IRAQ For five straight days President George Bush delivered speeches across the country defending the war in Iraq. "I cannot look mothers and dads in the eye, I can't ask this good Marine to go into harm's way if I didn't believe, one, we're going to succeed, and, two, it's necessary for the security of the United States," an alternately fierce, plainspoken, and cajoling president told an audience in Wheeling, W.Va. But agencies within his own administration have been slow to help the president defend his pre-war rationale.
Three years after the war began, national intelligence director John Negroponte bowed March 16 to pressure from Capitol Hill and the White House to release declassified documents captured in Iraq and Afghanistan. One week later intelligence sources had released 125 files-a dismal fraction of what's been assembled by Central Command. Nonetheless, the initial document dump reveals an Iraqi regime intent on thwarting UN resolutions, dedicated to producing weapons of mass destruction, and hard-wired to terror factions from the Middle East to the Philippines. (See "History speaks")
Iraqi families, meanwhile, celebrated Norooz, a high family holiday marked by picnics and family outings on the first day of spring, despite ongoing violence. "I know the situation in the country is frustrating," Salah Mehdi told The Washington Post as he led his family into a Baghdad amusement park. "But we don't count how many times we die. It is only one time, and before it we should enjoy."
Relief workers had cause to celebrate, too, after U.S. and British troops on March 23 freed three aid workers for Christian Peacemakers, ending a four-month hostage drama in which an American among the group was shot to death and dumped on a Baghdad street. The hostages were held by a "kidnapping cell" in a western Baghdad house. The troops raided the house and easily freed captives Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney, and Norman Kember three hours after capturing a man who led U.S. forces to the location.
AFGHANISTAN Who said the Afghans are U.S. pawns? Trial judge Ansarullah Mawlazezadah said he would not be persuaded by international pressure, including a plea from President Bush, to free an Afghan man accused of converting from Islam to Christianity. Abdul Rahman, 41, who converted 16 years ago while working with aid workers and refugees in Pakistan, is charged with rejecting Islam and could face the death penalty under Shariah law, which can still be enforced by Afghanistan's conservative judiciary despite a moderating new constitution. The judge has two months to make a decision, according to Open Doors, a U.S. group that monitors persecution.
INDIA After weeks of hiding underground, Emmanuel Ministries leader Samuel Thomas was arrested in New Delhi on March 16. The ministry's orphanage in the Indian state of Rajasthan has been under siege for the past month by Hindu radicals who accuse the ministry of disrupting the caste system. (See "Under siege," March 25). Christians in Rajasthan have been under increasing attacks from Hindu extremists who have infiltrated local governments and want to see India become a Hindu state. Lawyers are appealing to the state's high court to set bond for Mr. Thomas and the three other ministry leaders being held without charge. Radicals have placed a bounty on the lives of Mr. Thomas and his father, ministry founder Bishop M.A. Thomas, 71, who remains in hiding, but one ministry leader was released last week.
ABORTION The National Institutes of Health have revealed that the United States suffers from a data gap on the negative emotional fallout of abortion-fallout that pro-abortion groups have long claimed does not exist. After a 25-year New Zealand study released in January showed a strong link between abortion and severe mental illness, U.S. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) wrote to NIH asking whether "any studies of comparable rigor" had been published on U.S. women, according to a Culture of Life report. NIH wrote back, saying they were "not aware of any similar data sets that currently exist in the United States." NIH also told Mr. Souder that the New Zealand study is not wholly applicable to American women because of cultural differences and that NIH has no post-abortion studies of U.S. women in the offing.
Heritage Foundation scholar Patrick Fagan said NIH's admission shows that America's top medical researchers have already made up their minds on abortion-and not based on science: "The NIH letter says we have no good data, we cannot compare with anybody else's data and we don't have any specific suggestions for acquiring this data. In other words, we are blind and intend to stay blind."
EDUCATION Over 4,000 students received incorrect scores on SAT tests taken in October, the College Board said last month. Their scores should have been higher, and the board has begun notifying students and colleges about the errors. The board says it will not lower about 600 scores that were incorrectly high.
CULTURE The activist homosexual group Soulforce last month began a bus tour of Christian college campuses across the country, calling its venture "Equality Ride" (see "Uninvited guests," March 4). Members of the group were arrested for trespassing at Liberty and Regent Universities. At the third stop, Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., school officials allowed Soulforce members on campus and students engaged them in polite debate. (See "Forgiving their trespass")
POLITICS The battle over immigration heated up last week as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) threatened a filibuster if Majority Leader Bill Frist brings a bill to the floor without the approval of the Judiciary Committee. A major dispute is whether to include "guest worker" provisions in a reform bill; President Bush and Sen. Reid have both called for such a provision, but Sen. Frist's bill doesn't include one.
U.S. and Mexican officials are also worried about drugs crossing the border, but not even the Mexican army has been able to stop a territory war between rival drug gangs in Nuevo Laredo. More than 50 people have been killed in the border city so far this year, including four federal officers. (See "Border War")