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Democratic presidential hopefuls debate in Charleston, S.C.

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "The yoot vote," Aug. 4, 2007

Campaign '08

GOP presidential candidates will face YouTube questions in a debate of their own next month, but Democrats were first out of the gates with the innovative format July 23 at The Citadel. GOP strategists admit that Democrats already dominate Republicans in online campaigning. Eight presidential hopefuls answered videoed questions posed by ordinary Americans via the internet. More than 3,000 people submitted questions in homemade videos through the video-sharing website YouTube.com. CNN chose nearly 40 submissions that featured everything from a talking snowman concerned about global warming to a bereaved military father concerned about the war in Iraq.

Afghanistan

A week into the crisis, one of 23 Korean medical missionaries kidnapped by the Taliban was shot dead, with bullet holes in his chest, stomach, and head. The pastor was reportedly killed because he was too sick to walk. The Korean government remained in tense negotiations with the captors to release remaining hostages, with the looming threat that the Taliban would murder them all. The crisis has drawn attention to Korea's flourishing missions movement.

Congress

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The House Judiciary Committee voted 22-17 in favor of holding White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and former White House legal counsel Harriet Miers in contempt of Congress. The presidential aides failed to comply with congressional subpoenas for public testimony on the circumstances surrounding last year's firings of nine U.S. attorneys. President Bush ordered Miers and Bolten not to testify on grounds that their knowledge falls under the protection of executive privilege. Bush would prefer that his aides relate any pertinent information in private interviews, an offer Congress has repeatedly rejected. The entire House now must vote on whether to uphold the contempt citations, setting up a potential legal showdown over executive and legislative powers.

Bulgaria

Eight years after consigning them to death row, on July 24 Libya released five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of deliberately infecting 400 children with the AIDS virus. The six deny the charge and say Libyan authorities used torture to extract confessions. Secretive negotiations, however, indicate Libya bribed its way out of (yet another) international embarrassment: Bulgaria has said it may write off the $54 million in debt Libya and leader Moammar Gadhafi owe Bulgaria.

Housing

An already weak housing market staggered through another round of bad news last week. The National Association of Realtors reported that home resales fell 3.8 percent in June; the Mortgage Bankers Association said mortgage applications fell to a five-month low; and California reported a sharp increase in foreclosures. Few economists expect a turnaround in housing before at least next year, but many also believe that housing problems will not severely affect the broader economy. "There will be individual pain for people who made the wrong decisions," financial advisor Rich Toscano told the Los Angeles Times. "[But] I don't envision a Grapes of Wrath scenario where we all have to pile in the family car and look for harvesting work."

Sports

Two years into the post-Lance Armstrong era, there's less and less for Americans to like about the Tour de France. With no high-profile American capturing the yellow jersey, few stateside even knew that the tour's credibility took yet another hit this year when race leader Michael Rasmussen of Denmark withdrew from the race three days before completion on July 26 at his team's behest amidst an emerging storm of doping allegations.

A great patriot

The words most often heard last month following the death of Army four-star general Wayne A. Downing were "great patriot." Downing, 67, contracted a severe headache on July 16, and on July 18 died of bacterial meningitis in his Peoria, Ill., hometown.

Retired from active duty, Downing had since 2003 chaired the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and served as a top counterterrorism advisor to President Bush. His contributions to national defense spanned more than four decades and included command of the U.S. Special Operations Command, the Joint Special Operations Command, and the 75th Ranger Regiment.

A shrewd analyst and forceful leader, Downing "was also a guy who could sit down and talk to soldiers of all ranks about things that were important to them," said Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, a former commander of Delta Force who worked in special operations with Downing for 30 years. Downing oversaw an investigation into the 1996 truck-bombing that killed 20 and wounded 372 at Khobar Towers, a U.S. military housing complex in Saudi Arabia. During the 1980s, Downing was instrumental in assembling the first Ranger Regiment, now a key component of the battle against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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