News you missed during the war.

April 21 2003 2:03 PM

Armed Standoff on the Mall

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

March 20, 2003: U.S. and British troops entered Iraq. Meanwhile, Asian doctors and nurses fearing infection stayed home rather than treat patients suffering from SARS. Six asylum-seekers were charged with hijacking after they took over a Cuban airliner at knifepoint and diverted it to the Florida Keys. The state of Texas executed its 300th inmate, a man who killed a convenience store clerk in 1994. A Montgomery County ethics committee ruled that Police Chief Charles Moose could not profit from his memoirs of last fall's sniper attacks. Saudi Arabia was earning an extra billion dollars a week from oil revenue as global anxiety drove up oil prices, and the kingdom neared full production capacity. NASA hoped the discovery of an intact flight data recorder would shed light on the shuttle Columbia's demise. A retired Air Force master sergeant was sentenced to life in prison for attempting to sell intelligence secrets to Iraq and China.

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March 19, 2003: American forces in the Persian Gulf launched the first strikes on Baghdad. Meanwhile, the Senate narrowly rejected Bush's plan for oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Proponents tried to tuck the ANWR drilling measure into the 2004 budget plan to ease its passage, but opponents had the votes to block them. Yasser Arafat handed some of his power over to longtime deputy Mahmoud Abbas, who was named Palestinian prime minister and given three weeks to draft "the broad outlines" of a future Palestinian government. 1,000 U.S. troops raided southeastern Afghanistan, looking for al-Qaida operatives in the largest U.S. military operation there in more than a year. Bush administration officials cited intelligence reports that North Korea's efforts to restart its nuclear reprocessing facility had so far been unsuccessful. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia accepted a free speech award and forbade the use of tape recorders or video cameras during his remarks. After 48 hours, tobacco farmer Dwight W. Watson was persuaded to surrender to police. No explosives were found on his tractor, and no changes were made to U.S. tobacco policy.

March 18, 2003: Saddam rejected Bush's ultimatum. Meanwhile, China's new leaders, President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, announced in their first official press conference that they would continue to embrace market reform. For the third time in as many weeks, Senate Republicans could not muster the votes to break a Democratic filibuster on federal appeals court nominee Miguel Estrada. A Massachusetts judge ruled that free speech had been violated when high school students were prevented from handing out candy canes to classmates with literature explaining that the "J" shape represented Jesus. Egypt's highest court cleared Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a high-profile democracy advocate, of all charges after 14 months of imprisonment and growing international criticism. Record-breaking snow paralyzed Colorado and parts of Wyoming, closing the Denver airport and even ski resorts.

March 17, 2003: George W. Bush issued his ultimatum giving Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq. Meanwhile, North Carolina tobacco farmer Dwight W. Watson drove a tractor into a pond on the Mall in Washington, D.C., claiming his ride was rigged with explosives. He said he wanted to draw attention to unfair American tobacco policies. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry was lauded for attending South Boston's annual St. Patrick's Day political breakfast, where he was ribbed about his unexpectedly having Jewish ancestors but not Irish ones. A Utah bishop declared that Elizabeth Smart was "pure before the Lord," no matter what abuse she may have suffered during her kidnapping. Las Vegas showgirls pushed the city to repeal restrictions on lap dances. They had recently won back the right to have tips stuffed into their G-strings, a practice Clark County had banned. China's Health Ministry reassured the World Health Organization that the outbreak of a mysterious new disease called SARS had peaked in February.

Ed Finn is the director of the Center for Science and the Imagination and an assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the Department of English at Arizona State University.

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast.

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