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News Briefs

Stocks Climb as War Becomes More Likely

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Stock prices soared Monday as war with Iraq appeared imminent rather than uncertain and investors gained confidence that a U.S.-led invasion would be short and successful.

The Dow Jones industrial average, an index of 30-blue chip stocks, jumped 282.21 points, or 3.59 percent, to close at 8,141.92.

In the past four trading days, the Dow has gained 617.86 points, allowing it Monday to close above the 8,000 mark for the first time since Feb. 21.

The technology-laden Nasdaq composite index gained 51.94, or 3.88 percent, to 1,392.27. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, a broader measure of market performance, rose 29.52, or 3.54 percent, to 862.79.

Investors reacted to White House statements Monday that President Bush was abandoning diplomacy and giving Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein an ultimatum to leave Iraq voluntarily to avoid a military conflict.

Search for Key Shuttle Piece Intensifies

THE WASHINGTON POST -- HOUSTON

Investigators are intensifying their search in a five square-mile area of the Utah/ Nevada border for what may be a golf ball-size piece of debris from the shuttle Columbia that could be the most telling clue so far into what caused the spacecraft’s demise on Feb 1.

The area in which the debris is thought to have fallen is mountainous and has had heavy snow since the shuttle tragedy, hampering searchers who are combing the area. Over the past few weeks, using a combination of video images, ground radar tracking, and mathematical modelling, scientists have increasingly narrowed the probable location, officials said Monday.

The piece of debris they are seeking may prove crucial to the independent board investigating the mishap. In a hearing Monday, experts testified that it would be extremely difficult to deduce what caused the left wing of the Columbia to heat up and come apart while the shuttle was more than 200,000 feet in the air from fragments that came off the spaceship well after the catastrophe started to unfold.

Since the tragedy on Feb 1, a herculean search effort has failed to turn up any debris west of Texas. The westernmost pieces of debris found so far are two tiles that likely came off the orbiter as it was flying over New Mexico, said Paul Hill, NASA’s Space Shuttle Flight Director. Video shot by amateur photographers shows debris coming off the orbiter as it passed over California, and investigation board member Sheila E. Widnall ’60 said Monday that debris “must have fallen off in the ocean well before.”

Baghdad Panicky as War Looms

THE WASHINGTON POST -- BAGHDAD, IRAQ

After months of displaying business-as-usual calm even as legions of U.S. troops assembled within striking distance of Iraq, Baghdad residents showed signs of panic Monday at the prospect of an imminent American invasion and the lawlessness it may spark.

People cleared stores of bottled water and canned food, converted sacks of Iraqi currency into dollars and waited in long queues for gasoline. Merchants fearful of looting emptied their stores of electronics and designer clothing, while soldiers intensified work on trenches and removed sensitive files from government buildings. Cars stuffed with people and household possessions drove out of the city.

“Everyone is scared,” Sayed Khuder, an electronics salesman, said as a half-dozen laborers removed $12,000 worth of televisions, refrigerators and air conditioners from his store in one of the city’s tonier neighborhoods and loaded the merchandise on a pickup truck. “People know what will happen. They don’t see anything but war in the future.”

For months, this city of nearly 6 million people seemed impervious to the prospect of war. Residents boasted that American threats were an everyday occurrence. Many insisted an invasion never would come to pass. Even if it did, they predicted it would be similar to December 1998, when the United States fired cruise missiles at Baghdad for four nights, destroying several empty government buildings but doing little to affect the normal rhythms of life. People boasted that, in any case, stores would be stocked with food and filling stations with fuel.

Troops on War’s Razor Edge

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- MARINE STAGING AREA EIGHT, KUWAIT

At military encampments scattered throughout this hostile desert that separates Kuwait and Iraq, the same question is being asked in quiet, uncertain voices: What’s it going to be like?

As war looms ever closer, church attendance here is up, nerves are fraying and untested Marines and soldiers -- some barely out of high school -- are seeking reassurance.

“The young ones are coming to me and asking ‘Master Guns, what’s it like?’ ” said Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Garsheo Black, a combat veteran of the Persian Gulf War. “I tell them: ‘It’s going to change your life, but you’re going to get through it, just like I got through it and Marines have always gotten through it.’ ”

The faces here are young, earnest and still untouched by ironic detachment, cynicism and, for the most part, battle. Following orders is a given. President Bush says Saddam Hussein must go. End of discussion.

But some have yet to sort out the rush of emotions at being on the precipice of war: excitement, tedium and, inevitably, fear.

“I’m afraid of being killed,” said Sgt. David Harriss, 21, of Clemson, S.C. “But I’m more afraid of not doing my job, of doing something that lets my buddies down and gets Marines injured.”

They also worry about killing. Isn’t it wrong? Will they be able to do it when the time comes? Many are turning to Lt. Col. Keil Gentry, 38, of Michigan, who’s logged 17 years in the corps.