While You Were Out

U.S. Economy Loses 108,000 Jobs

… And other news you may have missed a month ago.

April 4, 2003: The U.S. Army seized control of Baghdad’s international airport while footage of Saddam Hussein—or a man who looked just like him—aired on Iraqi television. Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy lost 108,000 jobs in March; the more than twice as many as experts had predicted. The total number of private sector jobs lost during President Bush’s term rose to 2.6 million. The Russian Cabinet promised to increase spending on its space program and dropped its threat to shutter the International Space Station. Two of three multinational oil companies resumed operations the Niger Delta; ethnic violence had led ChevronTexaco, Shell, and TotalFinaElf to stop production there. Georgia legislators approved a new state flag based on the Confederacy’s national flag, the Stars and Bars, rather than its more familiar battle emblem, which has long been associated with the Ku Klux Klan. In a German circus, the cat tamer eloped with the ringmaster’s son; they took eight lions and two tigers with them.

April 3, 2003: Bombing around Baghdad intensified as American troops entered the city’s outskirts. Rebel leaders elected to Ivory Coast’s interim government sat in a Cabinet meeting for the first time, where President Laurent Gbagbo welcomed them to “the hell” of power. The ACLU’s Florida chapter demanded the recall of an AIDS information pamphlet produced by the state’s Department of Health titled “A Christian Response to AIDS,” which quoted Scripture but did not mention any ideas for preventing the disease. Italian police seized a crèche from Peru with religious figures made out of $1.6 million worth of pure cocaine. The Bush administration announced plans to put states in charge of administering Section 8 federal housing vouchers for low-income families. Hundreds of thousands of French government workers held a one-day strike to protest proposed pension reforms, paralyzing rail lines and airports. GOP leaders blasted Sen. John Kerry’s remark that “we need a regime change in the United States”; a spokesman later said Kerry meant no disrespect to President Bush. Fishermen off Antarctica caught a very rare, 330-pound colossal squid with eyes the size of dinner plates; the 16-foot long specimen was thought to be a young female and not yet fully grown.

April 2, 2003: U.S. troops advanced to within 20 miles of Baghdad while American commandos rescued Pfc. Jessica Lynch. Meanwhile, the Chinese government admitted for the first time that it had underreported SARS cases, and the World Health Organization recommended that travelers avoid Hong Kong and Guangdong Province. California’s San Bernardino Catholic Diocese sued Boston’s Archdiocese for damages stemming from its failure to disclose a priest’s record of sexual molestation. Israel rounded up hundreds of Palestinians in Tulkarem in a search for militants. In the Philippines, at least 16 were killed when a bomb exploded in the southern city of Davao, where authorities are been fighting Muslim separatist insurgents. Ireland’s justice minister proposed more stringent drinking regulations, including closing pubs at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday evenings to discourage citizens from playing hooky on Fridays.

April 1, 2003: Coalition forces entered the holy city of Najaf to cheering crowds. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases challenging affirmative action at the University of Michigan as discriminatory to white applicants. In Italy, police arrested six men suspected of having ties to al-Qaida. A plane arriving from Japan was quarantined for two hours in San Jose, Calif., after several passengers expressed fears that they might have SARS; none had symptoms consistent with the illness. 38 people jailed in Texas for drug crimes had their convictions overturned after it emerged that the only evidence against them was testimony from an unreliable undercover agent who falsified police reports and used racial slurs.Sen. John Edwards announced he collected $7.4 million for his presidential campaign in the first three months of the year, the most raised by anyone in the Democratic field. Turkey’s prime minister announced plans for a new effort to reunite the island of Cyprus. U.S. government lawyers invoked a 1950 Supreme Court precedent in an effort to prevent Zacarias Moussaoui’s attorneys from interviewing another terror suspect. If successful, the move would allow the government to treat terror suspects in civilian courts as if they were enemy combatants under military tribunal.

March 31, 2003: American troops advanced to within 50 miles of Baghdad. Meanwhile, the European Union kicked off its first military operation, sending 300 peacekeepers to relieve NATO forces in Macedonia. In a Zimbabwe election, the opposition party retained control of contested parliamentary seats in Harare; President Robert Mugabe’s authorities had arrested a key opposition leader and nearly 500 others in the week preceding the vote. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley ordered a demolition crew to bulldoze a small downtown airport in the wee hours of the morning. Local businessmen had long argued that the airport should remain open; Daley cited security concerns. In Israel, 100,000 municipal workers went on strike to protest fiscal austerity measures proposed by the new finance minister—and the former prime minister—Benjamin Netanyahu. A landslide in Bolivia buried 150 homes and killed several dozen people. All-Star shortstop Derek Jeter dislocated his shoulder in the Yankees’ season opener and stood to miss much of the season. A champion pooch who won the world’s biggest dog show was accused of having a face-lift and could be stripped of his title.

March 30, 2003: Coalition forces probed Karbala while Syria’s leaders said they hoped the United States lost the war. For the first time in six years, Kim Jong-il failed to show for an annual meeting to approve North Korea’s national budget. He has not been seen in public for 46 days. Thirty people were injured by a suicide bomber at a cafe in Netenya, Israel. A New York man admitted to a series of workplace shootings that left four people dead. He claimed he was motivated by anger over the Sept. 11 attacks. The headquarters of Kabul’s international peacekeeping force suffered a rocket attack; no injuries were reported. A new ban on smoking in New York City’s public spaces, including bars and restaurants, took effect.

March 29, 2003: An Iraqi officer killed four U.S. soldiers in a suicide bombing, while officials reported that Ansar al-Islam had been routed in the north. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai considered a draft of a new constitution. The document, which seeks to balance tribal law, Islamic law, and international human rights standards, will be finalized in October. Senate Republicans expressed frustration with new Majority Leader Bill Frist, saying he has failed to rope in Republican moderates whose dissenting votes helped curtail President Bush’s tax plan and deep-six his Alaskan oil drilling initiative. In Mexico, former secret police chief Luis de la Barreda Moreno was charged with murdering three opposition figures during the “dirty war” waged by the government during the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. The Mexican government first acknowledged this period of repression after Vicente Fox’s election in 2000 and has just begun prosecuting these crimes. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against McDonald’s, contending that a franchise violated the Americans With Disabilities Act when it denied a promotion to a woman with a facial birthmark. In the NCAA basketball tournament, Marquette defeated No. 1 Kentucky, advancing to the Final Four for the first time since 1977.