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Dispatches The Buzz

1
still dangerous
Six British soldiers were killed in southern Iraq, and eight more injured in a separate ambush as they tried to land a helicopter nearby. The deaths were the single largest loss for British forces in a combat situation since the 1991 Gulf War. It was also the deadliest incident for coalition forces since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government on April 9. The soldiers were members of the Royal Military Police tasked to train Iraqis and set up local security in a town north of Basrah. Residents say armed Iraqis, upset with aggressive patrols from the Brits, stormed the police station, killed the soldiers, along with perhaps four Iraqis, and set fire to the building. Coalition forces had no remaining witnesses to verify what may have happened, but said the attack was unprovoked. Officials are wondering whether the spate of clashes between coalition forces and Iraqi gunmen, including one firefight this week in which three Iraqis were killed and an American wounded, are coordinated by Baath Party militants. Still, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned reporters at the Pentagon that easier days aren't yet in sight for coalition forces. "You've got to be careful of the snapshots you take." The United States now has just under 150,000 troops in Baghdad, to Britain's 14,000. Last week Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf agreed to add thousands of his troops to the postwar coalition-the first time the Muslim head of state will have committed military forces outside his own borders to the war on terror.
2
single digit
Hula hoops, credit cards, and commercial passenger jets were cutting-edge. Danny & The Juniors topped the pop music charts with the record "At The Hop." America's biggest sports sensation-the New York Yankees' Mickey Mantle-had a contract worth $75,000. The year was 1958, and it was the last time the federal funds rate was as low as it became last week. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and the Fed's other governors cut the key interest rate from 1.25 percent to 1 percent; it was the 13th cut since January 2001, and any future increase is nowhere in sight. "The clear message is that rates are going to stay low for some time," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York. Analysts hope the low interest rates, coupled with President Bush's tax cut, will spur an economy that grew at a sluggish 1.9 percent annual rate during the first quarter.
3
dizzy dean
Howard Dean last week likened his "outsider" bid to become the Democratic nominee for president to "breaking into the country club." He made the comment three days after his 17-year-old son was charged with being the wheel man for a group of friends who allegedly busted into an outbuilding of the Burlington (Vt.) Country Club to steal beer-and hours before his formal campaign kick-off last week. "Why do I say these things?" the rattled candidate said to his press secretary after realizing he had uttered an "incredibly unfortunate phrase." But Dr. Dean, a physician and former governor of Vermont, has emerged from the lower tier of single-issue and fringe candidates to become a serious contender: He's second and third, respectively, in New Hampshire and Iowa, the first states to select candidates. What separates him from others in the first tier is his outright opposition to the Iraq war, and his opinion that the post-war effort is undermanned. His liberalism is popular among primary voters-left-of-the-freezer-aisle Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream created a new sundae, "Maple Powered Howard," in his honor-but in some media appearances he doesn't look ready for prime time. The morning before he officially declared his candidacy, Dr. Dean was embarrassed by NBC's Tim Russert, who pressed him for foreign-policy specifics: "How many troops would you have in Iraq?" "More than we have now.... I can't tell you exactly how many it takes," he said after declaring that he also didn't know how many troops are on active duty-"and I don't think I need to know that to run in the Democratic Party primary." More performances like these and a new official campaign ice cream might be Rocky Road.
4
'no ... moral authority'
The Bush administration used the release of its annual human-rights report to turn up the heat on two thug regimes that until now had eluded U.S. attention. Secretary of State Colin Powell called for the ouster of dictators in Zimbabwe and Burma (also known as Myanmar). In an unusual and impassioned opinion piece appearing in The New York Times, Mr. Powell called for the ouster of Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe and the ruling junta in Burma. "President Mugabe and his Politburo colleagues have an absolute monopoly of coercive power, but no legitimacy or moral authority," Mr. Powell wrote. "How many good Zimbabweans will lose their jobs, their homes or even their lives before President Mugabe's violent misrule runs its course?" Burma's military junta has detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi since May 30. In Zimbabwe, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is on trial for plotting assassination against the president, charges widely believed to be fabricated. Mr. Tsvangirai was arrested for treason just before elections many believed he could win; he faces the death penalty if convicted.
5
good riddance
The World Health Organization lifted its remaining SARS travel advisory, prompting collective sighs of relief in residents from Beijing to Brisbane. The agency removed the final restriction-a recommendation against travel to the Chinese capital-on June 24, less than a month after the last new case of SARS in China was isolated. The Beijing Youth Daily front page showed a photograph of smiling residents in front of a banner reading, "We Win!" The city rang in the news with flying confetti, clanging gongs, and streamers fired from a cannon in the city's exhibition hall. But one day later and 1,000 miles away, health officials confirmed a new case of the disease in Guangdong province. The patient is a 77-year-old woman from Hong Kong who has been isolated since June 3. They also confirmed one SARS death in Beijing-a sign of the flu-like illness's lingering aftermath. Asian businesses hope the economic fallout from SARS will not linger. As restrictions fell also in Hong Kong and Taiwan, officials declared an end to surgical mask-wearing, and residents quickly obliged. Beijing announced the reopening of discos, Internet cafes, and other public venues. Over 8,000 people worldwide have been affected by SARS. China tallied the most cases, 5,300; 348 died.