Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "Building a city," March 24, 2007


Justice Department emails and other documents, released March 13 as part of an investigation into last year's firing of eight U.S. attorneys, prove White House involvement and suggest that questions of political loyalty may have motivated the dismissals. Such revelations contradict statements from administration officials to Congress over the past several months. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales admitted some departmental mistakes but said he was largely unaware of the details surrounding the layoffs. He rejected calls from Democrats for his resignation.

Much of the blame for the earlier miscommunication to Congress fell on Gonzales' chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson, who promptly resigned. President Bush maintains that politics played no role in what he views as legitimate, performance-based firings. But congressional Democrats are suspicious of White House meddling in Justice Department affairs. Some Republicans have also directed sharp criticisms at Gonzales, such as Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, who expressed his "profound disappointment."


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Joint Chiefs chairman General Peter Pace last week created a stir in an interview with the Chicago Tribune: "I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral," Pace told the paper. "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way." Pace was expressing support for the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military, and he compared homosexual behavior with adultery, also a prosecutable offense in the military. Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Mass.), who has introduced legislation to repeal the policy, condemned Pace's comments, as did gay activists and Sen. John Warner, the second-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Pace refused to apologize but issued a statement saying he "should have focused more on my support of the policy and less on my personal moral views."


Calling himself an enemy of the United States, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told a U.S. military tribunal that he planned and funded the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "I was responsible for the 9/11 operation from A to Z," he told the tribunal through a personal representative, the Pentagon reported. He said that he was al-Qaeda's military operational commander and claimed to be part of numerous terrorist attacks in recent years, including personally beheading American journalist Daniel Pearl. Mohammed was captured in Pakistan in March 2003.


President Bush capped off a seven-day tour of five Latin American countries on March 14 by talking immigration with Mexican President Felipe Calderón. The subject is a politically thorny one for both leaders: Calderón is a fierce opponent of U.S. plans to beef up border security by adding up to 700 miles of fencing. Bush also faces opposition within his own party over his proposed guest-worker program that would provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. But Bush promised to intensify his efforts to overhaul immigration law, arguing that giving amnesty to all illegal immigrants in the country "is not going to fly . . . nor will kicking people out of the United States work."


With his right eye almost swollen shut and a gash in his head, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai appeared in public at a Harare courthouse on March 13, two days after police detained and tortured him. Tsvangirai and other leaders of his divided Movement for Democratic Change tried to attend a prayer rally in the capital that police disrupted with water cannons, tear gas, and shooting. Police shot dead one demonstrator. President Robert Mugabe has unconstitutionally banned all political meetings, though some say the latest crackdown may simply strengthen the opposition.


A criminal court sentenced Pastor Dmitry Shestakov to four years in prison on March 9 for "illegal" religious activities, Forum 18 News reported. The 37-year-old Full Gospel Church leader will likely serve his term in a political labor camp. Uzbek authorities allow only state-sanctioned Muslim and Christian groups, and even then crack down on any deemed "extremist."


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