The Week That Was

October 31, 2004

The World

Israel's parliament approved a plan to evacuate all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and several in the West Bank, the first time Israeli lawmakers have voted to relinquish land that Palestinians want for an independent state. The vote, 67-45 in favor of the withdrawal proposed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, came after 17 hours of often-harsh debate as thousands of protesters, pro and con, rallied outside the Parliament building, ringed by heavily armed police.

An ailing Yasser Arafat - too weak to stand, unable to hold down food - agreed to leave his battered West Bank compound for the first time in more than two years and fly to Paris for urgent medical treatment. The 75-year-old Palestinian leader's departure, a decade after he arrived in the West Bank with the promise of statehood, could mark the end of an era. Arafat, who hoarded power and declined to groom a successor, leaves behind a people in disarray. Blood tests revealed he had a low platelet count, though it was unclear what caused the ailment, his doctors said, ruling out leukemia. In deference to his deteriorating condition, Israel lifted its travel ban on Arafat, allowing him to leave his battered headquarters compound in Ramallah for the first time since 2002 and to return if he recovers.

The Nation

Osama bin Laden, injecting himself into the campaign four days ahead of presidential elections, said in a videotape aired Friday that the United States can avoid another Sept. 11 attack if it stops threatening the security of Muslims. "Your security is not in the hands of Kerry, Bush or al-Qaida. Your security is in your own hands," bin Laden said, referring to the president and his Democratic opponent. "Any state that does not mess with our security has naturally guaranteed its own security."

A pilot flying the Airbus that crashed into New York City three years ago caused the tail of the plane to tear off in flight by his "unnecessary and excessive" use of the plane's rudder, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded in the culmination of an exhaustive accident investigation. The five-member board was unanimous in its finding, but members disagreed on the importance of what it found were two contributing factors in the Nov. 12, 2001, crash - a training program used by American Airlines that taught pilots to use the rudder when the plane is out of control, and the design of the rudder pedals of the Airbus 300-600 model.

Red Sox fans celebrated the end of Boston's 86-year title drought after the team won the World Series by taking four straight games from the St. Louis Cardinals. After winning the 1918 World Series, the Red Sox lost the Series in the final game in 1946, 1975 and 1986. This year, the Red Sox came back to defeat the Yankees after losing three games in a division playoff series.

The FBI has begun investigating whether the Pentagon improperly awarded no-bid contracts to Halliburton Co., seeking an interview with a top Army contracting officer and collecting documents from several government offices. The line of inquiry expands an earlier FBI investigation and elevates to a criminal matter the question of whether the Bush administration showed favoritism to Vice President Dick Cheney's former company.

Harsh words were exchanged by President Bush and Sen. John Kerry over the disappearance of nearly 400 tons of explosives stored at Iraq's Al-Qaqaa military installation. The 11th-hour political stir, which Bush advisers say has slowed their campaign, is a reflection of how the war in Iraq and terrorism have overshadowed domestic affairs throughout the campaign.

The Region

Maryland's first bear hunt in 51 years lasted just one day as hunters bagged 22 animals of the state's 30-bear limit. The hunt was to have run through Saturday in Garrett County and part of western Allegany, but the Department of Natural Resources ended it after 20 bears were confirmed killed and the agency received calls suggesting that others remained to be processed the next day, officials said.

The U.S. Census Bureau has revised upward by nearly 15,000 its most recent estimate of Baltimore's population - a change that indicates the city's loss of residents has dropped to its slowest pace in decades and that the city could be poised to reverse a half-century of population decline. The revised figures put the city's population as of July 1, 2003, at 643,304, compared with the original estimate of 628,670 released in April.

Maryland voters overwhelmingly feel that the nation is veering in the wrong direction and support Sen. John Kerry in his race against President Bush by 56 percent to 39 percent, according to a poll conducted for The Sun. Disaffected by the war in Iraq and troubled by terrorism, the economy and the president's leadership, 62 percent of Marylanders surveyed last week said the country was on the wrong track, compared with 34 percent who said things were on the right path.

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