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The Buzz

The latest on this week's biggest stories

Issue: "Terrorism: Unmasked men," Oct. 16, 2004

IRAQ Election season spin aside, a widely publicized report on the U.S. investigation into Iraq's weapons of mass destruction potential did not give Saddam Hussein's regime the all clear. "What is clear is that Saddam retained his notions of the use of force and had experience that demonstrated the utility of WMD," states the report, delivered to Congress on Oct. 5 by Iraq Survey Group chief Charles Duelfer. Saddam was "making progress in eroding sanctions," it continues, and, had it not been for the events of 9/11, Iraq's WMD program would have proliferated. "Most senior members of the regime and scientists assumed that the programs would begin in earnest when sanctions ended-and sanctions were eroding," the report said.

Senior government officials are worried the United States will not translate and produce "thousands and thousands" of documents confiscated by U.S. forces in Iraq to focus "this country's attention on facts and away from political posturing." Those are the words of an unnamed source that leaked over 40 pages of Iraqi Intelligence Service memos to Cybercast News Service this month. CNS posted the documents on its website on Oct. 4 after confirmation that the documents appear legitimate and authentic from three eminent Iraq experts: a former CIA counterterrorism official, an advisor to the Clinton campaign on Iraq, and a UN weapons inspector. The documents trace a decade of personal attention by Saddam Hussein to terrorists and terror groups in Afghanistan, Sudan, Israel, and elsewhere. They also link the former dictator to the current nemesis of U.S. and Iraqi forces, terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Middle East scholar Walid Phares told WORLD the documents "establish irreversible evidence that there were strategic relations between the Baathist regime and Islamic groups that became al-Qaeda."

CAMPAIGN With all eyes prepped for the presidential debate in Arizona, battleground states in the West figure more prominently, particularly seven states in the region still considered too close to call. With only weeks to go before Election Day and a margin in the single digits separating the two presidential candidates, Western campaign workers are focused on Hispanic voters. President Bush is gaining among Hispanic voters-up 1 percentage point in polls over his 2000 draw among Hispanics-while John Kerry is slipping. Mr. Kerry is attracting 56 percent of the Hispanic vote, compared to 62 percent for Al Gore four years ago.

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LAW The U.S. Supreme Court last week declined without comment to hear former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's appeal of his expulsion from the Alabama Supreme Court. A state judicial ethics panel ousted Mr. Moore last year after the chief justice refused to obey a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama courthouse. Mr. Moore has hinted that he may run for chief justice again in 2006.

AFGHANISTAN On the last day of campaigning before Afghanistan's first open presidential election, incumbent Hamid Karzai's vice-presidential running mate survived an Oct. 6 assassination attack that killed one and wounded at least five others. Ahmed Zia Massood was unhurt in the bomb blast, but the strike-blamed on drug lords-illustrated growing violence as the country's first exercise in democracy in years neared. Taliban insurgents threatened to bomb polling stations. Mr. Karzai tried to dissuade voters from being intimidated or bribed. Speaking at a stadium once used for beheadings by the Taliban, he said, "If someone comes to you with money and pressure and says I have come from Karzai, don't vote for me." Despite election dangers, Afghans remained hopeful: More than 10 million registered to vote, and 40 percent of them were women. Mr. Karzai was expected to win among a field of 17 other candidates, but it was unclear if he had enough support to win 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.

HEALTH U.S. health officials last week asked Americans to voluntarily ration flu shots after the British government suspended the license of Chiron Corporation's Liverpool plant, which supplies nearly half of the influenza vaccine doses used in the United States. Concerns about contamination of Chiron's vaccine supply prompted British regulators to make the move, which will leave the United States with only about 56 million doses this season instead of the expected 100 million. In response, U.S. officials urged healthy adults to delay or skip flu shots this season, leaving enough for infant children, senior citizens, and those with chronic health problems. "Take a deep breath. This is not an emergency," said Julie Gerberding, head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Oct. 5. "We don't want people to rush out and look for a vaccine today."


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