News Briefs

Six dead during U.S. training exercise in Kuwait

A joint U.S.-Kuwaiti investigation is underway after a U.S. Navy fighter jet accidentally dropped a bomb in Kuwait Monday, killing five American soldiers and an army major from New Zealand and injuring many more. Pentagon officials are speculating that the bomb detonated in the wrong place because of “poor targeting, rather than pilot error or a technical malfunction,” according to The New York Times. This means that either the pilot was given erroneous coordinates by a forward air controller, or there was a problem with the jet’s targeting computer. Live ammunition exercises and training will continue despite the tragedy, according to Kuwaiti ministers. The bombing was the third Navy incident in recent months that involved fatalities, following the terrorist attack on the USS Cole and the sinking of a Japanese fishing boat by the USS Greeneville. Experts say that this was the worst live ammunition training accident in recent history. President George W. Bush expressed compassion for the families of those involved, saying how much he appreciated their service to the country.

Bamiyan, Afghanistan

Taliban completes destruction of ancient Buddhas

The Buddhas of Bamiyan, carved into the sides of cliffs in central Afghanistan more than 1,500 years ago, were destroyed by Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban regime last week. Despite pleas by United Nations (UN) Secretary General Kofi Annan and offers by western nations to buy the Buddhas, the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban continued with plans laid out by Supreme Leader Mullah Muhammad Omar to purge the nation of all non-Islamic religious symbols. Such objects are seen as idols to the “gods of the infidels,” according to Omar. The edict to destroy the statues comes at a time when more than a million Afghans are considered to be in danger of starvation, following three years of nationwide drought. Relations between the UN and the Taliban have never been amicable and have worsened lately after the imposition of fresh sanctions designed to press the extradition of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, who is suspected in the 1998 African embassy attacks. According to The New York Times, reports from the region are few because heavy fighting near the cliffs between Taliban militia and its remaining opposition has made independent observation impossible.

Palm Beach, Florida

Poor ballot design cost Gore the White House

The 37-day legal standoff that defined the most recent presidential election may have crowned the wrong party victor, according to an article in Sunday’s The Palm Beach Post. After reviewing more than 19,000 ballots cast during the election, the paper found that Repubilcan candidate George W. Bush may have won the race because of a butterfly ballot design that confused older voters, costing Gore 6,607 votes, according to the count. The paper also counted 2,908 votes which were discarded due to punches for both Gore and Socialist David McReynolds, whose hole appeared just below Gore’s. Republicans immediately dismissed the findings as speculation. The findings suggest that Bush’s victory margin of 537 votes could have easily been overcome by Gore. A different recount conducted by the Miami Herald found a net gain of only 49 votes for Gore among the nearly 10,000 ballots that Gore contested in the Supreme Court. But questions remain. “Are these stupid voters? Or is it a stupid voting system? There’s certainly evidence here that these were not stupid voters,” concluded University of California-Berkeley Professor Henry Brady, according to CNN.