Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "Yasser Arafat: In memoriam," Nov. 20, 2004

MIDDLE EAST Israeli and Palestinian officials bypassed an early chance at rapprochement in the wake of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death Nov. 11 when Israel blocked his burial in Jerusalem. That move consigned memorial activities to the Palestinian enclave at Ramallah, Mr. Arafat's recent West Bank headquarters, where mourners could whip anti-Israeli fervor. A service in Jerusalem would have presented Arab leaders with a face-saving occasion to visit Israel, and Israel an opportunity to allow broader Arab entrance into a city under its control. Mr. Arafat, who died of multiple organ failure after lapsing into a coma in a Paris hospital, will be entombed in a stone vault and likely moved to Jerusalem later. "Both Israelis and Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity rather than take the steps to do the right thing," said Kamal Nawash, a Palestinian and president of the U.S.-based Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism.

POLITICS Just one day after John Ashcroft announced his resignation as attorney general on Nov. 9, President Bush tapped his longtime Texas protégé Alberto Gonzales to fill one of the Cabinet's most visible and important positions. As White House counsel, Mr. Gonzales is already one of Washington's most powerful lawyers. But as attorney general he will become the nation's top law enforcement official, charged with prosecuting crimes ranging from terrorism to corporate corruption to civil-rights violations. Should a federal ban on partial-birth abortion stand up in court, Mr. Gonzales would have to enforce that, too-and some activists aren't sure he has the pro-life bona fides of his predecessor. The son and grandson of Assemblies of God ministers, Mr. Ashcroft is an outspoken evangelical who held prayer meetings in his office and tried to force doctors to turn over abortion records to the Justice Department. His hard-fought nomination battle in 2001 helped to define the close relationship between the Bush White House and the religious right. Mr. Gonzales was expected to win relatively easy confirmation in the Senate, making him the nation's first Hispanic attorney general-and the Republicans' most visible sign of a hoped-for political realignment within the Latino community. Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a longtime Bush friend and confidante, also announced his resignation on Nov. 9. The White House did not immediately name a successor, and political watchers girded for further shakeups to come.

IRAQ Over 15,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops burrowed into the heart of Fallujah to oust 3,000 jihadis after weeks of U.S. airstrikes. The forces secured almost three-quarters of Fallujah in three days, with hundreds of insurgents dead and others trying to escape but waging no coordinated battle. U.S. forces found slaughterhouses where kidnap victims had been beheaded but failed to seal the city in time to capture the perpetrators, including terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He is believed to have instigated the kidnapping of three of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's relatives in retaliation Nov. 10. Before the city assault he rallied Iraqi troops at the main U.S. base outside Fallujah: "Your job is to arrest the killers but if you kill them, then so be it," he said. "May they go to hell!" the soldiers shouted back, and Allawi replied: "To hell they will go."

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GERMANY Germans marked the 15th anniversary of the Berlin Wall crumbling with little fanfare and enough discontent. Twenty percent of East Germans say they preferred life under Communism. "You have to constantly remind the people that the former East German system was a completely depleted system," said state governor Harald Ringstorff.

INDONESIA Rinaldy Damanik, the Sulawesi island pastor who has become a poster child for the persecuted church, emerged from prison Nov. 9 after more than a year behind bars on trumped-up charges. Authorities convicted the church leader of illegal weapons possession in June 2003 but released him this month before he served out a three-year sentence. Christians around the world sent him almost 27,000 letters during his imprisonment.

IVORY COAST A year-long ceasefire from civil war exploded in violence after a government airstrike killed nine French peacekeepers in the rebel-held north of the Ivory Coast nation on Nov. 6. French forces retaliated by destroying the Ivorian air force's new planes on the tarmac. Mobs loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo quickly went on a retributive rampage, burning and looting property and chanting "All the whites out" and "Catch all the whites." France evacuated thousands of its nationals, and the violence claimed at least 27 lives and injured 900. The United States also evacuated Americans, mostly missionaries and aid workers.


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