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Dispatches The Buzz

The Buzz

IRAQ Election winners raced to construct a coalition capable of governing Iraq ahead of a nasty bout of violence that killed at least 130 Iraqis and five U.S. soldiers in a day on Jan. 5. A suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the Shiite Imam Hussein shrine in central Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, killing 49 people and injuring at least 50 more. In Ramadi, 50 people were killed and dozens were wounded when a bomb was detonated near an Iraqi police recruitment and screening drive. A roadside bomb in Baghdad killed the five U.S. soldiers.

ISRAEL The Israeli political scene, said David Parsons from Jerusalem, "has received an immense and sudden shock" after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke Jan. 4. Mr. Sharon, at 77 the oldest living prime minister, took office in 2001 and had scheduled elections for March. The stroke, his second in a month, occurred less than 24 hours before he was scheduled for heart surgery to relieve the stroke risk. It led to a brain hemorrhage doctors were unable to stop. Mr. Parsons, spokesman for Jerusalem's International Christian Embassy, noted, "It is widely accepted that the major bleeding in his brain overnight has effectively ended his political career." Power transferred to Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who may serve as acting prime minister for 100 days (see "A warrior's last battle").

SCANDAL Lobbyist Jack Abramoff entered federal court in Washington Jan. 3 to plead guilty to one charge each of conspiracy, mail fraud, and tax evasion-charges that carry a maximum of 30 years in prison. A day later he entered a plea in Florida related to his purchase of a fleet of casino cruise ships from a man who was murdered a few months later. Part of Mr. Abramoff's plea agreement includes providing evidence likely to involve prominent politicos in a web of illegal transactions and money laundering over casino gambling on tribal lands. It may further illuminate the role played by former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed and other name evangelicals, who participated in Mr. Abramoff's lobbying schemes (see "House of cards").

DISCLOSURE Doug Bandow resigned from his position with the Cato Institute and had his column suspended by the Copley syndicate Dec. 15 after revelations that Jack Abramoff paid him to write columns favorable to clients of the indicted lobbyist. Mr. Bandow wrote "Beltway Books" columns for WORLD in 1996 and 1997, as well as seven freelance articles for this magazine from 1998 through 2002 and one more last year, but told WORLD that none of those were paid for by lobbyists or special interests. He said of his Abramoff work, "It was stupid and my fault." Mr. Bandow said he thought he could ethically do the Abramoff work because in these cases his own Christian and libertarian-leaning beliefs were in line with the lobbyist's positions. He missed, though, a key distinction: Biblically ethical journalists push for transparency, which means that they may be professionally involved with think tanks or causes as long as that is publicly divulged so that conflicts of interest are visible. Hidden ties break faith with readers.

RELIGION Positive-think preacher Robert H. Schuller, 79, announced Jan. 1 that his son Robert, 51, will succeed him as senior pastor of Crystal Cathedral, the world-famous glass-walled church in Garden Grove, Calif. The elder Schuller founded the church in 1955, when he preached atop a snack bar at a drive-in movie theater.

TRAGEDY Hymn singing turned to angry dirges after mining families near Tallmansville, W.Va., learned their loved ones were not alive. Rescue overseers with International Coal Group admitted they had miscommunicated in first proclaiming most of the miners alive. All but one, in fact, had died of oxygen deprivation after a Jan. 2 blast trapped the workers in a shaft 260 feet below the surface of the Sago Mine.

SCIENCE Armed with a U.S. district court decision that labels Intelligent Design (ID) as unconstitutional in public schools, the newly elected Dover Area School Board wiped a four-paragraph evolution disclaimer from its ninth-grade biology curriculum Jan. 3. The ruling from Judge John E. Jones III, a Bush appointee, classified ID as a dishonest movement bent on sneaking creationism into science classrooms.

Scientific elitism, according to field researcher Charley Dewberry, threatens not only Intelligent Design advances but science itself. As long as scientists believe they are "the final authorities" in a philosophical debate, he said, "we will not have any reasoned discourse" on origins (see "Endangered species").

FILM Brokeback Mountain led contenders Jan. 5 for the Screen Actors Guild Awards with four nominations. Critics hope the film will do for homosexual couples what Guess Who's Coming to Dinner did for race relations (see "Movie review").