darfur. The charges-51 counts of murder, torture, and rape-stem from attacks on four village areas in West Darfur in 2003-2004. They are the result of a two-year investigation and include eyewitness accounts of Harun traveling with well-guarded boxes of cash and distributing money, weapons, and ammunition throughout Darfur. The Sudanese government stands accused of arming militias that attacked, looted, killed, and abused villagers on the pretext that they sided with rebel groups.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo would not rule out the possibility that other Sudanese officials will be named by the court, but bringing them to trial is the chief challenge. ICC's most illustrious living war criminal, Serbian military commander Ratko Mladic, remains a fugitive, and Khartoum has said it will not hand over Harun or Rahman.

Former Senate majority leader Bill Frist toured a South Darfur displaced camp, where residents fear returning to their homes and find more reasons to stay under the protection of often compromised aid workers.

Stock market

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 416 points Feb. 27, part of a dramatic single-day dive in stock markets throughout the world. All three of the major U.S. indexes relinquished their gains for the year but stabilized the following day. The global swoon began in China, where Shanghai's composite index fell 9 percent after reaching a record high the day before. Analysts consider the drop a wake-up call to the reality of risk after years of strong growth and limited volatility.

Hollywood

Former Vice President Al Gore walked away with center stage and an Oscar Feb. 25 for his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, which warns consumers to use less energy at home. But according to figures released by National Electric Services, Gore's mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year. Gore's average monthly electric bill topped $1,359, and Gore paid nearly $30,000 in combined electricity and natural gas bills for his Nashville estate in 2006, according to the public utility.

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