SPAIN BOMBING Spanish authorities at first blamed Basque terrorists-not Islamic insurgents-for bombs on Madrid commuter trains that killed perhaps 200 rush-hour travelers and wounded more than 600. Spain has been a staunch U.S. ally in the war in Iraq, but police said initially that the explosions-which caused a rain of human flesh outside one train station and overtaxed emergency workers treating the wounded-had local terror roots.
Later in the day, the interior minister said other lines of investigation were opened after police found a van Thursday with detonators and an audiotape of Quranic verses near where the bombed trains originated. On the front seat of the van police found seven detonators and the tape, Interior Minister Angel Acebes told a news conference. He said the armed Basque group remained the "main line of investigation" in the blasts.
In an audiotape released in the Arab world in October, a voice purported to be Osama bin Laden threatened nations that are helping the American occupation of Iraq. The voice specifically mentioned Spain.
BLACKMUN PAPERS The personal papers of former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, now available for public inspection at the Library of Congress, are showing the extent to which raw politics motivated high court rulings on abortion and other issues. The papers "paint a picture of a group of jurists who decided that legal abortion would be good social policy, and set about to make it happen," said National Right to Life Committee legislative director Douglas Johnson. "There was no pretense of actually trying to enforce the letter or history of the Constitution" (story, p. 18).
Meanwhile, abortion advocates are trying to find a way not to enforce the letter of a Supreme Court order to vacate a racketeering conviction and injunction against abortion protesters. A panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals voted to send the case back to the district court, even though the high court ruled that the racketeering judgment "must be reversed" and that therefore the injunction "must necessarily be vacated." Attorneys for the protesters filed a petition last week to bring the case before the full 7th Circuit Court (story, p. 20).
Martha Stewart Jurors who convicted Martha Stewart of lying about a stock sale said they believed the key prosecution witnesses against the homemaking guru and were surprised that her team didn't put up a more aggressive defense. After the prosecution took four weeks to make its case, the defense presented its side in less than an hour.
All the charges relate to an accusation that Ms. Stewart lied to cover up the reason she sold 3,928 shares of ImClone Systems stock on Dec. 27, 2001-avoiding a loss when the company announced bad news the next day. Jurors said the most compelling testimony came from Ms. Stewart's assistant Ann Armstrong, who testified that her boss changed a message from her broker, Peter Baconovic, informing her that he thought the ImClone stock price would start falling (story, p. 22).
IRAQ Shiite political leaders successfully lobbied Iraq's Ayatollah Ali Sistani to stand down from threats to boycott the country's interim constitution. Their agreement allowed a historic signing ceremony on March 8, after delays to accommodate Shiites mourning devastating bomb attacks at shrines in Baghdad and Karbala the week before, and to ward off Mr. Sistani's 11th-hour objections. Observers said the signing signified a triumph of political will over clerical rule.
Religious-freedom advocates had worried over the influence allowed Islamic law under the interim constitution, known formally as the Transitional Administrative Law. In Washington, the Freedom House Center for Religious Freedom concluded that the document "contains a powerful Bill of Rights and sets Iraq firmly on the path toward democracy."
"The religious freedom guarantees are nothing short of revolutionary in the context of the Middle East," said center director Nina Shea.
While Article 7 of the document asserts Islam as the religion of the state and Islamic law as "a source" of legislation, Article 13 states: "Each Iraqi has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religious belief and practice. Coercion in such matters shall be prohibited." Those and other freedoms guaranteed in the document forbid the kind of coerced Islamicization witnessed in other Muslim-dominated countries.
"Iraq will be the only Arab nation with these critical rights constitutionally enshrined," said Ms. Shea. "While clarifications of rights can and should be made, this document is groundbreaking for both Iraq and for the entire Middle East." The milestone puts Iraq firmly on the road to self-rule just at the one-year anniversary of war (story, p. 24).
CHINA The United States reported its largest trade deficit ever, fueled by growing petroleum imports but also by a widening trade imbalance with China. The U.S. trade deficit with China expanded to $11.5 billion in January, up from $10 billion in December. But China has a trade deficit of its own. Imports rose 77 percent in China from January to February, while exports rose a "mere" 40 percent. The percentages reflect China's roller-coaster economy; its export-driven market must gobble increasing amounts of imported raw materials.
China's quest for raw material includes sensitive technology. Celebrated Christian human-rights activist Gao Zhan will go to prison in the United States after she pleaded guilty to selling illegally more than $500,000 worth of militarily sensitive semiconductors and other computer parts.
"The lack of discretion in my past deeds doesn't mean that I have lost the moral high ground in my advocacy for democracy in China," she said in a statement (story, p. 27).
POLITICS Well-funded liberal groups, intent on electing John Kerry to the White House, have begun multimillion-dollar ad campaigns attacking President Bush. The Bush legal team, meanwhile, is urging the Federal Election Commission to impose "severe sanctions" against the groups for violating the McCain-Feingold law's limits on soft money donations to political campaigns. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leading proponent of campaign-finance regulations, calls the ad campaign a "blatant end run around the campaign-finance laws" (story, p. 28).