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Issue: "The cost of war," Feb. 15, 2003
columbia reaction
The Columbia tragedy showed the best and worst about the Internet. Within hours of the crash, sellers offered for sale on eBay debris purportedly recovered from the wreckage. The online auction site quickly pulled the listings and warned sellers they could be prosecuted. What eBay didn't pull were listings of Columbia mission patches-which retail for $4.95 at the Smithsonian in Washington, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and The Space Store in Houston-seeking 10 to 100 times the value. "It's a tragedy, and you've got greedy people wanting to profit off it," complained Andrew Nagle, vice president of the company that manufactures the official NASA patches. Mr. Nagle said his company made 30,000 of them-so they're not particularly rare-and plans to make more at no markup. The Net also offered uplifting newspaper reports of the astronauts' personal stories, including videos and audio links, and respectful treatment of their faith. One site offered a clip of the church choir shuttle commander Rick Husband belonged to, singing "Before the Throne of God Above." (More coverage, p. 19.) Some coverage of the tragedy in Islamic news media was reprehensible. Some writers expressed sympathy for the dead Americans, but had no sorrow for the first Israeli astronaut, Col. Ilan Ramon, who also perished in the crash. Hamed Salamin, a columnist for the United Arab Emirates daily Al-Bayan, said news of the death of Col. Ramon-an Israeli fighter pilot who bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor-was "enough to arouse joy in every heart that beats Arabism and Islam." On the streets of Baghdad, many Iraqis applauded the Columbia disaster. One government employee told reporters, "God is avenging us." As the Dover military mortuary received the remains of the Columbia astronauts, officials there were bracing to handle a large influx of casualties (see cover story, p. 16) as the United States inches closer to war in Iraq.
north korea: nukes, inc.
Iraq remains at the top of Washington's list of threatening dictatorships, but North Korea seems intent to draw as much attention as it can. North Korea's official KCNA news agency last week reported that the nation had reactivated its nuclear power facilities with plans to use them to generate electricity "at the present stage." Reacting to the news, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pointed out that North Korea's "terrorist regime" could use the restarted facilities to make nuclear weapons for itself or nuclear materials to sell to others. "And that's something the world has to take very seriously," he added. Mr. Rumsfeld noted that U.S. officials had determined that North Korea has "one or two nuclear weapons" already.
hockey hullabaloo
They went to a hockey game and a bankruptcy court proceeding almost broke out. This side of the National Hockey League's All-Star game, the hockey press typically focuses on the playoff push, with Stanley CupÐcompetitive teams looking to wheel and deal to add that missing player who puts them over the top. Not this year. The sorry state of business affairs in the NHL-franchises in Buffalo and Ottawa are bankrupt, a player lockout looms in September 2004-dominated the coverage. One of hockey's greats, Brett Hull of the Detroit Red Wings, provided sports writers the perfect news hook when he opined in an interview that 75 percent of the league is overpaid and indicated the NHL players' association is going to have to swallow a salary cap if the game is to survive. The $5-million-a-year superstar's colleagues didn't appreciate the comments, though at least one was honest enough to agree. "Me? Overpaid? Sure I am," admitted Dallas Stars forward Bill Guerin (five-year, $45 million contract). "As soon as I signed my contract in Dallas, I knew I was making more than I should." No player mustered a serious argument against the Hull remarks, other than, essentially: We don't sign the checks; we just deposit them. In the last decade, NHL salaries have grown almost fivefold. Now, 50 players make more than $5 million a year. Those 50 players gobble up about twice what all NHL teams earn in TV revenue, which is less than a tenth of the National Football League's take. The NHL has 20 months to right itself, or the coolest game on ice is headed for a deeper freeze.
a penny earned
A few years ago, the Nasdaq stock market was home to high fliers, dot-coms, and IPOs whose prices soared. Now the exchange is littered with hundreds of companies that sell for under $1 a share. Nasdaq officials are supposed to delist these underachievers, but now they want to be more lenient. Nasdaq's board is seeking SEC approval for a plan to give fallen stocks 180 days to boost their price above the $1 mark. Supporters say the plan gives hurting companies a chance to recuperate during a troubled economy. Some even want the $1 minimum removed entirely. Opponents say the market must remove dead wood, especially undeserving companies that were unwisely touted during the dot-com bubble. Schaeffer's Investment Research reported that 482 out of the 3,680 Nasdaq stocks currently trade below $1.

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