Bosnia Closer to Peace
A new constitution is set to streamline the three-headed government of Bosnia and Herzegovina this month. The old system—in place since the 1995 Dayton Accords ended the bloodiest fighting Europe had seen since WWII—had separate presidents for Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks, along with fourteen education departments. The new plan features one president and—eventually, it is hoped—a strong parliament and prime minister, both crucial steps toward eventual European Union membership. Bosnian Serb leaders have also vowed to intensify the search for two accused war criminals, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, who have been at large in the Serb community ever since a UN tribunal indicted them more than ten years ago.
FEMA Cuts Off Evacuees
Rental assistance for refugees from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina is due to end today, despite the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s initial promise that support would last one year. Cities like Houston, which quickly lined up 24,000 yearlong leases for the displaced, may be left footing the bill. FEMA revised its original policy last November and plans to replace the subsidies with direct payments to individuals, but critics charge that the program is so marred by bureaucratic problems that evacuees will be stuck with no way to pay rent.
First World Baseball Classic
Sixteen nations will face off in six venues around the globe in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, which culminates on March 20 in San Diego. The tourney has forced many foreign-born Major League Baseball players to decide between their adopted and native countries, and forced the Bush administration to decide between the forty-year-old embargo on Cuba and the much- anticipated grudge match between the U.S. team and the reigning Olympic gold medalists.
9/11 Conspirator Faces Death
Opening statements begin today in the death-penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only 9/11 plotter to be convicted in the United States. Moussaoui pleaded guilty to conspiracy last April, claiming involvement not in the 9/11 attacks but rather in a planned second wave of hijackings that would have flown a 747 into the White House. Prosecutors will try to prove that Moussaoui, already in custody at the time of the attacks, could have prevented them by sharing details with the FBI. If the jury agrees, the French citizen of Moroccan descent could be sentenced to death.
VHS vs. Beta, Round 2
First came videocassettes, then DVDs. Now cineastes are girding for a new battle in the “format wars” over high-definition DVDs, which hit stores today and will shake up the $26 billion domestic DVD market. As with the VHS-Betamax battle in the 1980s, a showdown looms between HD-DVD, pioneered by Toshiba, and Blu-ray discs, being developed by Sony, Samsung, and Pioneer. Toshiba may gain the upper hand via its earlier debut, lower-priced equipment ($500 for a low-end HD-DVD player compared to $1,000 for a similar Blu-ray model), and backward compatibility with standard DVDs.
Orange Revolution on the Rocks
The hopeful days of orange-clad youths protesting Ukraine’s corrupt, Russian-backed regime in the streets of Kiev are over, replaced by bitter infighting. Many of President Viktor Yushchenko’s Western-friendly reforms have stalled due to intra-party squabbles, especially with the populist, left-leaning former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Fired last September after accusations of corruption, she has retaliated with similar charges against the administration and now leads a strong opposition party going into today’s elections.
Libya's Solar-Powered Tourism
Libya’s tourism industry has, perhaps not surprisingly, struggled to revive itself since UN sanctions against the onetime terrorist-coddling dictatorship were lifted in 2003. But at last the stars (or, rather, the sun and the moon) have aligned. Experts have determined that the best view of today’s full solar eclipse may be had after a four-wheel-drive trip deep into the Sahara Desert, where the eclipse will last longer than anywhere else in the world—more than four minutes. Fewer Westerners are likely to witness this year’s event than saw the last eclipse, in 1999, which was visible in Europe. Those who find Libya a bit too sandy can catch a briefer glimpse in Brazil.