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Issue: "Portable Pentagon," March 1, 2003
'al-qaeda is coming'
Federal authorities followed announcements of Code Orange threat levels to Americans with arrests of suspected terrorists. FBI agents in Tampa took into custody Sami al-Arian, a tenured University of South Florida engineering professor, on charges of leading Islamic Jihad's organization in the United States. Another USF professor, Sameeh Hammoudeh, was arrested on similar charges, along with two others. Mr. al-Arian, a Palestinian born in Kuwait, has called for "jihad" and "holy war against Israel," though he maintains he is opposed to violence. In handcuffs, the professor called out to reporters, "It's all about politics," as agents led him into the FBI building. But it is likely that fundraising and other activities for Islamic Jihad and Hamas will land him in jail. The arrests are part of "a very tight game," according to Walid Phares, associate professor at Florida Atlantic University, for U.S. authorities who want to eliminate terror organizers before they launch strikes on American soil, particularly in conjunction with an invasion of Iraq. "We know that al-Qaeda is coming," Mr. Phares told WORLD. "This wave of arrests may be a preemptive move to prevent strikes of terrorists ahead of time."
europe vs. europe
Why pummel your opponent while his friends are jumping him in the ring? The Bush administration backed away from squabbles over Iraq while Old and New Europe went after each other. Former Eastern Bloc nations held together with Great Britain, Italy, and Spain to force a statement of solidarity with the United States from the European Union, goaded by a vitriolic attack from French president Jacques Chirac. He said the new European nations were "badly brought up" and ignorant of the dangers of alignment between the United States and the EU on security. Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy replied that he was "too well brought up to respond to comments like that." While French and German opposition is hampering U.S. coalition-building toward war, a little grit on the track may not be all bad. The standoff is giving U.S. authorities time to snuff out terror cells plotting retaliatory attacks ahead of military action.
The economy will steadily improve as long as the Iraq war doesn't drag out. That's the word from the National Association for Business Economics, which concludes that a quick resolution will soothe investor insecurity. The panel of 37 economists also says that President Bush's $1.3 trillion tax-cut plan will give America a moderate boost. America is technically not in a recession and various economic litmus tests provide conflicting details. Oil prices remain high and U.S. crude inventories have plummeted to the lowest level since 1975. Bankruptcy filings jumped to a record high last year, according to government figures. Credit-card and consumer debts are especially high. Yet new home construction hit a 16-year peak in January, thanks to ultra-low interest rates.
god-less constitution?
The European Union already has a currency. Now it's working on a constitution. The Brussels panel writing it last month released its first drafts of articles on the EU's values, objectives, and powers, and on the fundamental rights of EU nationals. Missing is any mention of God. The omission has sparked contentious debate across Europe between those who think the document should reflect the purely secular nature of EU and those who believe many values are connected to the continent's spiritual roots. Nations supportive of a reference to God are Poland, Italy, Germany, and Slovakia, which proposed saying merely that EU values "include the values of those who believe in God" as well as those who don't. The Czech representative blasted it as "a stupid idea [that] will only provoke disagreements." As London's Guardian concluded: "Unusually for Brussels, compromise seems unlikely. 'Putting God into the constitution is simply in the too-difficult-to-agree category,' one diplomat said. 'Therefore there will probably be nothing.'" Any revisions will come via amendments and other changes from the European Convention, now mulling over the drafts.
lethal combination
When major-league baseball avoided an all-but-certain strike last summer, the players and the owners agreed on a drug-testing regime. One substance they didn't agree to ban from the game-unlike the Olympics, the NCAA, and the NFL-was the supplement ephedrine. The weight-loss stimulant is blamed for contributing to the death of Baltimore Orioles prospect Steve Bechler, who collapsed on the practice field and died the next day. Mr. Bechler, a third-round draft pick in 1998, was fighting problems with his weight and conditioning. Manager Mike Hargrove pulled him from running drills the day before; the next day he failed again to complete the drills, but his internal temperature spiked to 108 degrees before he passed out. The pitcher became pale and dizzy and was taken away in an ambulance. He died the next morning, with his wife, Kiley, due to deliver their first child in April, at his bedside.

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