The Week in Review

Published: Sunday, January 26, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 9:55 p.m.

Tom Ridge unanimously confirmed by Senate, 94-0

After the rancor over the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the Senate confirmation of its first secretary, Tom Ridge, was remarkably trouble free. He was confirmed unanimously, 94-0, with Democrats and Republicans heaping praise on the former Pennsylvania governor.

Earthquake kills 29 across central Mexico

A powerful earthquake rolled across central Mexico, killing 29 people in three states and unnerving millions in Mexico City.
Twenty-six of the dead were in the small coastal state of Colima, where several thousand people lost their homes.
Most of the dead lived in adobe buildings, and many were very poor, very old or very young, the officials said.

Germany, France seek to curb war with Iraq

Before fighting a war with Iraq, the Bush administration must win, or sidestep, a battle with Germany and France.
Both vowed to use their influence on the U.N. Security Council to slow or stop military action, insisting on letting inspectors do their job.
Many Europeans say the problem is Bush's seeming rush to employ the most drastic option. The White House says the problem is simple: Saddam Hussein is feigning cooperation, but not leading inspectors to his arms cache.

Officials speculate on possible poison plot

Islamic extremists arrested in Britain may have been plotting to place the poison ricin into the food supply on at least one British military base, according to U.S. officials.
Traces of ricin were found in one apartment where some arrests were made. The evidence is not conclusive, but officials said one suspect worked for a food preparation company and had been in contact with individuals working on at least one British military base.

North, South Korea hold talks on nukes

North and South Korea talked for three days, and ended up papering over differences.
South Korea acknowledged that the talks had "not produced a progressive position from the North over the nuclear issue."
But President Kim Dae-jung, in a farewell news conference, said: "Sometimes we don't like what the other party does, but we need to talk with them and negotiate. This is the reality, whether we like it or not."

Kuwaiti opens fire on car, killing American

An American civilian defense contractor, Michael Rene Pouliot, 46, was killed and his co-worker, David John Caraway, 37, seriously wounded when a Kuwaiti opened fire on their car near Camp Doha, the U.S. military headquarters.
It was the third such attack since the U.S. military buildup began last fall.
Hours later, Saudi border guards arrested Sami Mohammed Al-Mutairi, 25, whom the police identified as a government worker and Osama bin Laden sympathizer.

7 skiers swept to their deaths by avalanche

Seven backcountry skiers, including a retired world-champion snowboarder, were swept by an avalanche to their deaths while searching for the perfect run on the glaciers of the Selkirk Mountains of western Canada.
The victims were buried by more than 15 feet of snow, while 14 others escaped. After a police investigation, officials ruled out criminal negligence on the part of the Selkirk Mountain Experience, one of Canada's most prominent adventure vacation companies. A headline in the National Post newspaper summed up the Canadian reaction to the disaster: "They accept the risks and do it anyway."

Sharon's party holds lead before elections

In the last days of campaigning before national elections on Jan. 28, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appeared to solidify the substantial lead of his right-wing party, Likud. Polls consistently showed that Likud's traditional rival, Labor, trailed by a margin that would leave it with fewer seats than it had ever held in the 120-seat parliament. Labor's leader, Amram Mitzna, who favors immediately returning to the negotiating table with the Palestinians, has pledged not to join a coalition government led by Sharon. If Labor loses and sticks to its pledge, Sharon may have little choice but to form a rightist government cobbled together from small nationalist and religious parties. Despite Likud's lead, Sharon's governing majority could prove narrow.

Nation endures second week of severe cold

With Arctic air threatening crops as far south as Florida and dumping snow on North Carolina's Outer Banks, much of the country suffered through the second week of a severe cold snap. There were record low temperatures in New England, and as many as 15 straight days below freezing in much of the Upper Midwest and Northeast. The cold felt even harsher because it followed an unseasonably warm December and a mild winter last year and through much of the 1990s.

National system will monitor air quality

The Bush administration started deploying a national system of environmental monitors to help protect Americans against bioterrorism. Starting with New York City, many of the Environmental Protection Agency's 3,000 air-quality monitoring stations will be adapted to register unusual quantities of a wide range of pathogens that incapacitate and kill. Stations will send samples to laboratories associated with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials hope it will give them more time to mobilize resources that could save thousands of lives during a germ strike.

Fossil discovery shows dinosaur link to birds

The latest fossil discoveries from China show that the dinosaurian ancestors of birds had four wings - one set on the forelimbs and the other on their legs. These aerodynamic wing feathers could be a long-sought link between dinosaurs and the origin of birds and flight. One theory held that birds evolved from ground-living dinosaurs that ran so fast they became airborne. The four-winged creatures, scientists say, revived an older idea that birds evolved from arboreal animals, which got the hang of aerial travel by gliding from tree to tree like today's flying squirrels.

Bush plans to expand faith-based initiative

The Bush administration plans to expand its faith-based initiative with a proposal to allow religious groups to use federal housing money to build social service facilities at places of worship. Administration officials said it should help eliminate discrimination against religions in grants. But critics called the plan a clear breach of the separation of church and state.

- Compiled by The New York Times

Hispanics now the No. 1 U.S. minority

The Census Bureau confirmed that Hispanics, with a population now estimated at 37 million, have edged past blacks, counted at 36.2 million, as the nation's largest minority. But the figures also reveal the difficulty in counting the country's increasingly multiethnic population. Hispanics can be of any race. The total number for blacks, including those who chose more than one race, was 37.7 million, higher than the general figure for Hispanics.

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