Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Ghost streets," Feb. 27, 2010

New Orleans had just upset favored Indianapolis, 31-17. Brees tied a Super Bowl record for pass completions with 32, and was second in all-time completion percentage in the Super Bowl. He was 32 of 39 for 288 yards and two touchdowns.

But beyond the numbers, faith is at the heart of the quarterback and his team's unexpected Super Bowl story. In 2006, the Saints, a team with its city in shambles after Hurricane Katrina, took a gamble on a quarterback virtually no one wanted. His shoulder had been shredded in 2005, and he was without a contract. New Orleans signed Brees, and the quarterback, a franchise, a region, and a city rebuilt-together.

"Four years ago, who would've thought this would be happening," Brees said. "Eighty-five percent of the city was under water. All of its residents evacuated to places all over the country. Most people not knowing if New Orleans would come back or the organization or the team would come back."

Back then, rookie coach Sean Payton crafted a team made up of a core of free agents who, like Brees, had been cast aside by other teams. "We all looked at one another and said, 'We're going to rebuild together; we're going to lean on each other.' This is the culmination of all that belief and that faith," Brees said.

And on Feb. 7 in Miami, Brees took a handoff from Coach Sean Payton he never would have expected four years ago, as the coach passed the Vince Lombardi Trophy to his quarterback.

"I've tried to imagine what this moment would be like for a long time and it's even better than I expected," said Brees. "God is great."

-reported by Paul South

Climate changes

A duo of powerful blizzards in the mid-­Atlantic delivered Washington, D.C., a frigid distinction in February: the snowiest winter on record. The snowstorms crippled regions accustomed to tough winters from Virginia to New York. In D.C., the blasts garnered epic names: Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse, and Snowzilla. The storms shut down nearly everything in the capital: schools, airports, the mail system, and-crucially-federal government offices. Even snowplows weren't immune: Transportation officials in D.C. and Montgomery County temporarily suspended snowplowing operations, saying the effort was too dangerous.

The storm marked the first three-day, winter-related shutdown of the federal government in 14 years. The Office of Personnel Management estimated the loss of worker productivity during the whiteout would cost $100 million a day-the same amount President Obama ordered his cabinet to find in savings last year.

Numbers drain

Having a Democrat in the White House and large Democratic majorities in Congress hasn't stopped the decline of labor unions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics in late January reported that the number of American union members fell by 771,000 in 2009, down to 15.3 million. And for the first time, unionized government workers (7.9 million) outnumber unionized workers in the private sector (7.4 million).

Viktor victorious

For Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, the country's Feb. 7 presidential elections marked a stunning comeback. Six years ago, the Kremlin-backed politician lost the presidential elections during a court-ordered revote. A crush of protesters in the 2004 movement-dubbed the Orange Revolution-demanded the revote, saying Yanukovych's initial win was tainted. Yulia Tymoshenko-one of the movement's leaders-later became prime minister.

This year, the tables turned dramatically: Voters ousted the current president and chose the once-defeated Yanukovych over Prime Minister Tymoshenko. Voters said worries over the bleak economy dominated, and they expressed disillusionment over the prime minister's efforts at reform.

But Yanukovych's win wasn't immediately secure: Tymoshenko's supporters said the losing candidate would contest Yanukovych's win by a 3.5 percent margin. Her protest may be short-lived: International observers-including the U.S. Embassy in Kiev-deemed the elections fair.

Punishing success

A new federally funded study shows the effectiveness of abstinence education among a group of 12-year-olds in an urban public school: After two years, 33 percent of the students in the abstinence class had lost their virginity compared to 52 percent of the students enrolled in a class on safe sex.

The findings throw into question the Obama administration's decision to eliminate $170 million in funding for abstinence programs, in light of the president's promise to "make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology." The study, released Feb. 1 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, concluded that "abstinence-only interventions" might be important for delaying sexual debuts.

"I am not surprised to see these study results since experience in Africa has shown that abstinence-oriented programs can indeed work," Edward Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard University, wrote in an email. "It's a tragedy that there is so much venomous polarization over this issue."

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