Weekly Review — February 19, 2002, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate that President Bush had decided to overthrow Iraq’sSaddam Hussein but had not yet settled on a strategy and was considering his options. The administration was reportedly planning to create an “inspection crisis” by demanding that Iraq admit arms inspectors and then using the expected refusal to justify an attack. “I do not think I am at a point where a decision has been made about where to go next, leave alone the precision of how we will be going about doing this,” said General Tommy Franks, who would be leading any such attack. Former vice president Al Gore said that Iraq was a “virulent threat” and called for a “final reckoning.” A new study estimated that 19.5 percent of Americans suffered from some form of mental illness, contradicting previous estimates that put the figure at 30 to 50 percent. Slobodan Milosevic opened his defense in his genocide and war-crimes trial. “It is all lies,” he said. “The real crime was the killing of Yugoslavia and crucifying me here.” Merck & Company announced that an unknown number of people in 27 countries had been given worthless hepatitis A vaccinations. President Bush told reporters in Japan that he and Prime Minister Koizumi had discussed “non-performing loans, the devaluation issue, and regulatory reform.” After the yen dropped sharply against the dollar, a White House spokesman explained that Bush meant to say “deflation,” not “devaluation.” A new study suggested that Alzheimer’s disease could be caused by eating too much meat.

The House of Representatives passed a ban on soft money. President Bush accepted the recommendation of the Department of Energy to dispose of much of the nation’s nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, even though the science needed to secure the site does not yet exist. Researchers found that mice infected with HIV die faster if they use cocaine. India’s Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena party demonstrated against Valentine’s Day celebrations, burned greeting cards, accosted hand-holding couples, and harassed anyone else who appeared to be participating in the “market of love.” A New York man cut off his left ring finger and sent it to his ex-girlfriend as a Valentine. Afghans in Kandahar were said to have discovered the joys of satellite television pornography. Belgian police forgot about a vagrant they had arrested and left him in a cell for three days without food or water. A jury in Texas found a man guilty of assault for shooting his girlfriend because he thought she was going to say “New Jersey,” the sound of which sends him into an uncontrollable rage; the man also goes crazy when he hears “Wisconsin,” “Snickers,” and “Mars.” Maria Parlavecchio, the wife of convicted mobster Antonio Parlavecchio, was trying to get the government to release sperm that her husband smuggled out of prison with the aid of a prison guard; the sperm was confiscated from Mrs. Parlavecchio’s gynecologist. “It’s the fruits of the crime,” said a federal prosecutor.”It’s contraband.”

The Jamaican government was considering the legalization of marijuana for private use. Naomi Campbell, the model, told a British court that she is a drug addict and will “always be an addict”; Campbell has sued a newspaper for revealing that she attends meetings of Narcotics Anonymous. Doctors at Norway’s largest prison defended giving Viagra to incarcerated sex criminals: “If they have a problem,” one doctor said, “they have the same rights as anyone else to get help.” Students in seven states were suffering from a mysterious rash. New Zealand’s largest phone company apologized to an Auckland businessman who received a bill that included a $140 charge for “being an arrogant bastard.” The commander of an elite Israeli commando unit was killed by the falling wall of a Palestinian home that his men were demolishing. Colorado’s senate approved a bill that makes reckless political statements a crime. Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth but did not kneel. Police in Bogotá, Colombia, said that as many as 50 gangs of human vampires were terrorizing residents. After a dog walker found a human skull, authorities in Noble, Georgia, discovered dozens of skeletons and decomposing bodies at the Tri-State Crematory; apparently the furnace at the crematory broke down some years ago but the company continued to do business with funeral homes, sending back urns filled with burned wood chips and dirt. Princess Margaret was cremated in Slough. Up to 270 million monarch butterflies froze to death in a winter storm in Mexico. Evidence of the bombing of Afghan civilians by United States forces continued to emerge; American officials tried to justify the killing of Daraz Khan, known as “Tall Man,” who was hit by a missile as he gathered scrap metal near the village of Khost. They said that because the man was tall and appeared to be treated with deference by his companions, it was assumed that he was Osama bin Laden, who is six feet four. “We’re convinced that it was an appropriate target,” said a Pentagon spokesman, “but we do not know yet exactly who it was.” “There’s not much to add,” said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, “except there’s one version and there’s the other version.” Scientists at the Genetic Savings and Clone in College Station, Texas, announced that they had cloned a cat. A robot named Asimo rang the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange.

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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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