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Issue: "Beginning of the end," March 29, 2003
palestinian map maker
Yasser Arafat bowed to international pressure and selected deputy Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in a new power-sharing arrangement. Palestinian legislators hail the move as the dawn of reform. The Palestinian Legislative Council approved Mr. Arafat's choice on March 18 but rebuffed his attempts to limit the powers of the new position. Mr. Arafat will retain command of security forces, foreign policy, and peace talks with Israel, but will lose the right to select cabinet ministers. Mr. Abbas will control the Authority's internal affairs, and now has three weeks to form a new government. The United States welcomed creation of the new post, which President Bush had said was a condition before he would reveal details of the much-touted, internationally backed "road map" for Middle East peace and Palestinian statehood. Mr. Abbas, 67, is a moderate who has earned the respect of the United States for condemning recent Palestinian attacks on Israelis. His rise is a first step toward regaining the credibility Mr. Arafat has lost as a negotiator. But as American bombs rained on Baghdad, progress on the new peace plan could be sidelined for weeks.
no pork for oil
"I'm mad enough to eat nails right now," seethed Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) after losing a Senate vote to place up to 1.4 million barrels of Alaskan crude per day on the volatile oil market. The congressional debate over oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been going on for 15 years, and supporters thought last week represented their best chance to open 2,000 acres to drilling. It may have been, but they lost, 52-48. Eight Republicans broke ranks on an amendment to strip from the budget resolution a provision that approved drilling. Opponents generally and the Republican defectors especially will feel the wrath of Sen. Stevens, chairman of the appropriations committee, the powerful panel that decides how federal money is spent. "People who vote against this today are voting against me and I will not forget," he declared, appearing to aim his remarks at the amendment's sponsor, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Said Sen. Boxer: "When one of the most powerful senators says he takes it personally, and he's keeping a list.... Well, my heart really started to beat faster." Environmentalists' hearts beat for the polar bears, caribou, and migratory birds they believe will be harmed by oil exploration. Supporters counter that modern technology could extract the oil without disturbing wildlife, that the drilling area is relatively small, and that the economic benefit of putting on the market more oil than currently produced by either California or Texas outweighs the risks.
cleared for landing?
Unless United Airlines secures $2.54 billion in labor concessions, the world's second-largest carrier said it would be forced out of business. The warning, made in a court filing, was United's bleakest assessment yet of its prospects. United has long been battling labor unions for deep concessions, and some experts say the statement about liquidation may be a tool to force flexibility in the unions' stance towards the carrier. United's flight attendants union discounted the airline's announcement: "Liquidation is not an option for United Airlines." The United announcement highlighted a week of bad news for the domestic airline industry, and analysts said it confirms the industry's worsening situation. Continental Airlines, hoping to save as much as $500 million, said it will lay off 1,200 workers by the end of 2003. "We feel like a candle that is losing its oxygen supply and dimming slowly," Continental chairman and chief executive Gordon Bethune said, vowing his airline wouldn't join other carriers filing for bankruptcy protection. "We are not going to sit idly by and wait for others to save us. We can no longer wait."
tractor's trail
A 48-hour standoff between Washington, D.C., police and a disgruntled tobacco farmer left many to wonder how authorities could possibly deal with terrorists if they're not able to quickly handle a tractor-driving North Carolinian. Protesting the plight of farmers, Dwight Watson, 50, of Whitakers, N.C., drove his tractor into a pond near the Washington Monument on March 17 and would not budge for two days. Mr. Watson finally surrendered on March 19, but not before the farmer caused major traffic delays. Washington residents were left to wonder throughout the standoff how one farmer could create so much chaos for commuters. "What this shows is, one or two people can really throw a metropolitan area into chaos," said Richard Clarke, who recently retired as one of the longest-serving, senior counter-terrorism officials in the White House. "I assume that the sniper incident, the anthrax incidents, and perhaps the tractor incident are not lost on people who might want to make further mischief in the future."

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