Dispatches > The Buzz


Issue: "Troops hunt for weapons," June 14, 2003
fashionably early
For a time the biggest question about President Bush's Euro-to-Red Sea tour was: Will they be obliged to serve Poland spring water at Evian? Mr. Bush may have imbibed the French resort's famous mineral water, but his heart was plainly in New Europe. The president stopped in Krakow ahead of the G-8 summit to thank Poland for its support of the war in Iraq and to drink in a stars-and-stripes reception from the only nation in continental Europe to send troops into Iraq. "This is a time for all of us to unite in the defense of liberty and to step up to the shared duties of free nations," the president told a rapt audience. Unity was the theme of the journey, as the president met with his fiercest opponents of war-Vladimir Putin of Russia and Jacques Chirac of France. Prolonged handshakes for the camera aside, Mr. Bush indicated he won't forfeit his own agenda for the sake of transatlantic reconciliation. He departed a day early-leaving his own seat empty at Evian for choppier waters in the Middle East. There, the president conferred with Mideast heads of state in Egypt, then sat down to a tripartite summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan. If words count, the meeting was a winner: The Israeli prime minister pledged to dismantle "unauthorized outposts" of Jewish settlements; Mr. Abbas conceded "the armed intifada must end." But despite good vibes among the three leaders, who spent 40 minutes alone together, it's not likely the road map to peace in the Middle East will be paved with good intentions. Iran's intentions also came under scrutiny: The State Department's top arms-control official testified before a congressional committee on June 4 that the United States has evidence Iran is developing a clandestine nuclear-weapons program. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said Iran is developing "a uranium mine, a uranium conversion facility, a massive uranium enrichment facility designed to house tens of thousands of centrifuges, and a heavy water production plant." Such a facility, he said, would support the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons. Despite claims from Iran that its nuclear program is "peaceful" and "transparent," Mr. Bolton said the Bush administration is convinced otherwise.
a persecuted celebrity?
This month's Martha Stewart Living magazine contains its namesake's calendar: June 4, "Clean clothes-dryer vents; replace its hoses." It said nothing about appearing in federal court to answer a grand-jury indictment on securities fraud and obstruction of justice charges. Ms. Stewart and her former stockbroker pleaded innocent to the charges stemming from her sale of 4,000 shares of ImClone stock one day before the price plummeted after a negative government report. ImClone's president, a personal friend of Ms. Stewart's, has pleaded guilty to charges he used insider information to dump the stock before the bad news hit the street. Her lawyer accused the government of attacking his client because of her celebrity and her gender: "Is it because she is a woman who has successfully competed in a man's business world by virtue of her talent, hard work, and demanding standards?" The U.S. attorney said the case is not about "who she is, but what she did." What she did, the indictment alleges, was protect herself from stock losses thanks to an insider tip-and then lie about it to investigators. That saved her about $45,000, but the ensuing controversy has cost nearly 10,000 times that amount. Shares in her own company, Martha Stewart Omnimedia, have plunged almost 50 percent since the investigation began, shaving some $400 million off her net worth. She stepped down as CEO of the company hours after the indictment was handed down.
terror trial: 3 for 4
Nearly two years after a massive roundup of terror suspects in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Justice Department won its first guilty verdicts in a Detroit courtroom last week, but the result was mixed. Two Moroccans-Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi and Karim Koubriti-were found guilty of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists, as well as various lesser fraud charges. A third defendant, Ahmed Hannan, was convicted of conspiracy to engage in fraud and misuse of visas, while a fourth, Farouk Ali-Haimoud, was acquitted on all charges. The convictions brought a cheer from Attorney General John Ashcroft and sighs of relief throughout the Justice Department. Some in Washington had been pushing for secret military tribunals for terror suspects, but that was deemed politically explosive. Instead, the four defendants were tried before a jury in open court, using standard rules of evidence. Across-the-board verdicts of not guilty would have endangered the government's case against other terror suspects still awaiting trial. Prosecutors claimed all four men were members of a sleeper cell waiting to carry out attacks against Americans. They said the accused conspired to help terrorists by raising money, obtaining false documents, and gathering information. The lone man acquitted, however, maintained the group's innocence: "There is no cell; it's all a lie."

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