While You Were Out

Al-Qaida Terrorists Escape Prison

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

April 11, 2003: President Bush declared Saddam’s rule finished but said victory would not be complete until Iraq was cleared of banned weapons. Ten men suspected of organizing the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole for al-Qaida allegedly escaped their Yemeni prison through a window. An American woman and a Turkish man denied charges that they were planning an attack on the U.S. military’s European headquarters in Heidelberg to coincide with the first anniversary of 9/11. An Israeli sniper shot a British activist in the head, critically wounding him. The man had been escorting Palestinian children to safety. Stetson University shut down its school newspaper after an April Fool’s issue included profanity, racism, and jokes about rape. A British explorer who became the first person to walk solo to the geomagnetic North Pole said he trekked the last 60 miles on a broken ankle while dragging his 150 pound sled. Protesters gathered for the opening of the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National to protest the club’s refusal to induct female members.

April 10, 2003: Kurdish fighters and U.S. special forces took Kirkuk as looters ravaged Baghdad. Meanwhile, House members passed an energy proposal that would allow oil drilling in Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge. The Senate had kept plans for such drilling out of its energy initiative a month earlier, but House members hoped the Senate might reconsider. Russia reported that its GDP increased 4.3 percent in 2002. The country, posting its third straight year of growth, became second only to China. The EU Parliament banned human cloning for research. Congress approved the national Amber Alert network, which aims to quickly publicize child kidnappings. Twenty-eight deaf boys, unable to hear shouted warnings, died in a Russian boarding-school fire.

April 9, 2003: Jubilant crowds looted Baghdad’s government buildings and toppled a statue in Firdos Square with the help of U.S. Marines. Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidates debated the merits of war with Iraq at an early campaign forum in Washington D.C. Catholic leaders in Singapore banned the hearing of confession, fearing that SARS could be transmitted in such close quarters. The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to rename the infamous “South Central” neighborhood “South Los Angeles.” The U.S. Army announced it would move its Korean headquarters out of Seoul as soon as possible. The HQ has been a popular site for anti-American protests. New York City police agreed to stop questioning those arrested in anti-war demonstrations about their political activities and academic affiliations. Swaziland’s government decreed that state media, which are the only legal news sources in the country, could no longer carry unflattering stories about the government. The EU Parliament voted overwhelmingly to extend membership to 10 Eastern European nations in 2004. Education Secretary Rod Paige said remarks he had made praising Christian education were merely an expression of personal preference, not a proposed agenda for the nation’s public schools.

April 8, 2003: American forces cemented their control of Baghdad as President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair met to discuss the United Nations’ role in postwar Iraq. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans, pointing to the SARS threat, sought to revive a measure that would protect vaccine manufacturers from lawsuits, arguing that such suits might deter new research. Security forces in Afghanistan seized five fuel trucks rigged with explosives trying to enter peacekeeping bases in Kabul. Israeli missiles killed seven in Gaza City as new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas struggled to select his Cabinet. A Czech man set himself on fire and died. He was the sixth Czech in a month to attempt suicide by self-immolation as a protest against the Czech government and the Iraq war. The UConn women’s basketball team won the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row. The producers of Mecca Cola, a soft drink marketed as a Muslim alternative to Coke, planned to open a new bottling plant in Casablanca. Three million bottles had been sold since the product debuted in November.

April 7, 2003: Basra fell to British troops, who found a body that might be that of “Chemical Ali” Hassan al-Majid. Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories confirmed that they can briefly achieve fusion with a machine that can generate 200 trillion watts of energy. They say the machine could lead to an internal-combustion fusion engine. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein sold 75 boxes of notes and recordings from their Watergate investigation to the University of Texas for $5 million. Human rights groups criticized Thailand’s police for killing 2,000 people over a two-month period in an ongoing crackdown on drug dealers. The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post each won three Pulitzer Prizes for their journalism. Audit reports revealed that the Transportation Security Administration created after 9/11 may have wasted more than $250 million by overstaffing airports and purchasing unnecessary and outdated equipment. Syracuse beat Kansas 81-78 in the final of the men’s NCAA college basketball tournament for its first title ever. A late snowstorm blanketed the United States from the Dakotas to New York, slowing traffic and delaying baseball season openers in several cities.

April 6, 2003: U.S. forces encircled Baghdad as Ahmad Chalabi was airlifted into Nasiriyah. Meanwhile, the United Nations reported that 966 people had been massacred in northeastern Congo; the attacks—which witnesses said were perpetrated by men, women, and children—took place over just a few hours and were the largest mass killing in the country’s five-year civil war. Authorities had not yet determined who was responsible. North Korea announced that it would disregard any U.N. resolution addressing its nuclear program and that sanctions would be considered “a prelude to war.” The Justice Department announced that the total number of incarcerated U.S. residents exceeded 2 million for the first time; one out of every 142 people was in prison or jail. Librarians in Santa Clara decided to shred member records every day, rather than every week, in an effort to demonstrate their opposition to the USA Patriot Act. A provision of the act mandates that librarians share member borrowing and browsing records with FBI agents upon request. The journal Nature reported that the ape population in equatorial West Africa, ravaged by increased hunting and the Ebola virus, had fallen by half since 1983.

April 5, 2003: A column of 60 American tanks wheeled through Baghdad, while Kurdish forces in the north were stalled by a heavily defended bridge. Applications to the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs rose more than 20 percent this year, despite the school’s recent sexual assault scandal. Eighty-six Honduran prisoners died in a riot incited by rival gangs, which left their prison in flames, dozens injured, and an unknown number on the lam. South Korean officials barred several top aides of ex-President Kim Dae-jung from leaving the country while they investigate payments made to North Korea. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed the city’s first chief marketing officer, who will be in charge of securing tasteful brand sponsorships for the cash-strapped municipal government. President Bush signed an executive order adding SARS to the list of diseases for which citizens can be quarantined against their will; it was the first disease to be added in two decades. A statue of Abraham Lincoln was dedicated in Richmond, Va., to celebrate his sole visit to the onetime capital. The Sons of Confederate Veterans called the statue an insult to the Confederacy.