Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Education: Sick schools," Sept. 18, 2004

WALKING THE WALK Weather As Hurricane Ivan flattened the island of Grenada with 140-mph winds, Floridians focused on cleaning up after a weaker-but wetter-Hurricane Frances. Frances slammed Florida's east coast on Sept. 5 with 105-mph winds and more than a foot of rain before crawling inland at just 4 mph. The storm's slow advance and massive size-some 500 miles across-spread days of steady rain and catastrophic flooding across the Southeast. The Washington, D.C., area saw multiple tornadoes spawned by Frances, and subway service in New York was disrupted by flooding. With forecasters worrying about a third major hurricane within the month, President Bush flew to Miami with $2 billion in federal aid for the beleaguered state. An unusually busy hurricane season has all but suspended campaigning in Florida, creating further uncertainty in a race that could decide the White House.

CAMPAIGN President Bush faced new questions about an old controversy surrounding his Vietnam-era service. Opponents charged that the president skipped a flight physical for the Texas Air National Guard. Mr. Bush has said he dropped the final test when he transferred to an Alabama unit that did not fly planes for which he was trained. The charges resurfaced just as the polls showed the incumbent enjoying a significant post-convention bounce. Meanwhile Democratic pols also threw punches at their own candidate. John Kerry is sending "a very confused message," said Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd.

SPACE NASA called it the Genesis space capsule because it was supposed to unlock the origins of the solar system. But after a Sept. 8 crash landing in the Utah desert, Genesis may not yield any new revelations. During its three-year, 20-million-mile voyage, Genesis collected billions of atoms emanating from the sun. Scientists hoped the microscopic particles would reveal how the sun flamed to life and what fuels it's burning. But after a near-flawless mission, two parachutes failed to open as Genesis reentered the atmosphere, and the $264 million capsule crashed into the desert at 193 mph, splitting it open like a clam shell and exposing its cargo to contamination. "This is something that's not a total disaster," said Carlton Allen, an official at the Johnson Space Center. "We didn't lose all the science in the crash." NASA hoped some of the charged atoms might still be salvageable. If not, they'll have to wait until 2006, when a second probe, dubbed Stardust, is scheduled to return from a similar mission.

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RUSSIA Grief-stricken families in Beslan, Russia, buried hundreds of their dead in multiple funerals. The death toll from the city's school siege of more than 1,000 children, parents, and teachers Sept. 1-3 rose to about 350 (story, p. 20). Identities of all the terrorists remained unclear, but Russian officials said six were Chechen and four from neighboring North Caucasus republic Ingushetia. Many believe they have ties to Islamist fanatics allied with Chechen warlord Shamil Besayev. Russian officials seized the opportunity to drive home that all Chechen separatists are Muslim terrorists with ties to al-Qaeda and vowed to "take all measures to liquidate terrorist bases in any region of the world."

IRAQ September casualties in Iraq average three a day, the highest death rate since April. The rate spiked after a Sept. 6 car bomb in Fallujah killed seven U.S. Marines and three Iraqi soldiers-and sent overall U.S. casualty figures in Iraq over the 1,000 mark. It was the largest single casualty incident for Americans since an attack in Ramadi in April.

TERROR A powerful car bomb rocked the Australian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept. 9, killing at least seven people and injuring about 100. Officials quickly laid the blame on Jemaah Islamiyah, an Asian terrorist network with ties to al-Qaeda. As a thick plume of smoke rose over the shattered embassy building, police laid sheets of newspaper over body parts strewn about the streets. Most of the dead and injured were Indonesian service employees at the embassy, although a few Australian personnel were cut by flying glass. Greece said several of its diplomats were lightly wounded as they worked in their offices across the street.

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