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The Buzz

The latest on this week's biggest stories

Issue: "Samuel Alito," Nov. 12, 2005

COURTS Moving quickly to repair the rift in his own party over the crumpled nomination of Harriet Miers, President Bush named 3rd Circuit Court Judge Samuel Alito to replace Justice Sandra O'Connor. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid pronounced him "too radical" to replace Mrs. O'Connor. But Mr. Alito has the Ivy League pedigree that Miers detractors were looking for, a conservative judicial track record, and a son-of-immigrants history ethnic special interest groups could love (See "Fair Play").

CONGRESS Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) invoked an obscure rule to call the Senate into closed session Nov. 1 to debate the Bush administration's prewar intelligence assessment. In a maneuver suggesting Mr. Reid forgot that the Senate already had this investigation-and released its findings in a 500-plus page report in 2004-Democrats crafted a bipartisan six-member group to revisit the subject. The move reflected mounting frustration over U.S. casualties in Iraq, which passed the 2,000 mark, and eagerness to capitalize on the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, whom Democrats see as the architect of Iraq policy.

WHITE HOUSE Scooter Libby pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from a two-year CIA leak investigation Nov 3. Mr. Libby was indicted Oct. 28 on five counts of lying under oath about his role in leaking the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, a CIA officer who worked in Langley's counterproliferation division.

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The outcome of the case will determine not only Mr. Libby's future-and that of other top aides-but could also draw unwanted attention to Washington's favorite pasttime, leaking news to reporters (See "Waterlogged").

SYRIA By unanimous vote, the UN Security Council passed a resolution Oct. 31 demanding Syria's full cooperation with the investigation of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri's assassination. The rare unity shows how isolated Damascus has become, as links to President Bashar Assad and the car-bombing that killed Mr. Hariri grow. But the United States, France, and Britain, which jointly sponsored the resolution, had to remove economic sanctions threats in order to get Assad allies Russia and China, along with rotating Security Council member Algeria, on board.

BIRD FLU Amid global fears that a deadly bird flu virus sweeping through flocks in Asia and pockets of eastern Europe could mutate into a human flu that could kill millions, President Bush outlined a $7.1 billion strategy Nov. 1 to prepare for a possible worldwide flu pandemic. The plan would overhaul vaccine production so eventually every American could be inoculated within six months of a pandemic's beginning.

KASHMIR India and Pakistan agreed to an unprecedented opening of the de facto border in divided Kashmir to help victims of the Oct. 8 earthquake. Relief items can be sent in both directions and families will be able to cross-but only on foot. Vehicle crossings remain outlawed in the terror-prone region. The talks briefly broke down after a series of bomb blasts in Delhi Oct. 30 killed 65 people, but Pakistan's condemnation of the blasts brought parties back to the table.

INDONESIA The State Department continues to delay its report on worldwide religious freedom abuses, just as a particularly evil example surfaced in Indonesia. Terrorists ambushed and beheaded three teenage girls walking to school Oct. 29 in Poso, Central Sulawesi. The Christian girls were the latest victims in a growing series of attacks involving militant Muslims targeting Christians. With a radical fringe taking root in Indonesia, and a weak government response, the country's reputation as a moderate Muslim nation is at stake (See "Beyond terror").

LATIN AMERICA President Bush traveled to Latin America Nov. 3, hoping to advance a stalled free-trade area extending from Canada to Chile and engage a region its people consider neglected by the United States

FRANCE Riots persisted into a second week in Paris suburbs after the accidental electrocutions of two teenagers hiding at a substation to escape a police identity check. The clashes with police involve largely Muslim immigrant youth in poor neighborhoods. They set fire to cars and businesses and threw bottles and stones at police. France has the largest Muslim population in Europe, economically disadvantaged and increasingly prone to Islamic radicalism.

CIVIL RIGHTS Thousands of mourners packed a Detroit church Nov. 2 for an emotional tribute to civil rights hero Rosa Parks, who died 50 years after her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man ignited the civil rights movement. About 4,000 people crowded the Greater Grace Temple-including civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, former President Bill Clinton, and singer Aretha Franklin. Another 1,000 sat in an overflow room while hundreds lined up outside.

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