Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Democrats are all smiles," Aug. 7, 2004

Politics Democrats gathered in Boston last week to nominate John Kerry for president. Although nearly two million fewer viewers watched this year's event, compared to the 2000 Democratic National Convention, the Kerry campaign kept the proceedings on a tight script to portray a kind image and appeal to swing voters. Meanwhile, the party's platform writers removed a clause pledging respect for the consciences of pro-life party members and the late President Reagan's son Ron called for embryonic stem-cell research.

Iraq Fighters who target U.S. soldiers and Iraqis may be fewer in number and less cohesive in purpose than once thought, say commanders in the region, but that assessment is little comfort to Iraqis who suffered the most lethal terror attack since the war. A suicide bomber struck outside a police station in Baquba on July 28, killing up to 100 and wounding 50.

Brig. Gen. John Custer, Central Command intelligence director, said the belief that insurgents are "everywhere, that there are thousands" is a myth. Instead, the handful who struck in Baquba and the two dozen arrested a week ago in Ramadi are typical: a mix of homegrown anti-U.S. nationalists, Saddam loyalists, and a steady but small stream of part-time jihadists who kill for a stake in the chaos.

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U.S. commanders also have evidence that some kill against their will. Forensic specialists found suicide bombers with hands chained to steering wheels or a foot roped into the car. "Their children were kidnapped and held-they were forced" to carry out attacks, Gen. Custer told the Los Angeles Times.

In bomber bastions like the Sunni Triangle, U.S. forces are using more subtle strategy to flush out insurgents while reducing their own visibility. Urban warfare with insurgents killed 11 U.S. soldiers the last week of July, in contrast to a casualty rate of about 35 a week in April during heavy fighting. But Iraqi leaders and Secretary of State Colin Powell, visiting the region, say they are ready to consider a regional Saudi-led force to stabilize Iraq. In Saudi Arabia, Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told Arab leaders to "stand as one group" against "those gangs, those terrorists, and those criminals" who he said are threatening the Arab world.

Afghanistan The medical relief group Doctors Without Borders became the first major aid agency to quit Afghanistan following the June murder of five staff members. Spokesman Kenny Gluck said a framework for aid "simply evaporated" and poor security continued to hamper relief work. More than 30 aid workers have been killed in Afghanistan in the last year. A bomb exploded June 28 in a mosque where Afghans were registering for elections, killing two, and officials expect more violence ahead of the October vote.

Sudan Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan met for the second time in three weeks to discuss the "humanitarian catastrophe" unfolding in Sudan's Darfur province just as Congress passed a set of resolutions declaring the death rate in Darfur equivalent to genocide. Lawmakers and human-rights activists sought to call the killing-already believed by some analysts to be in excess of 100,000-"by its rightful name." They hope to speed aid to the region and to avoid a holocaust similar to what happened in Rwanda 10 years ago.

At the same time, the Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum declared a "genocide emergency" in Darfur. But a U.S.-backed resolution before the UN Security Council against Khartoum, which is sending militias into Darfur, is stalled. Activists warn that 10,000 Darfur residents could die per week without more direct intervention, while government-led pogroms continue against Christians living in oil-rich southern territory.

Law The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the arrest of abortion protesters in Kansas City who had displayed large photos of aborted fetuses at busy intersections. The court said police officers were right to make the arrests because the graphic protest threatened public safety. Judge C. Arlen Beam dissented, arguing that "the Constitution does not allow a small group of passers-by to censor, through their complaints, the content of a peaceful, stationary protest."

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