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The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Elephant in the room," Nov. 3, 2007

Disaster

President Bush toured southern California after four days of wildfires touched off by high winds and dry air torched 695 square miles from the Mexican border to Malibu, and inland into the San Bernardino Mountains. The fires killed 10, caused an estimated $1 billon in damage and destroyed at least 1,600 homes. Particularly hard hit are families who also lost property in devastating 2003 fires. "It's hard to describe what it's like to face the possibility of rebuilding again," Christopher Kelley told WORLD. "We lost everything in 2003. I needed to change my clothes and I didn't have any clothes. I needed to brush my teeth and I didn't have a toothbrush. I needed to shave and I didn't have a razor."

Kansas

National pro-life leaders will urge all members of Congress to suspend more than $300 million in federal funding of Planned Parenthood until a criminal case brought in Kansas against the group is settled. Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline has filed a 107-count complaint against the abortion provider stemming from alleged illegal late-term abortions, and a district judge declared Oct. 17 there is "probable cause" to proceed. "No Member of Congress-no matter how liberal or committed to abortion-supports sending taxpayer dollars to organizations who break the law, as in performing illegal late-term abortions," noted spokesman Keith Appell.

Housing

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Different pictures of the U.S. housing market emerged last week, with the National Association of Realtors claiming sales of existing homes dropped sharply by 8 percent in September, while the Commerce Department reported that sales of new U.S. homes rose by 4.8 percent. Michael Schenk, senior economist with Credit Union National Association and Affiliates, said that means "some good news" about housing. "But it's clear that we're not out of the woods-far from it."

Islam

A federal panel recommended that a private Islamic school in Virginia supported by the Saudi government be shut down until officials can determine the school's connections to radical Islam.

Islamic Saudi Academy, with nearly 1,000 students grades K-12, earned the nickname "Terror High" after a report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom cited "lack of religious freedom" and "promotion of religious extremism" in the curriculum, as well as alums implicated in a 2005 terror plot.

Medicine

His U.S. Surgeon General nomination on hold over his views on homosexuality, Kentucky cardiologist James Holsinger recused himself from an October meeting of the United Methodist Judicial Council, of which he is the president. The council, the denomination's equivalent of the Supreme Court, was set to deliberate on the case of Baltimore pastor Drew Phoenix, a female Methodist pastor who underwent a sex change in order to live as a man. Holsinger declined to preside over the proceedings because he said his stalled nomination would be a "distraction."

Congress

House and Senate Democrats face a tough call: Accept pending compromises on warrantless wiretapping and appear soft on the president? Or reject them and appear soft on terrorism? A Senate Intelligence Committee bill to sanction warrantless wiretapping is under challenge by a bipartisan panel of the Judiciary Committee that wants court approval even to permit overseas wiretaps. Meanwhile in the House, attempts to protect warrantless wiretapping have stalled as Democrats debate a GOP amendment that would relieve justice officials from needing court approval to conduct surveillance of Osama Bin Laden, al-Qaeda, or other foreign terrorist groups targeting America. The amendment could let the Bush administration off the hook for much of its past wiretapping actions but is drawing Democratic support nonetheless.

A majority of Republicans blocked a bill Oct. 24 that would have given some children of illegal aliens legal U.S. status. Qualified children would be eligible for federal student loans and other benefits under the provision.

Iran

The Bush administration launched new and untried sanctions against Iran Oct. 25, the broadest measures taken since 1979, in a bid to squeeze the Islamic regime into dropping nuclear ambitions and its support of terrorism. The ruling designates the Revolutionary Guards as proliferators of WMD, calls the Quds Force a supporter of terrorism, and fingers three major Iranian banks. President Bush called reports that the diplomatic chokehold could be a prelude to military action "baseless gossip."

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