Dispatches > The Buzz

THE BUZZ

Issue: "Soldiers in harm’s way," Nov. 15, 2003

IRAQ WAR Attacks on American forces and Iraqi allies continued during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. In the most deadly single attack on U.S. forces, insurgents shot down a Chinook helicopter on Nov. 2, killing 15 and wounding 21.

Senior military officials tell WORLD they have growing knowledge about who is behind the assaults: Saddam loyalists with help from al-Qaeda. "We've got rat lines running from Sudan and Yemen," an official in Iraq said. "It's hard to imagine they don't know what is going on." Perps hire entire families-what U.S. officers are beginning to call "mortar families"-for thousands of dollars to carry out guerrilla-style assaults. They pile women and children in small open-bed trucks with grenades, launchers, and other explosives tucked inconspicuously among the family's belongings, then unload them on small, dispersed military convoys. The attacks place drivers and MPs in the frontline of battle-sending dozens home in bodybags and leaving more than a thousand with life-changing injuries. (Cover story, page 30.)

Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne in Fallujah captured two former Iraqi Army generals the United States believes are key planners and financiers of attacks on coalition forces. Soldiers also raided a site in Al Hadid they believe was an operations base for mortar attacks. They found hundreds of rounds of ammunition, including anti-aircraft fire, rifles, grenades, a machine gun, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, 33 blocks of explosives, and 98 feet of detonation cord. They also found a terrain model of U.S. bases in Iraq.

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Meanwhile, coverage of U.S. casualties overshadows the steady toll on Iraqis. One day after the Chinook attack, Muhan Jabr Al-Shuwaili, a Najaf judge who chaired a commission to prosecute Baath loyalists, was killed on Nov. 3. He was the third Iraqi assassinated during the week. A prosecutor who was kidnapped along with Mr. Shuwaili said the two were taken to a desert area, where an assailant said, "Saddam has ordered your prosecution" before firing two shots to the judge's head.

HOMOSEXUAL BISHOP The former Archbishop of Canterbury blasted the Nov. 2 consecration of openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson as "a slap in the face" of Anglicans worldwide. George Carey spoke for millions of traditionalists and conservatives in the 77 million-member association saddened by the liberal assault. A denominational split is expected. (Story, page 18.)

POLITICS Voters went to the polls on Nov. 4 and decided a wide range of issues: Gambling expansion was turned back in Colorado and in Maine, where citizens rejected by a 2-1 margin a plan to build the state's first casino; Cleveland Heights, Ohio, became the first city by way of voter initiative to OK a domestic-partner registry; and San Francisco voters approved a citywide $8.50-per-hour minimum wage, more than $3 higher than the federally mandated wage.

Republicans swept Tuesday's gubernatorial races. The GOP was victorious in Mississippi and in Kentucky, where Democrats made the "Bush economy" the focus of attack. (Story, page 22.)

"GREEN RIVER KILLER" The nation's most-prolific serial killer, Gary Leon Ridgway, pleaded guilty on Nov. 5 to the slaying of 48 women over a period of decades beginning in 1982. It took nearly eight minutes for the judge to read aloud the names of each victim, after which Mr. Ridgway would say "guilty." Prosecutors agreed to a plea deal that will keep him off Washington state's death row.

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES Cool weather and off-and-on rains helped firefighters on Nov. 4 bring under control the so-called Cedar Fire, the biggest and deadliest of the California blazes. President Bush visited the devastated area and spoke to exhausted firefighters. The fires claimed 22 lives, destroyed some 3,600 homes, and consumed almost three-quarters of a million acres of brush and timber.

The president said the disaster represented the "worst of nature" that highlighted "the absolute best of mankind." He cited brave firefighters and compassionate volunteers who brought relief to victims. Church-based disaster relief teams worked with congregations to train their members to help. (Story, page 26.)

TEN COMMANDMENTS Religious-liberty groups were disappointed by the Supreme Court's rejection of the Alabama Ten Commandments display case, but vowed to push forward some two dozen appeals of disputes that raise some of the same legal issues. Denial of the case of Alabama judge Roy Moore "has little or no bearing on other cases," says the Alliance Defense Fund's Benjamin Bull. (Story, page 27.)

PARTIAL-BIRTH ABORTION The ink was scarcely dry after President Bush's Nov. 5 signing of a partial-birth abortion ban before two federal judges blocked its enforcement. U.S. District Judge Richard Casey on Nov. 6 granted a National Abortion Federation motion to keep the NAF and seven other late-term abortion specialists in business. A day earlier, and less than an hour after the president signed the law, federal judge Richard Kopf of Lincoln, Neb., granted an exemption for partial-birth abortion specialist LeRoy Carhart, the plaintiff whose case persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Nebraska's state partial-birth abortion law in 2000.

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