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Dispatches The Buzz

The Buzz


Federal agents arrested more than 1,200 people on illegal immigration charges in a series of raids on Dec. 13 at Swift & Co. meatpacking plants in six states. Federal officials called the operation-which included raids in Greeley, Colo.; Grand Island, Neb.; Cactus, Texas; Hyrum, Utah; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minn.-the largest ever against illegal immigration. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the investigation leading up to the raid found that many of the illegal immigrants were stealing the identities of U.S. citizens. "Violations of our immigration laws and privacy rights often go hand in hand," he said. "Enforcement actions like this one protect the privacy rights of innocent Americans while striking a blow against illegal immigration."


An international conference of people who deny that the Holocaust happened drew condemnation from around the globe last week. The conference, held in Tehran and hosted by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, included 67 people from 30 countries, including former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino called the gathering "an affront to the entire civilized world," while British Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was "shocking beyond belief" and "a symbol of sectarianism and hatred." The conference comes on the heels of the Iraq Study Group report, which urged the Bush administration to include Iran in efforts to promote security in Iraq.


Islamists who control most of southern Somalia gave Ethiopian troops seven days on Dec. 12 to leave the country or face a major attack. The Ethiopians are allied with the legitimate Transitional Federal Government, based in the town of Baidoa, which has been too weak to control Somalia since its 2004 formation. Clashes between the Islamic Courts Union and Ethiopians broke out for the first time this month, making regional war more likely. Increasing violence could also scupper United Nations plans to send peacekeepers to Somalia. Although the Ethiopian government denies it has troops in Somalia, UN estimates say 8,000 are within the borders. On Dec. 11, Islamic militiamen began amassing near the border town of Tiyeglow to seal off the 1,000-mile border from more Ethiopians and trap troops already in Somalia.


After Chileans attempted for eight years to try him for human-rights abuses, ailing former dictator Augusto Pinochet died Dec. 10 at age 91. His death sparked both celebrations from former victims and mourning by those who believe he saved Chile from communism. The general ruled between 1973 and 1990, ousting Marxist president Salvador Allende. He once said, "Not a leaf moves in this country if I'm not moving it." His regime killed some 3,200 Chileans and tortured tens of thousands. But Pinochet also introduced economic reforms: His "Chicago Boys," trained by Milton Friedman, encouraged free markets and investment. Today, those policies have made Chile the most prosperous nation in South America.


For the second time in the past few weeks, a Colorado megachurch pastor has resigned after admitting to homosexual immorality. Paul Barnes, former pastor of Grace Chapel near Denver, told his 2,100-member congregation that he has "struggled with homosexuality since he was 5 years old." Unlike former National Association of Evangelicals president Ted Haggard, who stepped down from leadership last month, Barnes holds no prominent national position. But his story has prompted some pundits to prematurely suppose that a homosexual crisis is brewing among conservative evangelical pastors.


The New York City Board of Health unexpectedly withdrew a proposal to allow city residents to change the sex on their birth certificates without undergoing sex-change procedures (see "Pick and choose," Dec. 9, 2006). Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, who enthusiastically supported the plan last month, told The New York Times that institutions like hospitals and jails raised concerns the board hadn't considered: Would female patients end up in hospital beds next to men? Would male inmates wind up in women's cellblocks? "This is something we hadn't thought through, frankly," Frieden admitted. "What the birth certificate shows does have implications beyond what the birth certificate shows."