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The Buzz

Issue: "Narnia unleashed," Dec. 10, 2005

CULTURE Hollywood box-office watchers are hoping that The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe-due in theaters on Dec. 9-will have the same magical hold on viewers as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which raced to $200 million in U.S. receipts in its first 10 days.

Narnia, a joint project of Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media, follows Potter into theaters in more than one way: The success of the Potter series helped convince studio executives that Americans would be interested in a film that features British schoolchildren, allowing the film to remain more faithful to the Lewis classic than earlier proposed film versions (see "The chronicles of making Narnia").

SUPREME COURT The National Archives last week released a Justice Department document that could become a key weapon in the confirmation battle over Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito. In a June 1985 memo analyzing the Reagan administration's strategy with respect to two high-court abortion cases, Mr. Alito asked, "What can be made of this opportunity to advance the goals of bringing about the eventual overruling of Roe v. Wade and, in the meantime, of mitigating its effect?" Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the memo "stunning," saying it "casts serious doubt" on whether Mr. Alito could rule impartially on abortion cases. The memo came to light as activists on both sides were already starting to put public pressure on middle-of-the-road senators to vote their way on the Alito nomination (see "War of words").

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In the controversial memo, Mr. Alito defended several state laws restricting abortion, including parental notification laws such as the one in dispute in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, a case currently before the high court. In a tense hearing on Nov. 30, New Hampshire attorney general Kelly Ayotte argued for reinstatement of a 2003 notification law struck down by lower courts. In another key abortion case, National Organization for Women v. Scheidler, courtroom observers said justices seemed inclined to uphold a reversal of a racketeering judgment against pro-life activist Joseph Scheidler.

ABORTION University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, author of the bestselling book Freakonomics, came under scholarly criticism last week for a controversial chapter in the book that claims legalized abortion in the 1970s led to falling crime rates in the 1990s. Christopher Foote and Christopher Goetz, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, say that a formula is missing in Mr. Levitt's research, a mistake that could have led to discounting other potential causes for the drop in crime.

"There are no statistical grounds for believing that the hypothetical youths who were aborted as fetuses would have been more likely to commit crimes had they reached maturity than the actual youths who developed from fetuses and carried to term," they argue in a report. Mr. Levitt acknowledged the mistake to The Wall Street Journal, but said it doesn't significantly affect the results of his research: "Does this change my mind on the issue? Absolutely not."

IMMIGRATION If George W. Bush is to push forward his immigration agenda, he'll have to do it over GOP concerns. In late November, the president put forth a guest worker program that, he says, would match willing Hispanic workers with American employers to fill labor positions that American citizens wouldn't want. Critics, many of them to Mr. Bush's right, charge his guest worker program is nothing short of amnesty. Taking a tougher stance, a few Republican congressmen have proposed building a wall.

But in Washington, most politicians have chosen to keep their powder dry on the border issue. In the past decade, Congress has passed a few border bills that became law, but according to the Pew Hispanic Center, illegal immigration has steadily grown in spite of such efforts. The relative silence from Republicans and Democrats on illegal immigration means the tough stance on border security-which polls reveal as popular-is up for grabs.

According to a Pew Research Center poll, 51 percent of Americans believe reducing illegal immigration should be a top priority. According to a CBS survey, more than 75 percent of Americans support tougher border security.

HEALTH Doctors in France last week said they had successfully performed a partial face transplant, the first of its kind in the world. The family of a brain-dead donor had given its consent to use the donor's nose, lips, and chin for the procedure, and the doctors grafted them onto the face of a woman who had been severely disfigured by a dog bite. "The patient's general condition is excellent," the doctors said in a statement, "and the transplant looks normal." But other physicians, such as Stephen Wigmore of the British Transplantation Society, said the procedure should not be performed in cases that aren't life-threatening: "It is not clear whether an individual could be left worse off in the event that a face transplant failed."

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