Weekly Review — December 4, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

President Bush sent an envoy to Israel with the aim of restarting peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. Hamas proved that it still has the power to prevent such negotiations by sending a wave of suicide bombers into Israel, which culminated in a double bombing on a crowded Jerusalem street that left at least 10 people dead. Body parts littered the neighborhood. Yasir Arafat declared a state of emergency and arrested 110 suspected Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants. Israel retaliated by bombing Gaza City with cruise missiles. Prime Minister Sharon “declared war on terror.” A paper in the scientific journal Human Immunology found that Jews and Palestinians have no significant genetic differences; after receiving complaints, the journal’s editor repudiated the paper and sent letters to libraries asking them to rip out the offending pages. Prime Minister Sharon said he wanted to see a million new Jewish immigrants, particularly from Argentina, France, and South Africa. Rael, the leader of a Canadian UFO cult called the Raelians, which supports a company called Clonaid, said that his group had already cloned a human embryo, dismissing Advanced Cell Technology’s claim to have done so first. Raelians wish to clone full-grown humans into whom memories and such can be downloaded: “That is what interests us â?? it is to be able to live eternally through several bodies.” “The use of embryos to clone is wrong,” President Bush declared. “We should not as a society grow life to destroy life.” Objections by the United States prevented an international agreement that would have limited the advertising of tobacco products, which are estimated to kill 4 million people each year. Japan reported another case of mad cow disease and was preparing to slaughter 5,129 cows which might have been exposed to the disease. Crown Princess Masako of Japan gave birth to a baby girl.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said he wanted to rewrite the FBI’s guidelines to allow the agency to spy on domestic political and religious groups; the rules in question were imposed in the 1970s because of significant civil-rights abuses that occurred under the J. Edgar Hoover regime. Critics said that Ashcroft’s new antiterrorism tactics were in fact old tactics that the FBI discarded because they did not work. “It is amazing to me that Ashcroft is essentially trying to dismantle the bureau,” a former FBI executive director said. “They don’t know their history and they are not listening to people who do.” Former FBI director William Webster said that long-term surveillance and undercover operations were much more effective than mass arrests and led to 131 prevented terroristattacks between 1981 and 2000. A former assistant director called Ashcroft’s tactics “ridiculous” and “the Perry Mason School of Law Enforcement.” Robert Durst, a fugitive millionaire from New York, was arrested in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, after he was caught shoplifting a Band-Aid for a cut under his nose, a newspaper, and a chicken salad hero with roasted peppers. Durst, who has been disguising himself by wearing women’s clothing and pretending to be mute, had shaved his head and eyebrows and is suspected of murdering and cutting up a man in Galveston, Texas. President Bush again warned the terrorists of the world to watch out and made a foray into lexicography: “If anybody harbors a terrorist, they’re a terrorist. If they fund a terrorist, they’re a terrorist. If they house terrorists, they’re terrorists. I mean, I can’t make it any more clearly to other nations around the world.” Saudi Arabia was still refusing to freeze terrorists‘ bank accounts. American officials declared that they were “on a roll” and that the next targets in the crusade against terrorism were Saddam Hussein, Hamas, and the Hezbollah network in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, the Philippines, Indonesia, and North Korea were also being mentioned as future targets. Saudi Arabia was not yet on the list. Maoist rebels attacked a Coca-Cola plant near Katmandu. American warplanes apparently missed the Tora Bora cave complex, where Osama bin Laden might be hiding, and bombed a nearby village called Gudara; survivors said dozens, possibly hundreds, of people died. Northern Alliance soldiers, aided by American and British troops, killed hundreds of Taliban prisoners who tried to escape from a makeshift prison in an old fortress. Amnesty International and other human-rights groups called for an investigation, saying it appeared that war crimes had been committed. Afghan women returned to school, and dervishes were whirling once again in Kabul.

Archaeologists announced the discovery of artifacts in South Africa that establish modern human behavior in Africa more than 70,000 years ago, which contradicts the prevailing theory that such traits as symbolic thinking emerged in a “creative explosion” only after humans migrated to Europe 40,000 years ago. Playboy magazine introduced limited editions of anatomically correct Playmate dolls. People in South Africa, which has the highest rate of AIDS infection in the world, were still trying to get the government to distribute a drug that helps prevent the transmission of HIV to newborn babies; South Africa’s health department asked the bureau of standards to increase the standard condom size from 16 to 18 centimeters. Greek policemen, believing them to be spies, arrested a group of British plane-spotters who traveled to Greece to practice their hobby, which is unknown in most of the world. In Brazil, a farmer claimed that the explosion of two UFOs that crashed in mid-air blinded all his cows. Rwanda hosted a gathering of genocide survivors that included Tutsis, European Jews, American Indians, Cambodians, and Armenians. South and North Korea exchanged fire in the demilitarized zone separating the two countries. Two baseball fans were fighting in court over the custody of Barry Bonds’s 73rd homerun ball. In Louisiana, a judge was suspended for 30 days for beating up another judge and leaving him bleeding on the floor. Lipstick sales were up. A 38-inch-tall Floridiandwarf sued to overturn Florida’s ban on dwarf-tossing. George Harrison died.The mayor of Inglis, Florida, issued an official proclamation saying that “Satan is hereby declared powerless, no longer ruling over, nor influencing, our citizens.”

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Editor's Note

Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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