Dispatches > The Buzz

THe Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "All heart," July 14, 2007

Campaign '08

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama pulled in $32.5 million during the second quarter, a fundraising record for this early in a campaign. His main party rival, Hillary Clinton, garnered $27 million over the same period. Surveys suggest that Obama will need the money. A Quinnipiac poll of Democratic primary voters last month found him trailing frontrunner Clinton by 35 percent to 21 percent. "She gets the union members," Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, told Newsday, "he gets the college faculty lounges."

On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani led second-quarter fundraising efforts with $17 million, followed by Mitt Romney with $14 million and John McCain with $11 million. With only $2 million on hand, the McCain campaign announced deep staff cuts last week. Giuliani, meanwhile, tried to make inroads with Christian voters by traveling to Virginia Beach, Va., to speak at Regent University.

Politics

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President George W. Bush commuted the 30-month prison sentence of former vice presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a decision that sparked spirited reactions on Capitol Hill. Republicans cheered the move as correcting an excessive punishment for Libby's perjury and obstruction during an investigation into the leak of CIA employee Valerie Plame's identity. Democrats charged that the commuted sentence provides yet another illustration of the president's disregard for the rule of law. Bush cited Libby's long track record of upstanding public service in justifying his action and said he would not rule out the possibility of a full pardon in the future. For now, the guilty verdict stands, as do Libby's two years of probation and $250,000 fine.

Health

A study in the most recent Journal of the American Medical Association contained good news for dark chocolate lovers-or at least dark chocolate likers. The study found that patients who ate about six grams of dark chocolate daily reduced their blood pressure without gaining weight. Researchers believe that dark chocolate stimulates chemical changes that reduce hypertension. Doctors warned, however, that eating too much of the treat and gaining weight would negate the benefits and add other health risks. Six grams is less than two Hershey's Kisses.

Great Britain

"Those who heal you will kill you," ran British headlines, as authorities arrested eight Muslims, mostly doctors, in connection with failed terrorist attacks. After two car bombs failed to explode in London June 28, two men rammed a gas-laden Jeep Cherokee into barricades at Glasgow's international airport, injuring themselves. British media reported that at least two of the suspects allegedly rented a house some miles from the Glasgow airport, sleeping upstairs and using the downstairs to make bombs. The fact that the suspects are doctors has shaken the country, and shows that Islamic terrorists are coming in unexpected-and more threatening-stripes.

Pakistan

Security forces last week continued to besiege student radicals-many of them female seminarians-holed up in an Islamabad mosque, but arrested the main religious leader as he tried to flee the mosque in a woman's burqa and high heels. Maulana Abdul Aziz has repeatedly provoked the government in the last few months, wanting to set up a Taliban-style government in the capital. The standoff reportedly began after the mosque kidnapped six Chinese women who are supposedly prostitutes, drawing a protest from Beijing. One 15-year-old girl who decided to surrender said many want to die martyrs: "They are happy," she said. "They don't want to go home."

Culture

Album sales are down 15 percent so far this year, Nielsen SoundScan reported last week. Industry insiders said an increase in downloads and the closure of the Tower and Musicland retail chains were behind the dismal numbers. The mid-year drop was much larger than last year's fall of 4 percent and bigger than the 10 percent mid-year drop in 2005. The first part of the year was the worst: "January may have been the slowest month in Nielsen SoundScan history," Billboard's Geoff Mayfield told USA Today. "It really put the industry in a hole."

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