Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on this week's biggest stories

Issue: "Living a legend," Aug. 19, 2006

Terror alerts

Leave the water bottle in New York and the marmalade in London. Tourists returning from a summer of travel faced heightened precautions and new flight restrictions after British authorities on Aug. 10 arrested 21 alleged terrorists engaged in a plot to assemble in flight and detonate liquid explosives on aircraft departing for the United States. British security officials moved quickly to wave off travelers from airports, to forbid carry-on luggage, and to increase inspections. Airlines responded by canceling many flights-by midday over 400 flights in and out of Heathrow were called off.

For the first time since the aftermath of 9/11, U.S. officials raised the airline terror threat level to red for flights traveling to and from Great Britain, orange for all other U.S. flights. In what Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff called "a new screen regime," transportation officials banned liquid and gel substances in U.S. carry-ons and increased inspections. "Travelers will be inconvenienced," President Bush said at a news conference in Wisconsin.


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U.S. Marines arrested four Iraqi men in connection with the January kidnapping of U.S. journalist Jill Carroll, who was freed last March after 82 days in captivity. At least one suspect is linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq. Carroll is preparing an upcoming series of stories on her abduction, but few stories from Iraq with happy endings reach Americans, as U.S. forces have racked up record terror-related arrests in the past month and completed installation of 911 emergency service covering 15 cities.


A month into Mideast fighting, UN ambassadors John Bolton and Jean-Marc de La Sabliere agreed Aug. 5 to a draft Security Council resolution to halt the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Two days later they welcomed a proposal from Lebanon to commit 15,000 troops to south Lebanon. But negotiations began to unravel over U.S. insistence that Lebanese troops be backed by an international force.

With an early Security Council vote in doubt, Israel moved troops deeper into Lebanon seeking to push back Hezbollah ahead of a ceasefire. Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah promised further strikes against Israel's third-largest city, Haifa. He warned Israeli Arabs to leave the port city "so we don't shed your blood, which is our blood."


With gasoline prices hovering at $3 per gallon, oil giant BP added fuel to the fire by announcing a shut-down of its North Slope operation to repair corroded pipelines, taking about 400,000 barrels of oil per day off the market-possibly for months. That represents about 0.5 percent of world production, and the move sent oil prices up more than $2 a barrel. By the end of the week, oil prices had begun to fall again as BP officials and regulators looked into ways to keep half of BP's Alaskan operation online and as analysts predicted less air travel following a foiled terrorist plot to blow up airplanes heading to the United States.

The Fed

Walking a monetary tightrope, the Federal Reserve last week held short-term interest rates steady-at 5.25 percent-after 17 straight increases. But the Fed also noted that "some inflation risks remain," signaling possible increases before the year is out.


Local Christians called it the worst persecution in Xiaoshan District's 140-year church history: On July 29 policemen demolished Dangshang Church in eastern Xhejiang Province. The China Aid Association reported that "thousands" of workers used excavators and hundreds of trucks for the job, while policemen beat and arrested about 50 Christians. The local government said the Christians were building the church illegally, without permission. But the church was originally built in 1921, and the government seized the property and land in 1949.

Man Knows Not His Time

University of Iowa physicist James Van Allen, who in the 1950s discovered the radiation belts surrounding the Earth that now bear his name, died last week at the age of 91. Van Allen's half-century career took off with the launching of the first U.S. satellite, Explorer I, a tiny 31-pound capsule that carried instruments he had designed in Iowa City. The folksy pipe-smoking scientist helped make the United States competitive in the space race with the Soviet Union, and ended up on the cover of Time magazine. But he generally disdained the high cost of getting humans into space, arguing that scientific instruments could help us learn far more, and less expensively. When Ronald Reagan endorsed a $20 billion manned space station in 1985, Van Allen called the project "so speculative and so poorly founded that no one of lesser stature would have dared mention it to an informed audience."


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