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The Buzz

The latest on this week's biggest stories

Issue: "Riots in France," Nov. 19, 2005

MIDDLE EAST Coordinated suicide bombers attacked normally quiet, pedestrian downtown Amman. Striking the Radisson, Grand Hyatt, and Days Inn hotels simultaneously, the bombers killed at least 57 and wounded more than 300 on Nov. 9.

The Jordanian capital is a haven for Western contractors and journalists en route to and from Iraq and Afghanistan, and Jordanian authorities have foiled attacks on hotels in the past. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda in Iraq took responsibility, claiming on a website that the "Jordanian despot had turned [Amman] into a backyard for the enemies of the faith, the Jews and crusaders." But the terrorists exceeded their goal. Nearly all those killed were Jordanians and included two high-ranking Palestinians: the head of military intelligence in the West Bank and a security forces official.

In Iraq, Marines near the Syrian border pronounced the town of Husaybah "cleared and secured" after four days of Operation Steel Curtain and said they could now permanently station units in it and other volatile towns. Marine commander Col. Stephen W. Davis said about 1,000 Iraqi troops made the difference in routing al-Qaeda. Outside one village, Iraqi forces picked out of the crowd two Saudis and a Qatari who were dressed as women, then engaged and killed all three.

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EUROPE How do you define "calm" in France? Only 400 vehicles torched overnight. That was the optimistic report Nov. 9, as arson attacks continued to decline after two weeks of rioting in the city's immigrant suburbs. At the Nov. 6 peak, mostly Arab and Muslim youths torched over 1,400 vehicles around the country. Muslim leaders attempted to mediate the violence, a step experts warn will lead to the sort of "two-state" scenario that has deepened the Palestinian intifada and increased clashes in Israel (see "Suburban Warriors").

Presidential hopes hinge on how the crisis is resolved, with Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin striking an uncharacteristic law-and-order role. His likely rival in 2007 elections, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, took criticism for labeling rioters "scum." But polls show "he might actually be articulating what a lot of people are thinking," said Heritage Foundation fellow Helle Dale.

PERSECUTION The State Department pulled its witness for a Nov. 8 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Saudi Arabia, apparently worried about bad publicity a day ahead of a state visit by Secretary Condoleezza Rice. The Saudis also reportedly mounted a lobbying effort to cancel the hearing, titled "Saudi Arabia: Friend or Foe in the War on Terror?" Saudi Arabia remained on an eight-country list of the world's worst religious persecutors, announced Nov. 8, but the kingdom won an extra six months to improve its record. Rampant abuses continue: In late October, Riyadh deported an Indian Christian after a brutal interrogation and jailing (see "Wrist Slap").

ELECTIONS Democrats chalked up a string of victories Nov. 8 to claim momentum heading into next year's mid-term elections. In gubernatorial races, voters elected Democrats Tim Kaine in Virginia and Jon Corzine in New Jersey. In New York, crossover Democratic voters helped liberal Republican Michael Bloomberg hold on to the mayor's seat. In California, Democrats inched closer to the governor's seat as voters slapped down four Schwarzenegger-supported initiatives to rein in spending, redraw legislative districts, improve teacher quality, and break union domination of state government. An abortion parental notification initiative also failed. In Texas, voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage by 76 percent, making Texas the 19th state to do so.

DARWINISM The Kansas Board of Education voted on Nov. 8 to adopt new science standards, recommending that schools teach about the "considerable scientific and public controversy" surrounding Darwinism. The standards do not propose the teaching of intelligent design, but they do encourage the inclusion in classrooms of scientific criticisms of evolution.

The first trial to consider whether public-school science curricula may mention intelligent design concluded Nov. 4. A Dover, Pa., school board attorney called ID "the next great paradigm shift in science," while representation for the 11 parents opposing the board alleged that ID was merely "the label for the board's desire to teach creationism." U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III hoped to rule in the case by the end of the year or early January 2006. The curriculum change at issue requires only that ninth-grade teachers read a brief statement mentioning ID before teaching evolution.

SOUTH AMERICA President Bush ended a trip to Latin America Nov. 7 without a clear-cut framework for continuing trade talks. U.S. interests did receive support from nearly 3,000 tribal people in Venezuela who poured into the streets of Puerto Ayacucho to protest President Hugo Chavez's threatened expulsion of New Tribes Mission. In Caracas, missionary Steve Bove is making the most of what time is left, teaching the Bible five hours a day. He says the entire village is attending.

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