Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "The Purge," Sept. 12, 2009

On maneuvers

On Aug. 19 Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accepted the resignation of one of two deputy prime ministers, Barham Salih. The sudden departure of the Harvard-educated Kurd, a longstanding ally of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, was almost immediately followed by his swearing-in as prime minister of the northern region of Kurdistan.

On Aug. 24 the Iranian-backed Shiite parties that helped propel Maliki into power three years ago dumped him as their candidate for re-election, announcing the formation of a new alliance ahead of elections scheduled for January. The move is potentially a fatal political blow to Maliki: His Dawa Party is small and has relied on coalition building. But Maliki has developed a reputation as a strong leader precisely by confronting Shiite militants in the south. The two flanking maneuvers suggest possible fragmentation ahead-consolidation of Kurdish power in the north under Salih and Shiite power in the south, with central power in Baghdad up for grabs.

Falling

U.S. high-school students' performance on the SAT, the most widely administered college entrance exam, fell for the third time in three years. The Class of '09's average critical reading score dropped to 501 from 502, writing to 493 from 494, and math held steady at 515.

A twend

On social networking site Twitter, hot conversations are marked as trending topics with a hash mark tag-like #publicoption or #iranelection. Twitterers join the conversation by simply adding the tag at the end of their tweets (or entries). For example, "I don't have money for my wisdom teeth to come out. #publicoption"

At the end of August one unlikely topic hit the top of the trending topics list: #howgoodisGod. A poll asking that question spread among users-with answers ranging from "He's the reason we all exist" to "NOT. look at all the pain/injustice!" "He makes a way out of no way," wrote one. "God is the number one cause of death," wrote another. But most of the 140-character responses were pro-God: "very good." "Great enough to die for you."

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