The Week That Was

The Week That Was

March 18 2002
The Week That Was

The Week That Was

March 18 2002

The Week That Was

Fears of more religious violence in India

India braced for more bloody clashes between Hindus and Muslims as aid workers continued to dig bodies from the charred ruins of houses across the western state of Gujarat. The violence began on Feb. 27 when Muslims in the city

of Godhra set fire to a train carrying Hindu extremists who were returning from a controversial religious site in the northern city of Ayodhya. Nearly 60 people died in the fire, which immediately triggered a wave of reprisal killings that lasted a week

and left almost 700 people dead and some 56,000 homeless.

The disputed site in Ayodhya was once a mosque. But in 1992, Hindu mobs tore down the 16th-century building, in the process inciting religious violence in which 3,000 people died. Now, Hindu extremists want to build a temple at the site.

They plan to hold a prayer meeting there on March 15 and that could result in further bloodshed-even as relief workers tried to convince frightened Muslims to return to their homes. “These people are too shaken,” said one aid worker in Ahmadabad, Gujarat’s main city. “They were victims of barbaric acts.”

A landmark land claim

The 7,000-member Haida Nation filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court claiming title over the Queen Charlotte Islands. The claim includes the waters surrounding the islands, off B.C.’s northern mainland near Prince Rupert, as well as offshore resources. A lawyer for the Haida said it’s the first time offshore resource rights have been part of a land claim. The territory is thought to hold billions of dollars worth of oil and gas reserves, but environmentalists say the area is too sensitive and earthquakeprone to be drilled safely.The Haida want a voice in how the territory is managed and developed.

Condit clobbered

Gary Condit’s 30-year career in politics ended with his defeat by a former protege, thanks to relentless publicity about his relationship with a missing Washington intern. Chandra Levy, 24, disappeared last April, and while the California congressman has never been an official suspect, Washington police sources said he admitted having an affair with her.

Critics contend Condit’s refusal to publicly acknowledge the nature of that romantic relationship cost him support. Voters

chose Dennis Cardoza as the Democratic nominee in November’s congressional elections.

The search continues

Vancouver police and RCMP allegedly uncovered evidence that a Port Coquitlam, B.C., pig farm is the site where two of 50 missing Vancouver women were murdered. Officials have appealed to families of the missing women for information about clothing and personal items they may have had with them when they disappeared. Police have charged Robert Pickton, 53, with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Serena Abotsway, 30,

and Mona Wilson, 26. A massive search continues on the property.

Pastor convicted

A Belgian jury found a pastor and his daughter guilty of killing six family members and dissolving their corpses in chemical drain cleaner. Andras Pandy, 74, received a life sentence while his daughter, Agnes, 44, was sentenced to 21 years in prison. Prosecutors said Pandy raped his daughters and stepdaughters, then murdered some of them to cover up the incest. At the trial, prosecutors used a cadaver to demonstrate how a human body could be dissolved in cleaner.

Womb transplanted

Doctors in Saudi Arabia have performed the first human uterus transplant, which produced two menstrual periods before it failed and had to be removed.The experiment indicated a womb transplant is technically achievable. The operation, reported in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, failed because a blood vessel supplying the uterus developed a clot. Dr. Wafa Fageeh, a professor at King Abdulaziz University in Jiddah, used the womb of a 46-year-old woman who had a hysterectomy and implanted it in a 26-year-old who had lost her uterus after a difficult childbirth.

Embryo research a go

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research issued new federal guidelines that will allow Canadian scientists to perform stem cell research on human embryos, provided the embryos are left over from treatment for infertility. The guidelines,

however, ban the creation of embryos specifically for research. Until now, there has been a voluntary moratorium on human embryo research. Embryonic stem cells have the ability to develop into almost every type of tissue in the human body and hold great potential for treating such diseases as diabetes and Alzheimer’s. But they can be obtained only from embryos that are destroyed in the process.

Straight from the heart

A mini-scandal broke out at the esteemed Harvard Business Review after its editor acknowledged she had a romantic relationship with business guru Jack Welch. Suzy Wetlaufer, 42, said she interviewed the 66-year-old former chairman of General Electric Co., then developed a relationship with him. After Wetlaufer notified a superior, other staffers re-interviewed Welch, and their version was published in the February issue. Amid the controversy, Wetlaufer stepped down

as editor-at-large but said she will return in April. Welch, author of the best-seller Jack: Straight from the Gut, is married. Wetlaufer is divorced.

Officer murdered

While thousands of police officers from across Canada and the United States paid homage to slain comrade Benoit LÉcuyer, a man sought in the killing snored on a couch in a Montreal apartment. Police found Stéphane Boucher, 24, after receiving a telephone tip. Boucher was charged with first-degree murder. LÉcuyer, a seven-year member of the Montreal force, was gunned down on Feb. 28 after he and his partner chased a car that went through a speed trap.

Romanow hits the road

Former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow headed back to his old stomping ground to kick off the first of 19 public hearings to be held across Canada. The federal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada heard diverse views from a variety of groups, politicians and individuals in Regina and Winnipeg. In an interim report released in February, Romanow outlined options for reforming Canada’s health-care system, including more funding, user fees and private-sector participation. The commission will release a final report in November.

Steely resolve

The United States angered Europe and other trading partners by levying tariffs of up to 30 per cent on steel imports, claiming producers such as South Korea and China were dumping the metal in the U.S. market. Canada and Mexico, as partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement, were exempted. The European Union japan and Australia challenged the move at the World Trade Organization. American officials hoped the levies would give the beleaguered U.S. steel industry time to make itself more efficient. The Canadian industry is also troubled, and Ottawa is considering similar tariffs to prevent exporters from diverting cheap steel northward.

A deadly showdown with Al-Qaeda fighters

Canadian soldiers guarding the sprawling military base at Kandahar had been growing frustrated by the lack of action. But last week, nearly 20 snipers from the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry were thrown into the thick of the battle when they were transferred to Gardez in the eastern mountains of Afghanistan, the scene of some of the most intense fighting since the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism began bombing the country on Oct. 7. An estimated 1,000 Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, holed up in mountain bases once used by the mujahedeen during their war against the Soviets in the 1980s, were engaged in a bitter fight against coalition forces, amid reports that hundreds

of sympathizers-including some from Pakistan-had crossed into the mountains to join the battle.

The snipers from the Princess Patricia’s joined members of Canada’s elite Joint Task Force 2 already deployed in the area.

Along with U.S. troops, they face a foe that appears to be dug in for a final battle. “We’d like them to surrender,” said American Maj.-Gen. Frank Hagenbeek, who is directing the coalition forces. “But we’re more than willing to kill them.” The assault on the stronghold began on March 1, and U.S. spokesmen said the fighting could go on for days. By week's end, hundreds of Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters had been killed, but eight American and seven Afghan troops had also died.

Seven of the U.S. deaths occurred after two MH-47 Chinook transport helicopters touched down high in the mountains near an Al-Qaeda hideout. The helicopters came under heavy fire; as they took off one soldier fell out. Two other helicopters were then sent in for a rescue attempt, but were ambushed. A fierce battle ensued, which ended nearly 12 hours later with the defeat of the Al-Qaeda forces, but with the U.S. suffering its worst single day’s casualties since the war began.

In Kabul, meanwhile, five peacekeepers-two Germans and three Danes-died when a Sovietera missile they were trying to defuse exploded. And reporting on the war also continues to be

a dangerous assignment. So far,

eight journalists have died in Afghanistan. Last week, Kathleen Kenna, South Asian bureau chief for the Toronto Star, suffered serious leg injuries when a man tossed a hand grenade into the car she was riding in. Kenna, her husband Hadi Dadashian and Star photographer Bernard Weil had been in Gardez covering the fighting. She was flown to a U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany, where doctors operated in an attempt to save her leg. At week’s end she remained in serious condition.