Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Not angry anymore," Dec. 1, 2007

Politics

The Commission on Presidential Debates last week chose four universities as the sites for next year's presidential and vice presidential debates-the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss.; Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.; Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.; and Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. Ole Miss, Belmont, and Hofstra will host presidential debates while Washington University will be the site of the lone vice presidential debate.

One of the candidates hoping to be present at the first three sites is John McCain. The Republican senator from Arizona has spent the last two years rebuilding bridges to the Christian right that were once thought permanently burned during the 2000 campaign. "My life," says the former prisoner of war, "has been characterized by reconciliation."

Pakistan

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A Supreme Court hand-picked by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf swiftly dismissed legal challenges to his continued rule on Nov. 19, opening the way for him to serve another five-year term-this time solely as a civilian president if he relinquishes his post as military chief, as he has promised.

France

The reform plans of French president Nicolas Sarkozy ran into a roadblock as transportation workers continued to strike last week, slowing traffic and costing the French economy an estimated $440 million to $586 million daily. The workers were protesting a plan to reduce government spending that would cut their special pension benefits. Other civil servants staged a separate one-day strike on Nov. 20 to protest pay and working conditions, and several universities have reportedly shut down as students protest government reforms. Sarkozy has argued the cuts in public spending are necessary to make France competitive. "France needs reform to meet global challenges," he said last week. "We won't give in."

Belgium

More than 35,000 Belgians marched through Brussels Nov. 18 to call for unity in a country divided by language and deadlocked over its political structure. The demonstrations took place on the 161st day since elections; politicians have been unable to cooperate and form a new government.

Disasters

The death toll last week reached into the several thousands in the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr, which brought 150 mph winds and a tidal surge 16 feet high to Bangladesh. As rescue workers searched for survivors, aid workers sought to help those who lost their homes and crops. "Just the fact that people were able to survive this does not mean they will survive the second wave of death that comes from catastrophes like this: from lack of clean water, food, basic medicines, and shelter," Mike Kiernan, spokesman for Save the Children, told the Associated Press. The United States, Saudi Arabia, India, Britain, and Germany pledged millions in aid, and the United States made available two Navy ships with tons of supplies.

AIDS

UN officials for the first time acknowledged that they have overestimated the number of HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths worldwide. With new sampling techniques and closer observation of high-risk countries, the world body estimates that 2.5 million people will be infected with the virus causing AIDS this year-a 40 percent drop over 2006 estimates. The numbers indicate that new infections peaked in 1998 and the number of deaths peaked in 2005.

Religion

The Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus last week agreed to a $50 million settlement with 110 people who say they were sexually abused as children by priests and missionaries assigned to Alaska villages. The U.S. Roman Catholic Church has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle cases with abuse victims since 2002, but the settlement by the Oregon Jesuits is the largest ever involving a Catholic religious order. "It seems that Alaska was a dumping ground for predators," Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told the Reuters news service. No priest has been criminally charged in relation to the cases, and the settlement reportedly does not require the Jesuits to admit fault.

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