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Associated Press/Photo by Hatem Omar

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Millions cut down," Jan. 17, 2009

War without end

Israel and Gaza's year ended miserably: After Hamas forces repeatedly fired rockets into Israel at the end of a six-month ceasefire between the two sides, Israel retaliated with air strikes on the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip. The intense bombing campaign killed more than 300 people in Gaza in the first three days, including at least 57 civilians. Israeli bombs also obliterated symbols of Hamas power, including a wing of the Islamic University, the alma mater of many top Hamas officials.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel wasn't fighting civilians in Gaza, but that the country was in "a war to the bitter end" with Hamas. He said Israel intended to deliver "a severe blow" to the Islamic militant group, and that the operation would be "widened and deepened as needed." In Jerusalem, Israel's Cabinet approved calling up 6,500 reserve soldiers for the possibility of a ground invasion, though the country would likely need far more troops for a full-scale offensive.

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The deepening conflict presents a dilemma for President-elect Barack Obama, who had pledged to mediate the Arab-Israeli conflict from "day one."

Worst ever?

The History News Network last year asked professional historians (most of whom teach at colleges and universities) to rate the Bush presidency. Unsurprisingly, 98 percent called it a failure. Astoundingly, 61 percent labeled Bush the worst president in U.S. history.

The worst? Worse than James Buchanan, who fiddled while the U.S. headed toward Civil War? (George W. Bush did not fiddle after 9/11, and we haven't had any more disasters of that kind.) Worse than U.S. Grant or Warren G. Harding, whose administrations were extraordinarily corrupt? (Or Bill Clinton, who stained the Oval Office itself?) Worse than Richard Nixon, whose attempt to cover up crimes led to a political rout that doomed millions in Vietnam and Cambodia?

WORLD has sometimes praised the Bush administration and sometimes criticized it, particularly for its failures in spending and school reform, and its twisting of compassionate conservatism into a government-enlarging proposal. But labeling what's happened recently as the best or the worst ever is always suspect. -Marvin Olasky

Congo killings

Rival forces in remote eastern Congo accused each other of a grisly church massacre that killed more than 100 people the day after Christmas. Survivors and witnesses said attackers used machetes, clubs, and swords to beat and hack to death people who had sought refugee in a Catholic church in the village of Doruma, near Congo's border with Sudan. "The scene at the church was unbelievable. It was horrendous," Ugandan army Capt. Chris Magezi told the Associated Press. Magezi accused the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) of the slayings, as did Abel Longhi, a Doruma shop owner who witnessed the massacre. Longhi said he recognized the LRA by their Acholi language and the number of young boys among the attackers. The LRA is a violent rebel faction that purports to have a Christian base and is led by Joseph Kony, a self-described spokesman for the Holy Spirit and a spirit medium; it is infamous for kidnapping and forcing young boys into its army. But the LRA denied responsibility, saying the Ugandan military killed the church refugees in order to blame the LRA and justify Ugandan forces' continued presence in Congo.

Man knows not his time

Conservative leader Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation and founding president of the Heritage Foundation, died Dec. 18. Weyrich, 66, coined the term "Moral Majority," which later described the organization he helped found. "Paul was one of the giants of the conservative movement," said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. "His passing is a great loss for conservatism, and for our country."

Mark Felt, the former FBI second-in-command who in 2005 revealed his identity as the infamous "Deep Throat" informant, died on the same day as Weyrich, Dec. 18. Felt, 95, had kept mum for three decades before disclosing his role in tipping off Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward about the Watergate scandal that toppled Richard Nixon's presidency.

Rabbi David L. Lieber, president emeritus of what is now the American Jewish University and general editor of conservative Judaism's modern Torah commentary-the Etz Hayim, or "Tree of Life"-died Dec. 15 at the age of 83.

Doing time

Her California abortion empire in shambles, Bertha Pinedo Bugarin faces a pile of felony convictions in Los Angeles and San Diego. In courtroom appearances late last year, the 48-year-old admitted to posing as a doctor and pleaded guilty or no-contest to 16 felony counts, including at least nine of performing abortions without a medical license. Police last June arrested Bugarin after California health and law enforcement officials investigated a raft of suspected violations at Clinica Medica Para La Mujer, the chain of abortion businesses Bugarin built to target Hispanic women (WORLD, The Buzz, July 12, 2008). Bugarin faces up to 10 years in state prison for the Los Angeles charges when she is sentenced Jan. 20, and up to nine years when she is sentenced Feb. 6 in San Diego.


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