Weekly Review — February 20, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Russia warned that the United States was reverting to Cold War rhetoric after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld denounced Russia as an “active proliferator” of dangerous technology. “They are part of the problem,” he said, defending President George W. Bush’s plans, over Russia’s objections, to deploy an anti-missile system. “Why they would be actively proliferating and then complaining when the United States wants to defend itself against the fruit of those proliferation activities it seems to me is misplaced.” It was “foreign-policy week” at the White House: President Bush went down to Mexico for a visit, personally authorized what he called a “routine” bombing of five Iraqi anti-aircraft sites, and appointed John D. Negroponte to be his ambassador to the United Nations. Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras in the early 1980s, where he helped orchestrate Ronald Reagan’s covert war against Nicaragua. Russia’s Federal Security Service, the heir to the KGB, said it would once again investigate anonymous accusations against Russian citizens, a practice banned by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988. DARE, the anti-drug organization, admitted that its program does not work. School officials in Virginia Beach were paying students to turn in their classmates for drug offenses. A Virginia state senator complained that “spineless pinkos” in the House of Delegates education committee were ruining his efforts to require that public school children recite the pledge of allegiance every morning. Virginia’s legislature apologized for the state’s eugenics policies, including the sterilization of 7,450 people; the eugenics law, passed in 1924, was repealed in 1979. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals somehow managed to leave a voice-mail message from Jack Lemmon in 18,000 Environmental Protection Agency telephone mailboxes; Lemmon complained about the EPA’s chemical-toxicity tests, which are conducted on cute, furry little animals.

France said it would kill 10,000 head of cattle a week in an attempt to raise beef prices, which have been depressed by the mad cow panic. Scientists announced that they had sequenced a mouse genome. The Human Genome Project announced that there are only 27,000 to 40,000 human genes, not 100,000 as had been previously thought, 223 of which were acquired directly from bacteria. The European Parliament approved strict rules on genetically modified organisms. The Kansas state board of educationvoted to restore the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Hindu extremists ran amok in India to protest Valentine’s Day, which they said undermines Indian culture. New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani was upset about a picture in the Brooklyn Museum of Art and was threatening to set up a decency panel to police the city’s museums. Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia demanded that sexy women be banished from Cambodian television. An admitted virgin who rarely watches R-rated movies was named Utah’s new “pornography czar.” Czech officials arrested a Slovakian man who was attempting to smuggle 1,400 pairs of women’s panties into the country. Proctor & Gamble filed patent applications for panty liners that will be able to tell when a woman is pregnant or about to ovulate or when she has infections such as chlamydia, thrush, or HIV. A Massachusetts man was arrested for using a hidden camera to film up a woman’s skirt on a crowded commuter train while watching the action on his laptop.

A criminal investigation into the pardon of Marc Rich was opened; former president Bill Clinton expressed confusion over the hubbub and said that he pardoned Rich because Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak asked him to. Republican governors such as Tommy Thompson and Christie Whitman, both of whom are now Bush cabinet members, were embarrassed by revelations that they, too, had made a number of apparently corrupt pardons. A Palestiniansecurity officer was sentenced to die for collaborating with the occupying Israeli security forces. Israelassassinated a Palestiniansecurity official; Prime Minister Ehud Barak congratulated the army on a job well done. A Palestinianbus driver ran down a crowd of Israelis at a bus stop, killing eight. Islamic rebels in Algeria murdered three men, twelve women, and twelve children in their homes; a new book published in France claims that similar attacks have been carried out by soldiers disguised as rebels. The author, Habib Souaidia, says that he took part in such massacres when he was an officer in the Algerian army. India’s minister of external affairs visited Burma and inaugurated the Myanmar-India Friendship Center for Remote Sensing and Data Processing. NASA landed a spaceship on an asteroid. An Austrian scientist found in a recent study that women typically begin encounters with strange men by emitting positive courtship signals such as head-tossing, hair-flipping, and fiddling with their clothes, though they are often unaware of doing so. San Francisco announced that it would pay for the sex-change operations of municipal employees.A lawyer defending three Serbs on trial at the Hague for sexual slavery argued that “rape in itself is not an act that inflicts severe bodily pain.” Theodore J. Kaczynski, the Unabomber, failed to win a new trial. Psychologists at the University of California revealed that Samson, the Biblical hero, suffered from antisocial personality disorder.

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On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.

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