Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "2004 Olympics Preview," Aug. 14, 2004

Homeland security Intel gathered from a suspected al-Qaeda computer expert was largely responsible for the increased threat level for three East Coast financial districts last week. A CIA expert described the terrorist's plans as the most comprehensive he'd seen in 24 years at the agency.

Local law enforcers responded by erecting checkpoints outside the U.S. Capitol and other Washington landmarks as well as targeted financial centers in New York and New Jersey. Threat-level orange did not keep the National Park Service from reopening the Statue of Liberty to visitors, who swarmed inside the 305-foot statue's base for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001. In New York stepped-up security will likely continue through the Republican National Convention later this month; in Washington, some checkpoints may remain through the Inauguration next January.

Meanwhile, the FBI last week arrested two leaders of a mosque in Albany, N.Y., after they allegedly tried to buy a shoulder-fired missile from an FBI informant. The two men, Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, allegedly told the informant that they wanted to assassinate the Pakistani ambassador at Pakistan's consulate in New York.

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Iraq Iraq and Kuwait restored diplomatic ties exactly 14 years after they were severed when Saddam Hussein's army invaded Kuwait. But the United States and its allies acknowledge it will take more than diplomacy to end bombings and kidnappings, which have increased across Iraq over the last month. A statement issued by all 31 nations in the U.S.-led forces in Iraq on Aug. 5 promises "to make no concession to terrorists nor succumb to terrorist threats." State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the coalition had agreed to a joint declaration following a decision by the Philippines last month to bargain with terrorists and pull out its troops in exchange for a Filipino hostage.

The statement also reaffirmed solidarity with the Iraqi people who have "been the main target" of fanaticism and terror attacks. Christian houses of worship became the latest targets of fanatic bombers, who set off explosions outside four Baghdad churches and one church in Mosul on Aug. 1, killing 12 and wounding more than 60. Several churches had received warnings from Islamic radicals four days before the bombings. A statement from "the Media Center for Mujahedeen" following the bombings suggested Christians may be redlined for future attacks. The statement said that Christians in Iraq would not be harmed if they respected three rules: They must not "collaborate with the occupation," they must not "betray Muslims," and they must not attack Islam or try to convert Muslims.

Congress Republicans are accusing Democrats of being amnesiacs on Iraq, as prominent Democratic leaders back away from their documented support of the war. Congressman Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) late last month released a booklet titled "We Must Never Forget: Tough Questions About the War on Terror." Mr. Hoekstra told WORLD that "We Must Never Forget" attempts to set the record straight on the Iraqi threat, pre-war intelligence, international cooperation, and terror-war progress. It also documents Iraq-related rhetorical flip-flops by Democrats including Senators Ted Kennedy, John D. Rockefeller, and Carl Levin. The booklet's release followed yet another Kerry-Edwards campaign salvo: A July news release accused the president of negligence and subterfuge in fomenting war against Saddam.

Israel Israel announced it may reopen the Gaza-Egypt border in part of a phased pull-back plan from the Palestinian-dominated area, as pressure mounted on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to make concessions of his own. Mr. Arafat faces mounting criticism within his own ranks for refusing to turn over power-including control of Palestinian armed forces-to the prime minister and the Palestinian Authority legislative assembly. One former Arafat commander, Mohammad Dahlan, said Mr. Arafat has squandered millions of dollars in international aid and told Jordanian magazine editors, "Yasser Arafat is stepping on the corpses of the Palestinians."

Gay marriage Missouri voters last week overwhelmingly approved a measure that affirms traditional marriage. Seventy-one percent of Missourians who went to the polls voted yes on a state constitutional amendment that reads, "That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman."

Missouri is the first state to declare only traditional marriage valid since Massachusetts jurists found a "right" to gay marriage in the Bay State constitution. Louisiana voters will weigh in on the issue next month. Then in November, voters in 10 more states-including key presidential battlegrounds Ohio, Michigan, and Oregon-will vote on constitutional amendments that protect traditional marriage. Analysts expect the measures to prompt heavy conservative turnout at the polls, potentially swinging some races Republicans' way.

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