In what appeared to be a warning to Iran, the U.S. Navy on May 23 moved two aircraft carriers and several other ships into the Persian Gulf to conduct war games near Iran's coast. The war games were to include air training, submarine and mine exercises, and an amphibious landing exercise in Kuwait with 2,100 Marines. The exercises came on the eve of talks between the United States and Iran in Baghdad.
The House and the Senate last week approved a war spending bill that does not include any timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq but does include billions in spending not related to the war. The $120 billion bill includes $100 billion to sustain military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. Hoping to avoid another presidential veto, Democrats dropped the timeline but fought to keep the domestic spending. Republicans largely accepted the extra spending in order to get a bill without a timeline. "We cannot and will not abandon the Iraqis to be butchered by these terrorists in their midst," said Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.). "And we cannot and will not abandon our mission just as real progress is starting to be made." Some leading Democrats, meanwhile, signaled that they would not try to use Congress' power of the purse to stop the war. "I believe as long as we have troops in the front line, we're going to have to protect them," said Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), a candidate for president. "We're going to have to fund them."
More than 10,000 people, many of them sent into overflow seating, attended Jerry Falwell's May 22 funeral at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va. Mourners included Franklin Graham, Paige Patterson, and Pat Robertson, among other Christian leaders. The 73-year-old founder of Liberty University and the Moral Majority had died in his office a week earlier. "He said, 'I believe God has called me to confront the culture,'" said Jerry Vines, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, "and did he ever confront it."
A Serbian court convicted 12 men last week for the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in 2003. The Special Court said the men orchestrated the sniper attack in order to stop the Djindjic government's reforms and return allies of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic to power. Milorad Ulemek and Zvezdan Jovanovic, leaders of Milosevic's Red Berets paramilitary unit, received 40 years in prison for the murder. The others were sentenced to between 8 years and 35 years. "It was not an ordinary murder," said chief judge Nata Mesarovic. "It was a political murder with an aim to destabilize the state."
Two large wildfires in the southeastern United States merged last week into one giant wildfire. Together the fires by last week had burned more than 350,000 acres in Georgia and 123,000 acres in north Florida and caused a reported $30 million in losses for the timber industry. Smoke from the fire brought hazy conditions to Alabama and as far north as Atlanta, prompting health concerns for people with respiratory problems. One of the fires started near Waycross, Ga., when a tree fell on a power line in mid-April. Lightning caused the other fire earlier this month in Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp. Drought conditions and strong winds caused them to grow.
Jason Hamilton, a 36-year-old janitor, opened fire on a courthouse in Moscow, Idaho, May 19, killing one police officer and wounding two others and a good Samaritan. Hamilton then retreated to a local Presbyterian church, where he shot and killed the building's caretaker and then himself, ending a rampage that began several hours earlier with the murder of his wife at their home. The killing spree was the worst ever for the 22,000-resident college town, among the safest municipalities in the country. Hamilton, a dues-paying member of the Aryan Nation, attempted suicide in February and told health professionals that if he were to try again, he would do so with a mass shooting or bombing.