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GERALD HERBERT/AP

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Shattered dreams," April 5, 2008

Iraq: 2003-2008

"How much longer?" read a banner along the president's route to the Pentagon for a speech March 19 marking the five-year anniversary of the war in Iraq-four days before the U.S. combat death toll in Iraq crossed the 4,000 mark.

President Bush acknowledged in the speech that the war has divided the country: "Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it," he said. But he reiterated: "The answers are clear to me. Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, and this is a fight that America can and must win."

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At a community college in Fayetteville, N.C., near Fort Bragg, Sen. Barack Obama noted that the war in Iraq had now lasted longer than the Civil War, World War I, and World War II, though it has been fought on a scale far below those conflicts.

"Where are we for all of this sacrifice?" he said. "We are less safe and less able to shape events abroad. We are divided at home, and our alliances around the world have been strained."

Sen. Hillary Clinton appeared the same day at an American Legion post in Huntington, W.Va. She argued for a "cautious withdrawal" of troops that would begin within 60 days of her taking office. "Every one of you who has served knows withdrawing troops can be as dangerous as inserting them," she said.

McCain used the anniversary as an occasion to visit Baghdad, and he issued a statement saying that the United States and its allies in Iraq stood "on the precipice of winning a major victory against radical Islamic extremism."

China's flame

Chinese officials promised "normal operation" of the 2008 Olympic torch relay despite deadly riots in Tibet, where the torch is due to travel next month. The torch was lit in Olympia, Greece, on March 24 amid protests from activists pushing Tibetan independence. After a global tour traversing five continents, one leg of the torch relay is scheduled to attempt an ascent to the top of Mount Everest sometime in May. Afterward, that Olympic flame will be taken through Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, where anti-government protests in March left at least 18 civilians and a police officer dead. Exiled Tibetans say as many as 100 Tibetans died.

Love your enemy

How to combat an enemy who has nothing to lose? A web-based ministry called Adopt a Terrorist for Prayer (atfp.org) says it can help Christians follow biblical guidelines to love and pray for enemies-and that means the kind who strap on explosive belts and wander into crowded street markets. The website includes a catalog of at-large terrorists and guidelines for prayer. "They think they are serving God," said ATFP founder Thomas Bruce, but he believes "they are vulnerable to an authentic word from God and to Jesus' forgiving love." Bruce himself could use prayer: Shortly after launching the site he found out he will be deployed to Iraq as a reservist.

Barring race

The U.S. Supreme Court on March 20 underscored a 1986 ruling that bars the use of race in jury selection. In a 7-2 decision, the court reversed the capital conviction of Allen Snyder, a black death-row inmate in Louisiana. Snyder had alleged that James Williams, the state prosecutor in his case, had excluded five African-American jurors because of their race. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said the trial judge committed a "clear error" by accepting Williams' explanation for excluding a particular prospective juror, Jeffery Brooks, who is black. The prosecutor told the judge he felt Brooks would have scheduling problems that might lead him to try to rush a verdict. In the majority opinion, Alito noted that white jurors with scheduling issues did not face similar scrutiny. Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia joined in a dissent, saying that trial judges, who are present as a case unfolds, are in a better position to weigh attorneys' motives in jury selection than are appeals court judges reviewing the facts years later.

School choice

In the wake of a Minneapolis Star Tribune story reporting the overt establishment of Islamic practice at a charter elementary school in the Twin Cities area, the local chapter of the ACLU has initiated an investigation.

The Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) reportedly features carpeted areas for regular daily prayer, a halal menu in the cafeteria, and after-school classes on the Quran, among other religious observances. TIZA received $65,260 in government funds last year.

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