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The top five stories of the week

Issue: "America's best & worst," Feb. 1, 2003
hurry up and wait
Saddam Hussein must disarm now. If not, President Bush promises "serious consequences" if the United States invades. Warnings continue as another 20,000 National Guard and Reserve troops prepare for active duty. "We're ready now," announced Gen. Richard Myers. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said troops can wait for "several months, no problem" for the right moment-even as the Iraqi weather heats up. If necessary, fresh forces will replace early arrivals. Saddam's forces boasted they shot down "an American reconnaissance plane," but Washington denied the claim. Officials also brushed aside Iraqi fig leaves: promises to help UN inspectors, to allow private interviews with its scientists, and to investigate 16 uncovered warheads. Secretary of State Colin Powell urged allies to concentrate on Iraq's failure to dump its forbidden arms. French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and other countries are pressuring America to suspend war plans.
kuwait casualties
Officials say Sami al-Mutairi, a Kuwaiti civil servant, is the assassin who gunned down an American engineer and injured another. Crown prince Sheik Saad Al Abdullah Al Sabah condemned the "terrorist act" and sent condolences to President Bush. Authorities say Mr. al-Mutairi, who is in custody, was not working alone. David Caraway, who works for the California-based software developer Tapestry Solutions, is still recovering from chest, arm, and thigh wounds. He and co-worker Michael Rene Poulio were heading away from Camp Doha, an American base, in a four-wheel-drive Toyota. When they pulled up to a stoplight, one or more gunmen ambushed them with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and then escaped. Mr. Poulio was killed and Mr. Caraway was taken to a Kuwait City hospital. "We are not a country of angels," said Kuwaiti Parliament Speaker Jassem al-Kharafi.
estrada hits his stride
President Bush wants to place Miguel Estrada one step away from the Supreme Court. If he wins Senate approval, Mr. Estrada will be the first Hispanic appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch said his committee would make the nomination its first order of business. The Honduran native was on President Bush's legal team during the 2000 Florida recount mess. Mr. Bush nominated him last year, but Democrat leaders hindered him (and 30 other nominees). Both the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Puerto Rican Legal and Defense Fund opposed his nomination. Supporters accused Democrats of mistreating a well-qualified conservative Hispanic. If approved, Mr. Estrada will help decide cases about federal regulations from clean air to labor practices to campaign finance reform.
don't end it like this
Last year's All Star game ended in an embarrassing 7-7 tie. Major League Baseball doesn't want it to happen again, so team owners support a clever new plan: Give the All Star game winner home-field advantage in the World Series. The champion of the league that wins the All Star game would host Games 1, 2, 6, and 7 in the best-of-seven championship series. Home-field advantage has alternated between the leagues since the first World Series in 1903; the advantaged team won 15 of the last 17 titles. Owners gave unanimous support, but players will decide whether to make the rule change happen. Their union has not yet taken a position, but some players don't want to give the game more significance. Chicago White Sox catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., a six-time All Star, said the idea is crazy. Commissioner Bud Selig likes it, however. He said the All Star contest "should not be a meaningless exhibition game."
home run
Real estate is booming thanks to record-low interest rates. Even people in their early 20s are considering buying their first homes. Some call it a boom and others call it a bubble, but the Commerce Department announced that housing starts hit 1.7 million in 2002. It was the best year in home construction since 1986. Optimists say home sales will continue to soar this year. Bearish observers wonder how long families can afford to go house hunting, since the unemployment rate ended 2002 at an eight-year high. They say the Federal Reserve props up the market by holding down key interest rates as Wall Street muddles in mediocrity. A 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage could be had for 5.95 percent last month, according to Freddie Mac. That's the lowest level since the early 1960s.

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