IRAN International weapons inspectors found themselves shut out of much of the Natanz nuclear facility as Iranian scientists successfully restarted four centrifuges capable of enriching uranium to weapons grade. IAEA cameras were turned off at the facility and the inspectors' access limited after the agency referred Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security Council earlier this month.
Rolf Ekeus, chief of weapons inspection in Iraq from 1991 to 1997, said he can feel the inspectors' pain. "It's close to impossible to expand monitoring without Iran getting a change of heart," he said. The current rules allow Iran to designate nuclear sites for inspection, and the Security Council needs to change the rules, he told WORLD from his offices at The Hague. "The rules of the game laid down a safeguard arrangement, and Iran made light acceptance of it."
Iran is perhaps years away from directly threatening the United States with an atomic weapon, but experts say the likelihood of a nuclear terrorist attack on U.S. soil remains high. With historians looking to the 60th anniversary of Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech on March 5, nukes persist as the danger that won't go away.
CHENEY "I'm the guy who pulled the trigger," said Vice President Dick Cheney in his first public response three days after the accidental shooting of hunting companion and Texas attorney Harry Whittington. The vice president, Mr. Whittington, and eight others were quail hunting at the 50,000-acre Armstrong Ranch in south Texas when Mr. Cheney turned to shoot a quail on his right and instead peppered Mr. Whittington with more than 200 birdshot pellets from 30 yards away. The 78-year-old attorney from Austin was hospitalized and two days later suffered a minor heart attack, likely brought on by birdshot lodged near his heart. Mr. Cheney told FOXNews, "You cannot blame anybody else," countering witnesses who suggested Mr. Whittington violated hunting protocol in coming behind Mr. Cheney to retrieve a downed bird. Both critics and allies heaped blame on Mr. Cheney for failing to speak to reporters or make a public statement until four days after the accident. Former Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clark said, "It pains me to say this because I am such a big fan of his, but when you're vice president of the United States and something like this happens it is big news, and I think he had a responsibility to try to get the information out as quickly as possible and as fully as possible."
MUSLIM PROTEST Five people died in nearly a week of door-to-door violence in Pakistan over cartoons satirizing the prophet Muhammad. As protests spread from Islamabad to Lahore to Peshawar, they widened to include groups opposed to President Pervez Musharraf and are set to culminate in a March 3 nationwide strike. Editors of two weekly tabloids in Jordan who published the cartoons were released on bail Feb. 12, while an Egyptian journalist who printed the cartoons last October fled his country.
SOMALIA Oxfam workers discovered at least seven people dead from dehydration and tens of thousands at risk in southern Somalia from the worst drought in over 40 years. People are surviving on the equivalent of three glasses of water a day, in temperatures of over 100ºF. "The situation is as bad as I can remember. Some people are dying and children are drinking their own urine because there is simply no water available for them," Somali village elder Abdullahi Maalim Hussein told Oxfam.
VENEZUELA Florida-based New Tribes Mission evacuated 35 missionaries from Venezuela's tribal regions just ahead of a Feb. 12 deadline, ending the organization's 60-year work in the indigenous regions, at least temporarily. The government order to leave came less than a month after President Hugo Chavez accused NTM of "spying for the CIA." The Venezuelan Supreme Court agreed to consider NTM's appeal of the order, but it may take up to a year for the court to rule, according to NTM spokeswoman Nita Zelenak. "We're in a holding pattern right now," Ms. Zelenak told WORLD. One of the expelled missionaries, Marg Jank, 67, worked 44 years in the Amazon rain forest on Bible translation.
HAITI Election and government officials reached an overnight deal Feb. 16, handing a majority of votes in the Feb. 7 presidential elections to one-time president Rene Preval. The deal turned nine days of violent protests by Preval supporters over allegations of election fraud into jubilant street celebrations. It came after officials decided to dismiss 85,000 blank ballots representing 4 percent of total votes; that pushed Mr. Preval to a 51 percent majority, canceling the need for a runoff and allowing UN peacekeepers in the strife-torn island to stand down.
DISASTER Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff announced a major reorganization of FEMA following reports critical of the agency's handling of Hurricane Katrina disaster relief and grillings before congressional committees. A Republican House select committee report blamed the Bush appointee for executing Katrina emergency management responsibilities "late, ineffectively or not at all," and said the crisis "was not only predictable, it was predicted."
While national scrutiny hovers over blockbuster disasters, the improper handling of yearly storms, floods, and earthquakes by federal officials holds greater sum potential for waste. Five years after the Feb. 28, 2001, Nisqually earthquake in Seattle, local officials say FEMA exercised poor management of the local crisis and ultimately covered less than 10 percent of damage costs.