Movement on the Diplomatic Front
The newest group of detainees arriving at Guantánamo Bay knew one thing: they would not be treated as prisoners of war. But U.S. officials acknowledged that the decision to apply the Geneva Conventions to Taliban fighters, but not al-Qaeda members, would not materially affect their circumstances. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the step was rather intended as a "precedent for the future," implying it might help protect captured U.S. soldiers. In Afghanistan, the U.S. renewed missile strikes on suspected al-Qaeda targets while heavy snow left thousands of villages without access to food or medical aid. At least five people died when an avalanche blocked the Salang Tunnel. Faction leaders met to resolve security problems, while Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf pledged to help the country's reconstruction.
Blast from the Past
When Didier Schuller fled into exile in 1995, he was under investigation for his role in a kickback scheme allegedly set up by President Jacques Chirac's RPR party. So Schuller's sudden return last week must have been a shock for Chirac, who is set to run for re-election. Schuller says he wants to "set the record straight," but the RPR suspects a Socialist plot. Either way, it was bad timing for Chirac; polls show him losing his lead over likely Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin, who has played up his "Mr. Clean" image.
Parliament cut the time terror suspects can be imprisoned without trial and liberalized a law used to jail dissidents. The reforms represent a move toward E.U. human-rights standards. But opponents of the change said that it would only benefit radicals and separatists.
Another Health Scare
The government faced a public health crisis as an outbreak of measles in south London indicated that parents were not having their children inoculated with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. A controversial 1998 study linked the vaccine with autism, though more recent research disputes this. Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson said that giving in to demands for a single measles jab, now in short supply, would be playing "Russian roulette" with children's health. Prime Minister Tony Blair has refused to say whether his own son has had the combined inoculation.
THE MIDDLE EAST
As Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with President George W. Bush in Washington, fighting continued unabated back home. A day after a Palestinian killed three people in Hamra, a Jewish settlement on the West Bank, Israel retaliated with air strikes on Palestinian Authority headquarters in Nablus. The army also launched incursions into the West Bank to hunt down suspected militants.
Utah Lights Up for the Games
This was the moment that Salt Lake City and millions of sports fans worldwide had been waiting for: the opening of the biggest Winter Olympic Games ever. The event began with the customary fanfare but unprecedented levels of security. While F-16 fighters patrolled the skies, more than 15,000 security personnel were deployed, including FBI officers and marksmen on skiing pistes and at all sporting venues. As the Olympic flame arrived at the Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium, 3 billion television viewers tuned in.
Iran responded angrily to continued U.S. claims that it is developing weapons of mass destruction. One military leader warned of "another Vietnam" if the U.S. struck Iran, and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that the U.S. would find itself in a "bloody swamp." Amid the rhetoric was one sign of detente: after U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell accused Iran of trying to destabilize the interim Afghan government, Tehran said it may deport an Afghan warlord who opposes the Kabul regime.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Show You're Sorry
The government dismissed Belgium's apology for its role in the 1961 killing of Patrice Lumumba, postcolonial Congo's first Prime Minister, but demanded reparations. A Belgian parliamentary report found that the former colonial rulers bore "moral responsibility" for the assassination.
Having Their Say
Hundreds of thousands of people joined opposition rallies in Antananarivo, the capital, as antigovernment forces pledged to press on with a strike that has paralyzed the country for two weeks. Opposition leader Marc Ravalomanana claims to have won the Dec. 16 presidential vote but says that backers of incumbent Didier Ratsiraka rigged results to force a runoff.
Authorities identified British-born militant Sheik Omar Saeed as the main suspect in the Jan. 23 kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl. Saeed allegedly set a trap for Pearl by posing as a representative of Sheik Mubarak Ali Gilani, a radical religious leader the reporter wanted to interview. Saeed has a history of abduction; in 1994, India jailed him for kidnapping tourists in Kashmir. He was released five years later in exchange for passengers on a hijacked airliner.
The tawdry tale now gripping Asia is of a former mayor who secretly filmed his ex-girlfriend having sex with another man. A friend then sold the tape to a tabloid, which gave copies to readers in December. Last week, prosecutors filed invasion-of-privacy charges against Tsai Jen-Chien, Kuo Yu-Ling and nine newspaper staffers. The ex-girlfriend, reporter-turned-politician Chu Mei-Feng, published a tell-all book last week and has topped Web portal Lycos' list of most popular search terms for two weeks.
The government got a win in parliament last week, defeating a no-confidence motion against Agriculture Minister Tsutomu Takebe. But the victory was small compared to the mounting challenges for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The stock market is at 1983 levels, the banking sector may need a bail-out, and, worst of all, Koizumi's popularity, long his biggest asset, is waning: new polls show support for his Cabinet at an all-time low.
Get Out and Stay Out
In response to a government cease-fire offer, Colombia's largest rebel group demanded the withdrawal of U.S. military advisers and an end to Plan Colombia, President Andrés Pastrana's effort to fight drug trafficking, a key source of rebel income. The call from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) came two days after Washington announced an expansion of its military-aid package. FARC accused the U.S. of a "humiliating violation of our national sovereignty."
As the Central Bank prepared for this week's planned flotation of the peso, Economy Minister Jorge Remes Lenicov presented a recovery-minded draft budget to Congress. The plan includes severe spending cuts agreed to by President Eduardo Duhalde and Argentina's provincial governors, and Remes Lenicov said the program was "tough." But critics warned that it relies on gdp and export-growth forecasts that may be too optimistic. Duhalde expressed hope that the economy would recover before the next presidential vote, now set for September 2003.