Weekly Review — August 28, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

The Bush Administration announced that by next month the government surplus, excluding Social Security, will be closer to $600 million than the $122 billion it calculated back in April. President Bush hailed the disappearing surplus as “incredibly positive news,” because it will force the government to resist overspending. Two days earlier, the president asked Congress to grant an additional $39 billion to the military, the largest increase since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The Federal Reserve Board cut interest rates for the seventh time this year, noting that the main threat to the economy is “economic weakness.” New research found that robots are better at trading commodities than humans are. A 36-year-old Peruvian man chopped off his testicles to protest his low wages; last year he amputated his penis because he was unemployed. Residents of Belper, England, banished from their town square a giant Mr. Potato Head, a gift from their sister city in Rhode Island; the $6,000 present was part of the tourist board’s campaign to position the state as “the birthplace of fun.” The metal tail-fin of a high-speed missile dropped from an F-16 fighter jet into a residential neighborhood in Florida, landing within ten feet of two children playing there. The federal government was investigating Johns Hopkins University for its experiment a few years ago in which healthy children were recruited to live in houses with varying degrees of lead contamination. An Oregon car dealer was fined $120,000 for selling seven cars in one month to a 78-year-old man with Alzheimer’s disease.

The first of 400 defunct New York Citysubway cars were dumped off the Delaware coast, where they will serve as artificial reefs. Astronauts removed two tons of trash from the international space station. President Bush declared that America would withdraw from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty “at a time convenient to the United States.” Researchers estimated that 99 percent of the continental U.S. will never see a truly dark starry sky. A Thai newspaper reported that amphetamines are being added to the drinking water at 24-hour arcades to keep people playing longer; a 22-year-old patron died recently from heart failure after an all-night computer-game binge. Scientists found that people who eat a lot of snacks are more prone to macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. The FBI uncovered a six-year scam in which eight people rigged McDonald’s contests, embezzling $13 million in cash and prizes. Smiley the Clown was convicted of sodomizing his young male apprentice. Senator Jesse Helms announced his retirement. A North Carolina state representative apologized after forwarding fellow legislators an email message that declared: “Two things made this country great: White men and Christianity.” President Bush was inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence.

A poll found that eight out of ten Swedish women don’t get enough sex. Tom Green, husband of Hannah, Cari, Linda, LeeAnn, and Shirley, was sentenced to five years in prison for the crime of polygamy. After 26 years of deliberation, Brazil decided to throw out a law that allows a man to annul his marriage if he finds his bride is not a virgin; the new code will take effect in two years. A California appeals board ruled that a law prohibiting topless dancers from touching, caressing, and fondling their own bodies is an infringement of the constitutional right to freedom of expression. Iranianpolice launched a crackdown on “flagrant manifestations of corruption,” including selling pet dogs, playing loud music, and displaying women’s underwear in shop windows. Alabama governor Don Siegelman proclaimed that if God had wanted boys to wear earrings, He would have made them girls. A Minnesota man filed suit against the U.S. government after a veteran’s hospital mistakenly removed his testicles, misdiagnosing his arthritis as cancer. China’s deputy health minister finally admitted that the country is facing an AIDS epidemic; over the first half of this year, HIV infections rose nearly 70 percent compared with the same period last year. Japanesescientists, using resin and a laser, sculpted a bull the size of a red blood cell. In Zimbabwe, militants occupying white-owned farms freed from quarantine livestock infected with foot-and-mouth disease. A thousand mink were missing after being released from a Dutch farm by animal-rights activists; 200 were killed in traffic. A study found that Irish people feel healthier than all other Europeans. A Cincinnati radio station pulled from the air a contest offering a free coffin to the 100th shooting victim of the year. A Canadian man, one year into a ten-year sailing expedition, was forced to cut short his trip after being attacked by pirates with a bread knife. Granma,Cuba’sCommunist newspaper, accused the United States of waging “biological war” against Cuba, resulting in the loss of $2 million of their honey output. A bald eagle was menacing beachgoers in New Hampshire.

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I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

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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