Dispatches > The Buzz


Issue: "Iraq: After the rout," April 26, 2003
long-sought terrorist captured in baghdad
At last count, the Americans, the Italians, and the Palestinians wanted Abu Abbas following his capture April 15. The former leader of a Palestine Liberation Front faction has been hiding out in Baghdad for three years, and on the run for more than a decade after masterminding the 1985 hijacking of the Italian Achille Lauro, during which the wheelchair-bound American Leon Klinghoffer was shot and his body shoved overboard. Mr. Abbas is the first major terrorist American troops have found since Saddam's government fell. The Palestinian Authority has demanded his release, saying his detention violates a 1995 deal that the United States backed granting immunity to PLO members for crimes they committed before the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. The United States has said the deal does not include individuals detained in a country other than Israel. Italy has also joined the fray, seeking to extradite Mr. Abbas. Italian authorities handed him a life sentence in absentia for the hijacking, after first releasing him on grounds of insufficient evidence. Meanwhile, the White House is considering trying Mr. Abbas in American courts on conspiracy or other charges in the murder of Klinghoffer. He will likely also be interrogated about Saddam and the Iraqi dictator's other terrorist ties.
2 on second thought
If you're a dictator, you don't want your name mentioned in the same sentence with "regime change." North Korea's Kim Jong Il after six months of refusal-and a week after the fall of Baghdad-agreed to multilateral talks with China and the United States about his nuclear program. Discussion is not capitulation, but clearly the regime in Pyongyang had an eye on cable television. U.S. victory in Iraq, said South Korea's top security adviser Ra Jong-il, showed the North "it wasn't in an advantageous position internationally." The nuclear dispute flared in October when North Korea admitted it had a clandestine nuclear program in violation of a 1994 agreement. Washington and its allies suspended oil shipments promised under the agreement, and North Korea responded by moving to reactivate frozen nuclear facilities. North Korea has repeatedly refused the return of a team of UN atomic inspectors it booted in December. The inspectors were there as part of a Clinton-era pact reached after North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1993.
quebec non, canada oui
Canadian officials heaved a collective sigh of relief as Quebec separatists suffered their first electoral defeat in nine years on April 14, losing a majority of the provincial assembly's seats to the pro-Canada Liberal Party. The shift squelches the possibility of another referendum on independence in the next three years (or "1,000 days" from the election) that the Parti Quebecois had hoped for. The party last held one in 1995, which it lost by less than 1 percentage point. "It's a confirmation that the threat of separation has disappeared. This is very, very good for Canada," said an elated Jean Chretien, the country's francophone prime minister, who has battled to keep French-speaking Quebec part of Canada. Quebec's Liberal Party leader Jean Charest described the victory as a "mandate for change." The province's voters apparently want a change from the Quebecois' sovereignty-or-bust drumbeat, attracted to Mr. Charest's promises to scale back government intervention in the economy, boost health-care funding, and cut taxes. Parti Quebecois leader Bernard Landry pledged to continue the fight for independence: "What are a few thousand days in the history of a nation?"
wnba near extinction; will anyone notice?
It's bad enough that Martha Burk is on the WNBA players' association bandwagon, but the women's basketball league has postponed its draft and tryouts following the breakdown of union talks. The NBA Board of Governors threatened to cancel the league's seventh season if a deal wasn't reached. The league's four-year collective bargaining agreement expired on Sept. 15. Sports fans hardly notice the 6-year-old league and critics call it a money loser that serves a tiny niche market. The WNBA reorganized last fall in an attempt to stay afloat. It lost two franchises in Miami and Portland after last season; the Utah team moved to San Antonio. In a bizarre move, a Connecticut Indian casino bought the Orlando club and moved it north. (Major pro leagues usually avoid gambling venues.) The NBA's Board of Governors plans to spend $12 million in subsidies to keep the WNBA alive.
losing altitude
There may be light at the end of the tunnel for executives at American Airlines, but they'll have to squint to see it. Even though recent labor concessions bought parent company AMR nearly $1.8 billion in labor concessions, the airline has suffered losses of over $5 billion in the last two years. And The Wall Street Journal reported AMR would soon post $1 billion in losses for the first quarter of 2003. Had American's flight attendants' union not agreed to $340 million in wage concessions, the airline said it would have declared bankruptcy. "This is not a day for rejoicing," said a union spokeswoman. To accommodate the cuts, labor unions agreed to cut almost 6,000 jobs. And a bailout from Washington could net American Airlines more than $400 million. But despite the cuts and gifts from taxpayers, the Fort Worth-based carrier said clear skies are still a long way off. "Given the hostile financial and business environment ... the success of our efforts is not assured," said Donald J. Carty, American chairman and CEO.

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