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Issue: "How to fix baseball," June 21, 2003
1
the hamas roadblock
Palestinian terrorist leaders followed through on promises to disrupt a roadmap to peace in the Middle East. Well, at least they hired an 18-year-old to do it for them. A young suicide bomber named Abdul Shabaneh stepped onto a bus in downtown Jerusalem on June 11 wired with military-grade explosives. Dressed as an orthodox Jew, the high-school student from Hebron detonated himself and killed 16 others. The bombing injured more than 120 on busy Jaffa Street during the city's rush hour. Early reports said one of the wounded was the daughter of New Jersey State Sen. Robert Singer. The attack set the region once again on its familiar cycle of recrimination and bloodletting between Palestinians and Israelis. Less than an hour after the bus bombing, Israeli helicopter gunships fired two missiles at a small Fiat stuck in a traffic jam in a crowded Gaza City neighborhood. The attack killed two military members of Hamas, Tito Massoud and Soffil Abu Nahez. The attack turned the car into a flaming ball that killed seven bystanders and wounded more than 30. Hamas is one of the largest terror organizations in Israel. An extensive network of clinics, schools, and other social work-amounting to more than $70 million annually-does not obscure its mission statement: to raise "the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine." A week before the attacks Hamas leaders ended talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas aimed at convincing them to lay down their weapons and give peace a chance. Instead, Hamas and other militant groups declared their opposition to the U.S.-authored two-state solution, despite Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's acquiescence to the creation of a Palestinian state. Hamas may be targeting Israelis, but resurgent attacks since Mr. Abbas met with President Bush and Mr. Sharon suggest the militants also want to make casualties of fellow Palestinians, if they happen to call for peace.
2
a bumpy post-war transition
Iraqi opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi left his hard-won headquarters in Baghdad and journeyed to Washington to repair a fraying post-war operation. The primary motive for the Iraqi National Congress leader's trip was to lobby the Bush administration for a speedy appointment of a provisional Iraqi government. He and other opposition figures disagree with the decision by chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, to delay plans to organize a national conference to choose a transitional Iraqi government. Instead, Mr. Bremer plans to name an advisory council to counsel him on how to run Iraq. But Mr. Chalabi, who spent the period between U.S.-led wars against Iraq exiled in London and plainly would like to lead a new Iraqi government, found himself called to defend the Bush administration while stateside. He spoke against critics who say Mr. Bush exaggerated the evidence in order to make a case for going to war to oust Saddam Hussein. Mr. Chalabi's network of anti-Saddam sources helped U.S. forces capture 15 of the 55 most-wanted senior Iraqi leaders. They also led to the discovery of two potential mobile chemical-weapons labs. Mr. Chalabi insists there are more. "The weapons and Saddam are one and the same thing," said Mr. Chalabi, who believes the capture of the former Iraqi leader will lead to weapons discoveries. Mr. Chalabi told reporters Saddam is alive and is using some of the $1.3 billion stolen from the Iraqi Central Bank as bounty for every American soldier killed in Iraq. As of last week, 40 U.S. soldiers have been killed since the war ended in April.
3
china's power trip
Workers began filling June 1 the largest reservoir in the world at China's Three Gorges Dam. It will turn 350 miles of river into the world's longest lake and, Chinese officials hope, supply enough electricity to power the country into the 21st century. By June 15 officials said the dam should reach its first interim level; commercial ships will navigate its locks for the first time over the next week. But it will be another seven years before the dam reaches capacity. In the meantime, residents along the river hope they will be moved to higher ground in time. The Chinese government must relocate 1.3 million people to accommodate the dam. So far, it has moved 700,000. Those who live close to the reservoir's first high-water mark were scrambling last week to harvest crops, even move homes about to be inundated. Many complained that compensation for moving promised by the government had failed to materialize.
4
free money
At some point, are they going to start giving money away? Lenders dropped interest rates last week to new lows, with average mortgage rates falling for the ninth straight week. The federally backed home-lending agency Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 5.21 percent, the lowest rate since Freddie Mac started recording such data in 1971. (Last year at this time, the fixed-rate average was 6.71 percent.) Average one-year adjustable-rate mortgages dipped below 4 percent. Meanwhile, all signs pointed to yet another interest-rate cut when Federal Reserve governors meet June 24-25. Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan again emphasized the importance of fighting potential deflation, which Fed watchers interpreted as a signal that the Fed would cut its key rate below 1.25 percent-already a 42-year low. Mr. Greenspan, often trotted out as an opponent of tax cuts, also conceded that the latest one passed by Congress may help boost the economy: "Even though I argued that I don't like fiscal policy for short-term stimulus ... I have to admit that, fortuitously, this particular cut in taxes is happening at the right time."

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