Weekly Review — February 13, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Ariel Sharon, a known war criminal, was elected prime minister of Israel; Sharon declared that the peace process was dead and that the Palestinians must submit to Israeli domination before negotiations could resume. Palestinians set off a car bomb in Jerusalem; Israeli soldiers shot and killed a teenage Palestinian goatherd. United States Secretary of State Colin Powell defended President George W. Bush’s plans to deploy the national missile defense system despite its technical and political flaws: “I don’t consider it as being an arrogant position,” he said. “Or one where we are trying to force anything on the rest of the world.” Russiandefense minister Igor Sergeyev warned that Russia still had “three mighty programs to asymmetrically counteract U.S. national missile defense forces,” which were developed to defeat President Ronald Reagan’s pie-in-the-sky Star Wars program. President Bush sent his tax cut plan to Congress. About fifteen American states that were enjoying surpluses last year suddenly found themselves with large deficits this year after a decline in tax revenue. Democrats were said to be confused by the contradiction between President Bush’s sweet-talking, inclusive rhetoric and his hardline, right-wing deeds. A lunatic fired a handgun outside the White House and was shot by Secret Service agents. Former president Ronald Reagan turned ninety. President Bush was enjoying his daily naps.

A drug used to cure sleeping sicknessâ??which infects about 300,000 Africans a year, makes them go crazy, and kills themâ??was back in production after its former manufacturer discovered that it removes facial hair on women, thus ensuring a lucrative Western market for the drug; Doctors Without Borders had been down to its last 1,000 doses. A British hospital apologized to plastic-surgery patients for selling their surplus skin to the Defense Evaluation and Research Agency for chemical-weapons research. Drug-resistant strains of HIV were on the rise. A new report found that experiments with lethal biological agents such as anthrax, plague, and botulism, in national laboratories such as Sandia, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Brookhaven, lacked proper safety controls and endangered lab personnel and the general public. The Roman emperor Claudius was poisoned by his wife Agrippina, the mother of Nero, a medical researcher announced after studying Claudius’ symptoms. Japan banned a Chinese soft drink that contains 64.3 mg of sildenafil, the active ingredient of Viagra, per serving; a Japanese Viagra tablet contains 25-50 mg of sildenafil. Bill Clinton was still being pursued by his enemies: Congress was investigating his corrupt last-minute pardons; the press was excited about whether he stole some furniture from the White House; and Morgan Stanley, which reportedly paid Clinton $100,000 for a speech, apologized to its customers for doing so. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was inaugurated as president of Haiti; the opposition, which believes the election was rigged, formed an alternative government. Joseph Estrada, the former president of the Philippines, asked for more time to answer corruption charges but was refused; Estrada is said to be having a hard time finding a lawyer willing to defend him. Political violence continued in Afghanistan, China, Colombia, Congo, Ecuador, Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Kashmir, Liberia, Nigeria, Palestine, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere. A television station in Israel broadcast a home video of a rape. A cougar on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, attacked and tried to eat a man.

Workers at the Miami Seaquarium made turtle stew from an endangered leatherback sea turtle that died there after it was struck by a boat. France set up a special commission to devise a five-point plan to address an alarming drop in truffle production. Alain Passard, a famous French chef, announced that he would no longer cook meat. Two Thais were found to have variant CJD, the human form of mad cow disease. Spanish bullrings, which traditionally have defrayed costs by selling the meat from bulls killed in bullfights, were going broke after the practice was banned due to mad-cow concerns. Human proteins were produced by a genetically modified rubber-tree plant; Hoong-Yeet Yang of the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia, who said the technique involved the use of gene switches from viruses, had high hopes of producing valuable raw materials for pharmaceuticals. New experiments at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, indicated that the “standard model” of quantum physics, i.e., the basic structure of reality, was incorrect. The Pope was considering naming Saint Isidore of Seville the patron saint of Internet users and computer programmers. Sixteen Dominicans who were lost at sea survived for twelve days by sucking at a nursing mother’s breast. A new species of camel was discovered that can survive on salt water. A device was patented that can produce female orgasms at the push of a button. A Dutch man was hospitalized in the Hague after he jumped, three times, from a bridge in three successive suicide attempts; police found him back up on the bridge, suffering from hypothermia, staring down at the icy depths.

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I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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