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The Buzz

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Issue: "Ethiopia's new flower," May 31, 2008

India bombings

A series of bombs in the city of Jaipur in northwestern India May 13-nine explosions in under 15 minutes-left 63 people dead and injured 200 others. On May 15 a little-known Islamic group claimed responsibility, calling itself Indian Mujahideen. In emailed video clips, the group said it packed bombs on bicycles-using explosives and ammonium nitrate mixed with ball bearings and wired to timing devices-designed to cause extensive damage.

Mexico's war

Authorities arrested five men allegedly operating on the orders of a Mexican drug cartel linked to the May 8 assassination of Edgar Millan Gomez, acting head of the country's federal police. Millan was the highest-ranking of four senior officers killed since May 1. The government blames the attacks on gangs resisting its crackdown against drug trafficking, and his death prompted stepped-up calls from President George Bush for Congress to approve a $1.4 billion proposal to help fight drug crime in Mexico and Central America.

McCain goes green

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Presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain has distanced himself from President George W. Bush's stand against European-style climate policy. The Arizona senator is proposing a mandatory federal cap-and-trade system aimed at dropping greenhouse gas emissions 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Speaking at an Oregon wind-turbine manufacturer May 12, McCain implicitly rebuked the Bush administration with a promise that he would "not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges."

The prospect of a cap-and-trade program will appeal to independent voters and perhaps even some liberals, but most environmentalists are apt to draw greater comfort from the greener policies and more consistent track record of the likely Democratic nominee Barack Obama. And despite McCain's best effort to save conservative face with talk of a market-based approach, his proposal offends plenty of Republican voters. The current U.S. policy of subsidizing lower-emitting technologies and encouraging voluntary reductions has proved more effective in decreasing CO2 than Europe's largely failing cap-and-trade initiatives.

Embryo engineering

Watchdog groups say science is a step closer to producing "designer babies" after researchers announced they genetically altered a human embryo. The Cornell University study, which was presented last fall but garnered little attention at the time, involved inserting a gene into a nonviable embryo; the embryo cells successfully took up the gene. Dr. Zev Rosenwaks, one of the study's authors, said the purpose of the study was stem-cell research: "None of us wants to make designer babies."

Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, a bill that would allow human-animal embryo research cleared the House of Commons in a preliminary vote May 19. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will face more ethical debates in the coming weeks as amendments are also voted on, including one that seeks to lower the legal abortion limit from 24 weeks to 16 or 18 weeks.

Battle inside Sudan

Darfur refugees already under assault from Sudan's Islamic government braced for retaliation following an attack by Darfur rebels inside the country's second-largest city, Omdurman. The city already is home to untold numbers of Darfurians forcibly relocated out of the western region by the government, as well as home to historic Christian churches. Rebels reportedly made a lightning strike across 400 miles of desert to attack government posts with rapid gunfire within the city, which adjoins the capital of Khartoum just across the Nile. Sixty-five were killed, according to the Reuters news service.

It was the first time the government's far-flung internal enemies struck within the capital center, and JEM rebel leader Khalil Ibrahim promised further attacks, even as the government announced a crackdown on his Islamist militants and cut ties with Chad, which Khartoum suspects of aiding the group. "JEM's strategy and actions are misbegotten, its increasing military unilateralism deplorable," said Darfur expert Eric Reeves. "But we must not lose sight of the enormous frustration within the African Darfuri populations and rebel groups as they continue to confront what's essentially become international tolerance for crimes against humanity-their humanity."

Not welcome

The Alliance Defense Fund is urging three Minneapolis, Minn., elementary schools not to begin testing a new anti-bullying curriculum that was produced by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and transgender advocacy group. The "Welcoming Schools" curriculum, which is geared for K-5 students, focuses on topics of family diversity, gender stereotyping, and anti-gay name-calling. While parents can opt their children out of the program, some concerned parents filed formal objections in March. The district's Curriculum and Instruction Committee will meet May 28 to determine the next steps after hearing from parents and staff.

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