Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on this week's biggest stories

Issue: "2004 Election: Countdown," Oct. 23, 2004

POLITICS George W. Bush and John Kerry wrapped up their third and final debate last week in Arizona. Several media pundits gave Mr. Bush high marks: The Los Angeles Times declared the president "a convincing winner," for instance, and Scott Lindlaw of the Associated Press wrote that "Bush seemed to find his stride." Both candidates discussed their religious beliefs, their families, and their sharp differences on several issues. Meanwhile, in Midwestern battleground states like Ohio, both campaigns were still busy trying to solidify their core constituencies. Job losses and tepid support from suburban GOP women are hurting Mr. Bush, but weaker than usual support for the Democratic candidate among African-Americans and union members is keeping the race close. Mr. Bush is also finding allies for his foreign policies in the Midwestern Arab-American community.

SCIENCE Actor and activist Christopher Reeve died on Oct. 10 of a cardiac arrest suffered while undergoing treatment for a bedsore. The Superman legend had become a spokesman for spinal-cord-injury research after a horseback riding accident left him a quadriplegic nine years ago. Mr. Reeve traded on celebrity status to become an outspoken advocate for embryonic stem-cell research, a cause championed by Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry. But seasoned researchers say their high-profile cause ignores advances in adult stem-cell research and is siphoning funding and political support from legitimate potential cures.

AFGHANISTAN Almost three years after liberation from the strictest Islamic regime in the world, Afghanistan held its first-ever national election. Women donned bridal beads and henna for the occasion. An elderly woman told the BBC she woke up early and woke up her sisters, saying, "We have to get out to vote. The future of Afghanistan is at stake." Hamid Karzai, interim president and U.S. favorite, is expected to be the victor once ballots are hand counted, but he will need cooperation from his 15 challengers to extend control beyond Kabul.

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IRAQ A team of investigators discovered nine trenches in northern Iraq containing hundreds of bodies believed to be Kurds killed during 1987-88 pogroms. The skeletons of toddlers clutching toys and unborn babies with femurs the size of matchsticks, according to investigators for the Iraqi Special Tribunal, were unearthed. Women and children largely were grouped in trenches separate from men. At least one female skeleton still clutched a baby who had been shot in the head. The grim findings will add evidence to a war crimes trial expected against Saddam Hussein.

HAITI Supporters of ousted leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide are using last month's flood disaster to destabilize Haiti's interim government and disrupt aid efforts. Violent clashes killed at least 48 people last week and drew out ex-soldiers who say they will put down any attempt to reinstall the former president, now in exile in South Africa.

HURRICANE FALLOUT Expect Florida citrus prices to climb faster than a gallon of gasoline. Recent hurricanes destroyed 63 percent of the state's grapefruit crop-its worst drop since 1938-leaving this winter's supply at roughly 1950 levels. The orange crop is down by nearly a third, its worst hit since the 1980s.

RELIGION Ed McAteer, dubbed by some as the "godfather" of the Christian Right, died of cancer in Memphis, Tenn., on Oct. 6. He was 78. Mr. McAteer gave up a successful sales career in 1976 to become active in conservative politics. He helped to organize Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority campaign in 1979 and launched that same year his own activist group, the Religious Roundtable. Mr. McAteer was in the running to be appointed ambassador to Israel, but President George W. Bush passed over him in 2001. After that, Mr. McAteer complained bitterly about political leaders who, he alleged, "dropped [us] like a hot potato once they got out of these Christians what they wanted." Along the way, he ran as an independent for the U.S. Senate in 1984 but lost to Al Gore.

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