The Week That Was

August 08, 2004

The World

Coalition forces battled militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in several Iraqi cities, saying they killed about 300 militants in Najaf over two days of fighting. Battles in other Shiite areas of the country have killed dozens more, according to Iraqi authorities. The death toll among the anti-coalition fighters was among the largest in a single continuing engagement since the end of the war to oust Saddam Hussein last year.

World crude-oil prices, driven steadily upward by demand and concern about international supply disruptions, could hit $50 a barrel, analysts say. Experts expressed concern that the higher prices and tight supply could seriously hinder economic growth around the world.

Pakistan gave British authorities images of London's Heathrow Airport and other sites that were found on the computers of two al-Qaida fugitives arrested last month, intelligence officials said. The officials, however, could not confirm reports in British newspapers that the information helped lead to the arrests of about a dozen suspected terrorists in Britain last week. Several news reports in Britain said one of the suspects arrested, identified as Abu Eisa al-Hindi or Abu Musa al-Hindi, was believed to be a senior member of al-Qaida and had been plotting an attack on Heathrow.

In a wave of coordinated attacks aimed at Iraq's tiny Christian minority, a series of bombs exploded outside five churches thronged with worshipers in Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul, killing at least 11 people and injuring dozens more. It was the first time in Iraq's 15-month insurgency that Christians had been targeted, further fraying the country's delicate religious fabric and raising fears of increased sectarian conflict.

Three Britons freed from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, claim they suffered systematic brutality during their detention at the U.S. military base, according to a 155-page report prepared by the men and their lawyers.

The Nation

Payroll growth slowed drastically in July with a paltry 32,000 jobs being added -- a potentially troubling sign that the rough patch the economy hit in June was no aberration. Soaring energy costs, which have hit companies' bottom lines, also may have played a factor in businesses being more cautious in their hiring, economists said.

U.S. officials raised the terror alert level in Washington and called for heightened security in New York after "very specific" and "alarming" intelligence revealed that al-Qaida might be planning an attack on the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank in Washington or buildings in New York and northern New Jersey. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said intelligence gathered from "multiple reporting streams in multiple locations" suggests that the terror network wants to attack the nation's "iconic" financial sector by striking buildings in the nation's capital, the Prudential Financial building in Newark, N.J., the Citigroup building in New York or the New York Stock Exchange. Subsequent confusion about the sources of the intelligence, its age and a political comment by Ridge stirred controversy.

President Bush proposed naming a new national intelligence czar to do a better job of helping to manage the nation's war on terrorism -- a reform suggested by the Sept. 11 commission. But he stopped short of the commission's proposal that the job be placed in the White House. Democrats in Congress complained that a coordinator without control of agency budgets would be just another Washington figurehead.

Pfc. Lynndie R. England, a young Army reservist who appeared in photographs documenting apparent abuses of Iraqi prisoners in an Abu Ghraib cellblock, was repeatedly disciplined for sneaking into the cellblock to visit her wartime boyfriend. England is in the midst of a pretrial hearing in North Carolina to determine whether she will face a full court-martial on 19 charges of detainee abuse and indecent acts.

The Army is increasing its cash bonuses and bringing on more recruiters to get young men and women to sign up, worried the continuing war on terrorism and long deployments might sap interest in the military.

Missouri voters amended their state constitution to ban same-sex marriage -- the first election on the issue since Massachusetts legalized gay and lesbian weddings. Voters in 10 other states will face similar ballot measures in the coming months.

The Region

State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick suggested during a court hearing that a trustee be appointed to help run Baltimore's schools. Her comments drew protests from lawyers representing city school students, advocacy groups and the city.

Maryland's employee pension system, which had such poor investment returns three years ago that it finished last in a national ranking, is among the top half of its peers, a national survey shows.

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