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Associated Press

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "GOP idea man," May 22, 2010

Iraqis' college try

At one time Iraq boasted of some of the best universities in the Arab world, and college students have been the unsung heroes of a 7-year war-dodging car bombs and threading checkpoints to make it to school. But in the worst attack yet on their class, at least 50 Iraqi Christian students were hospitalized with serious injuries and at least four killed following a bomb attack on May 2 outside Mosul. The attack forced nearly 1,000 students to drop classes for the rest of the semester.

In all 160 were injured in blasts targeting three buses of students traveling from Christian villages east of the city to the University of Mosul. The buses were making a daily route under Iraqi army escort, as many students and their families have fled to the villages to avoid violence in the city.

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"This is the hardest attack, because they attacked not only one car, but the whole convoy and in an area that is heavily guarded by the army," said Syrian Catholic Bishop of Mosul Georges Casmoussa. Another clergyman, Bashar Warda, noted that the victims were not soldiers or activists but "only students carrying their books, pens, their dreams of growing and serving their country."

Mosul church leaders believe the power vacuum is not helping them: Baghdad's failure to form a new government, said Chaldean Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona, is "fertile ground for violence."

The Lord remains

Trinity University board of trustees voted to retain the words "in the year of our Lord" as part of the date on university diplomas after some students petitioned to have the phrase removed. The San Antonio school's board voted that the phrase was appropriate given the history and heritage of the university, which is governed by an independent board but was founded by Presbyterians.

Expanded research

The National Institutes of Health is opening 13 new embryonic stem-cell lines to be eligible for federally funded research, expanding the number of eligible lines to 64. President Obama issued an executive order after he took office loosening restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, but the administration then issued additional guidelines, which meant that embryonic stem-cell lines already approved under President George W. Bush had to be reauthorized. Four of the 13 new lines had already received Bush administration approval.

Congressional pay

Lawmakers to constituents: We feel your pain. Congress voted in late April to block its automatic pay raises for next year. Lawmakers-who make a base salary of $174,000-said no to a $1,600 raise in 2011. Total taxpayer savings: roughly $850,000. This is the third year in a row that so-called cost-of-living adjustments have been rejected. In a move lawmakers cleverly set up years ago to avoid having to actually vote on giving themselves a raise, the law states that members of Congress automatically receive one each year unless they vote it down. But while the Senate passed its version unanimously, 15 House members actually voted against halting the raises.

Adoptions continue

Officials at the U.S. State Department gave good news to an estimated 3,000 American families waiting to adopt Russian orphans: Many adoptions are moving forward, despite reports to the contrary by some Russian officials. The news came two weeks after Russian authorities said they would halt all adoptions of Russian children to U.S. families. The reason: After a Tennessee woman sent her adopted son back to Moscow alone on a plane, Russian authorities said they would suspend adoptions until they signed a new adoption treaty with the United States. Those talks began on April 29, with Pavel Astakhov, Russia's ombudsman for children, telling the BBC that U.S. adoptions remain suspended. But the same day, the U.S. State Department issued a press release for adoptive families, saying, "There has been no official suspension" and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow is still issuing immigrant visas for adopted children: "Many adoption cases are continuing to move forward in the courts."

Nigeria's transition

Six months after Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua disappeared from public view for medical treatment of serious heart problems, a Nigerian television announcer interrupted programming on May 5 with a bulletin: "The president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, died a few hours ago at the presidential villa." The president was 58. Yar'Adua, a Muslim from the country's North, had performed no official duties in months. Those tasks fell to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from Nigeria's South. After Yar'Adua's death, officials swore in Jonathan as the country's next president. Jonathan faces the excruciating task of negotiating a volatile oil crisis and severe internal conflict: Muslim gangs attacked at least three Christian villages in March, slaughtering more than 300 people. The unassuming leader with a dogged work ethic had fervently urged Nigerians to pray for Yar'Adua's return to office. Now Jonathan will need fervent prayers himself.

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