Discovery Returns While Mideast Violence Escalates

The world is steamy and smoking in many corners on this hot summer day in the thick of July.

Some of the red heat this morning came off the nose cone and leading edges of the shuttle Discovery as it broke through the atmosphere on its way to a screeching halt. The orbiter started the morning at 17,000 MPH. Just by dropping speed some 200 mph, it began to "de-orbit" and start its hair-raising trip back to earth.

Our resident astronaut, Tom Jones told us that having floated around for 13 days — the return of gravity weighs on you like pounds of lead on your shoulders. He says the next sensation of reentry is that your body pitches forward and you have to fight just to hold yourself up. It is an extraordinary act of physics that Americans had come to expect should happen as planned, until Columbia in 2003.

Today, thankfully, just two missions after the doomed Columbia exploded in that red heat — Discovery is home and safe. Its successful mission will be NASA's best argument for making the shuttle program really start "shuttling" to build the International Space Station and get our dreams back to outer space. Congratulations to Lindsey, Kelly, Sellers, Fossum, Wilson and Nowak. They return to an Earth that is a bit more complicated than the one they left.

One of the central questions for the war in the Middle East is — which way will Lebanon go? Will Lebanon's government steel itself while Israel attempts to "carve out the cancer of Hezbollah?" Or, will Lebanon, whose parliament has at least two-dozen Hezbollah members among it, push back against Israel's bombing by turning to the familiar strong arm of Syria.

President Bush cautioned Israel not to destabilize the Siniora government in the process of defending itself. But today - in an interview with Jon Scott — Lebanon's leader seemed to sympathize with Hezbollah. A change that may reflect a turning of the tide in this once great — now battered nation.

Israel, now hitting Lebanon by air and moving ground troops into southern Lebanon.
How will the world react — and who will be drawn in? What will Iran be willing to accomplish during the fog of war?

As the smoke rises from southern Lebanon and Haifa, during these steamy summer days there is little "lazy" in this summer so far, and much to be concerned about. Stay tuned.


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