Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "A mighty fortress is our sect," Oct. 20, 2007

Iraq

The State Department said it would not authorize Blackwater officials to speak to the Pentagon or to Iraqi authorities about a Sept. 16 incident in which Blackwater guards opened fire in a busy Baghdad square, killing 17 Iraqis. Based on eyewitness accounts and police evidence, the Iraqi government issued a harsh report claiming the shootings were unprovoked and demanding damages. Accounts so far indicate the incident may have violated counterinsurgency protocol set by Gen. David Petraeus. Another shooting incident Oct. 9 by an Australian security contractor protecting U.S. officials killed two Iraqi Christian women.

Sudan

Southern Sudan removed its ministers from a power-sharing government in Khartoum Oct. 9-a move that could push Sudan closer to renewed civil war. Since a peace deal signed in 2005, Khartoum has stonewalled on sharing oil resources with the South, withdrawing its troops from the region and agreeing to new land boundaries. "We're saying we're not allowing these ministers to continue working until these issues are resolved," said Ezekiel Gatkuoth, head of mission of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Washington.

Courts

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In a ruling with broad implications for the terror war, the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 7 declined to review the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German of Lebanese descent who claims that in 2003 the CIA mistook him for a known terrorist of the same name and detained him for five months. A Virginia judge threw out the case, agreeing with the Bush administration that the "state secrecy" rule barred cases that would reveal national security secrets. The Supreme Court dismissed the case without comment, but will soon consider other challenges to the secrecy rule involving Guantanamo detainees and warrantless wiretapping.

Campaign '08

Fred Thompson made his debate debut as GOP presidential hopefuls sparred in Dearborn, Mich., on Oct. 9. Thompson appeared lackluster as front-runner Rudy Giuliani clashed over the economy with Mitt Romney.

Michigan threw next year's primary schedule into confusion by moving up its date to Jan. 15. Four Democratic candidates say they will boycott the event, and the Democratic Party vowed to strip the state of its delegates to next year's convention. Florida is also under DNC censure-a boon to Republican prospects.

Stars & stripes

Allah but not God? That's the question some lawmakers are asking since learning that the Architect of the Capitol won't allow certificates of authenticity issued with flags flown over the Capitol to mention God. Said Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.): "I can't believe the U.S. House of Representatives can pass a resolution recognizing the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which we did this week, but can't send out certificates with the word 'God' on them."

Crime

Wearing a Marilyn Manson shirt, black jeans, and black nail polish, 14-year-old Asa Coon opened fire with two revolvers on Oct. 10, wounding two students and two teachers at his school in downtown Cleveland before killing himself. Coon had a history of mental problems-his final argument with classmates was over the existence of God-and students had warned administrators that he was dangerous.

Tiny Crandon, Wis., struggled to pick up the pieces after a shooting spree left three adults and three teenagers dead. Tyler Peterson, an off-duty sheriff's deputy, burst into a pizza party at his ex-girlfriend's home and opened fire with an assault rifle Oct. 7. Later Peterson killed himself during a standoff with police. "I keep thinking, like many of the families, that I'm going to wake up and this is not something that happened, that it's just going to be normal again," said Pastor Bill Farr of Praise Chapel Community Church, which all of the victims' families attend.

NYPD

Columbia University must have forgotten there's a war on, and it started just down the street. The university refused to turn over security videotape that could help identify who hung a noose on a black professor's office door-reminiscent of nooses hung around the country that have sparked racial tension. New York's Finest began asking for tapes from cameras in the building, but were rebuffed by administrators, said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne, forcing police to get a court order. That's "a time-consuming step," said Browne. But that's OK because NYPD doesn't have anything better to do.

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