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The Buzz

The latest on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "Darfur," Nov. 25, 2006

Sudan

The UN convened a high-level meeting in Ethiopia Nov. 16 with Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposing a "hybrid" UN peacekeeping force supporting African troops for Darfur after Sudan rejected UN plans for bringing security to Darfur. Diplomats are more desperate to contain the regional conflict after eyewitnesses reported that hundreds of Chadians have been killed in the last 10 days by Arab gunmen. Villagers believe the gunmen are connected with the janjaweed militias responsible for more than three years' death and destruction in Darfur. Chad declared a state of emergency and accused Sudan of preparing the ground for "a large-scale war" by arming the militias and sparking tribal disputes. But Sudanese officials told WORLD they want to disarm the militias and improve development in the province. To do that, they are courting American evangelicals and asking the United States to drop punitive economic sanctions. They also claim the humanitarian crisis is easing, despite widespread reports this month of fighting in all three Darfur states and the pullout of one key Norwegian relief group providing aid to the displaced.

Iraq

Iraq's Minister of Education called on universities to close after a brazen attack on ministry offices Nov. 14 in which about 55 men were kidnapped. The attack took place at 9:30 a.m. in central Andalus Square. More than 50 gunmen dressed in camouflage stormed the five-story building on the pretext that they were clearing it for a visit of the U.S. ambassador. Some, but not all, were later released in an incident Baghdad residents said illustrates the breakdown of basic security in the capital under President Nouri al-Maliki.

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Democrats will use the lack of security to press for troop reductions with Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East. "I would hope and expect that we're going to be given some indication at that hearing that they see the need to change direction," said Sen. Carl Levin, who will take control of the Senate Armed Services Committee next year.

Election '06

One week after a roller-coaster recount, election clerks confirmed Connecticut challenger Joe Courtney's victory over Republican incumbent Rob Simmons-but by a margin of 91 votes instead of the 167-vote margin counted on election night out of 250,000 votes cast. Other close races ended without threat of recounts or litigation, despite irregularities. Courts nationwide remained largely silent following the tightly contested midterm balloting-a dramatic departure from recent elections. Some conservatives contend Republicans are simply better losers. Others credit new voter-identification laws for reducing fraud.

Crime

Jack Abramoff became inmate No. 27593-112 at a minimum-security facility in western Maryland. The once-celebrated Washington lobbyist reported to prison at 6:30 a.m. Nov. 15 to begin serving a six-year sentence for a fraudulent deal to buy a fleet of casino ships in Florida. Abramoff awaits further sentencing in a sweeping corruption case likely to involve members of Congress and congressional aides.

Vietnam

President Bush began an eight-day tour of Asia without an important item in tow: a free-trade agreement with Vietnam. In a portent of how a Democratic majority may view trade relations, Congress in a surprise move on Nov. 13 voted down a bill to normalize trade relations with Vietnam-a deal some 10 years in the making (story, p. 27). The same day, the United States removed Vietnam from its 2006 list of the world's worst violators of religious freedom. Two years of diplomacy have brought significant improvements in religion laws and church registrations, the State Department said. By contrast, downward-spiraling Uzbekistan landed on the list for the first time.

Congress

Sen. Trent Lott, ousted from the top Senate Republican leadership job four years ago because of remarks considered racially insensitive, won election to the No. 2 post for the minority GOP in the next Congress. The Republican caucus elected Lott after unanimously electing Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to be the Senate minority leader in the new Congress, replacing retiring Senator Bill Frist. Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Minority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois will become majority leader and majority whip, respectively.

House Democrats caucused to choose leaders Nov. 16, with House Republicans scheduled to elect theirs Nov. 17.

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