Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Roe v. Wade @ 31," Jan. 17, 2004

ANTI-TERROR SECURITY Heightened U.S. security demands-particularly the new sky marshal orders-are stressing already strained relations with Europe. Philip Butterworth-Hayes, editor of Jane's Aircraft Components, says of the requirements: "Politically, it's a complete nightmare for Europe." Other countries complained about the new policies of fingerprinting and photographing visitors to the United States, though travelers told WORLD they didn't find the procedures overly burdensome (story, page 14).

In the United States, authorities in large cities openly worry that the mounting security costs they've incurred with the Code Orange terror alert won't be fully reimbursed by the federal government. Yet, smaller local governments reported that the alert hasn't meant higher spending-just smarter deployment of resources-and that they've learned a great deal about effective homeland security since 9/11.

PAKISTAN Continuing its cooperative stance toward the United States in the war on terror, Pakistan's army launched a major offensive against suspected terrorists in a mountainous region near the Afghan border believed used by al-Qaeda fugitives. The military initiative comes as Pakistan and India-nations that have seemed perpetually on the brink of war-prepare for U.S.-backed peace negotiations (story, page 17).

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TALIBAN ATTACKS In a violent attempt to export Islamic governance to west Africa, Muslim militants believed affiliated with Afghanistan's ousted Taliban attacked eight villages in Nigeria last month. Police and military units in the northeastern state of Yobe beat back the fighters, but not before they killed two policemen, burned buildings, attacked police stations, and stole at least one vehicle containing guns, ammunition, and tear gas canisters. Two members of the group were arrested, and at least one was killed, as first reported by Compass Direct news service on Jan. 6. Police traced the attackers to the Hijrah Movement, an Islamic fundamentalist base founded at Nigeria's border with Niger over a year ago. The group pledges loyalty to Mullah Omar, Afghanistan's ousted Taliban leader.

Taliban forces are on the move in Afghanistan as well. A bomb hidden in an apple cart exploded on Jan. 5, killing 13 children and two adults in Kandahar. A roadway shooting in nearby Helmand that same day killed 14 additional civilians. U.S. forces blamed both attacks on Taliban fugitives.

But Muslim extremists may not have to rely only on violence to get their way in Afghanistan. Under a just-passed constitution, jihadists might press their agenda through the courts. The finalized constitution enshrines Islam as the country's "sacred religion" and allows courts to rely on Koranic, or Shariah, law in deciding some disputes (story, p. 18).

IRAN Headline coverage of last month's earthquake subsided, but not headline news. A 56-year-old man identified only as Jalil was found alive in the rubble of the ancient city of Bam Jan. 7, 13 days after the quake. A toppled wardrobe formed an air pocket over him, allowing him to outlast expected limits of survival by a week.

Food deprivation, water shortage, and the cold did take their toll. Doctors at a Ukrainian field hospital said the man lapsed into a coma shortly after the rescue and was in serious condition.

Overall casualties from the Bam quake are less than once suspected but still catastrophic. Iranian officials now say that the earthquake killed 33,000 to 34,000 people, and injured 30,000 others. As many as 60,000 residents from Bam and the surrounding area are now homeless. Clive Calver, president of faith-based aid agency World Relief, toured Bam last week and reported, "There is desperate fear and distress in people's eyes.... Folks struggle to talk about what the future holds for them."

SARS China announced this season's second suspected case of SARS, after its first was reported out of the hospital. The new case concerned a 20-year-old waitress from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. The World Health Organization dispatched a six-person team to the city to join Chinese officials investigating the first case (story, page 19).

MARS MISSION "We're champing at the bit to get this puppy off the lander and get driving," said a NASA robotics engineer after the space agency announced a delay of at least three days to start Mars rover Spirit's exploration of the Martian landscape; space engineers wanted to make sure the vehicle had a relatively unobstructed path. Despite the slowdown, the Mars mission last week was a victory for the beleaguered space agency (story, page 20), whose chief exulted, "We're back!" after the flight crew confirmed the successful landing.

PRIEST SEX-ABUSE SCANDAL "There's been a lot of progress," said the head of the new in-house Roman Catholic Office of Child and Youth Protection, "but there is still a lot that needs to be done." The agency's Kathleen McChesney, a former top FBI agent, was hired following widespread reports of sex abuse by priests. Her office's first report, released last week, was based on audits of all 195 U.S. dioceses to determine whether they have been following reforms added during the height of the controversy. Victims' groups disputed the credibility of the audits (story, page 22).

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