Weekly Review — April 23, 2002, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

White House officials admitted that senior members of the Bush Administration met with the Venezuelan coup plotters in the weeks before they attempted to overthrow President Hugo Chvez. Some officials claimed that they had discouraged the plotters, others that they had encouraged them. One, asked if the Administration recognized Chvez as the legitimate president of Venezuela, replied that “legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of the voters.” Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said: “I think you have to be very careful about advance knowledge of a specific act and general talk of unease in a nation like Venezuela that has been marked by a very difficult internal democratic situation.” Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut observed that the Administration’s performance on Venezuela cried out for “more adult supervision.” The government of the Netherlands resigned after a report by a human rights group concluded that the Dutch government must share the blame for the 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 unarmed Muslim men and boys by Serbs in Srebrenica, Bosnia, where a small battalion of Dutch peacekeepers had been stationed. Prime Minister Wim Kok, who was deputy prime minister at the time of the massacre, said that “the accumulation of international and national shortcomings must have political consequences.” An American F-16 dropped a 500-pound bomb on some Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and killed four of them. The Senate defeated President George W. Bush’s plan to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. A plague of locusts was attacking crops in northern Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Colin Powell failed to achieve anything notable in his mission to the Middle East, and President Bush, after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refused to “heed the call,” backed down from his demand that Israel withdraw from the West Bank. Journalists and aid workers were finally admitted to the Jenin refugee camp, which was largely destroyed by the Israeli army. Residents told reporters that there were mass graves under several piles of rubble; reporters could confirm only that the piles of rubble were the product of Israeli bulldozers and that they stank of decomposing flesh. “Combating terrorism does not give a blank check to kill civilians,” said Terje Roed-Larsen, a senior United Nations envoy who visited the camp. “However just the cause is, there are illegitimate means, and the means that have been used here are illegitimate and morally repugnant.” A Palestinian suicide bomber attacked a military checkpoint in the Gaza strip. President Bush called Ariel Sharon a “man of peace.” Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, was dispatched to address a large pro-Israel demonstration in Washington, D.C. When Wolfowitz, who is known to be fond of war, mentioned that “innocent Palestinians are suffering and dying in great numbers,” he was loudly booed. One pro-Palestinian demonstrator was arrested for throwing an ice cream sandwich. President Bush pledged to help rebuild Afghanistan and said that the country would not find “true peace” until its roads, health-care system, schools, and businesses were rebuilt. A new order of insects was discovered in Africa. Scientists reported that a supercolony of Argentine ants now dominates southern Europe. The colony stretches 6,000 kilometers, from northern Italy to southern Spain, and comprises millions of nests with billions of individual ants. Experts speculated that the introduction of the alien species into Europe might have led to an evolutionary situation in which cooperation was favored over aggression. One scientist called the colony “the greatest cooperative unit ever discovered.” Two teenage members of the Movement of Young Socialists squirted French prime minister Lionel Jospin in the face with tomato ketchup. Jean-Marie Le Pen, the French fascist, beat Jospin by one percentage point in the first round of the presidential elections and will face President Jacques Chirac in the runoff. Thousands of Muslim pilgrims were traveling to Fergana, Uzbekistan, to see a miracle lamb born with the image of Mohammad on one side and the name of Allah in Arabic on the other. Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a banned Muslim group, denounced the reverence being paid to the lamb: “We should worship Allah not the animal.”

The Pope summoned all the American cardinals to Rome to discuss the continuing sex-abuse scandal. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles said that he expected to hear discussions concerning the ordination of women and whether priests should be permitted to marry. A Roman Catholic bishop in Germany was forced to resign because of accusations that he molested a woman during an exorcism. A survey in Ireland conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons found that 42 percent of women and 28 percent of men were victims of sexual abuse. The Supreme Court overturned a ban on simulated child pornography. A British woman living in Florida was diagnosed with mad cow disease.Researchers found that trace amounts of atrazine, a common herbicide that is found almost everywhere in the environment, causes frogs to develop multiple sex organs. “I’m not saying it’s safe for humans,” said Dr. Tyrone B. Hayes. “I’m not saying it’s unsafe for humans. All I’m saying is that it makes hermaphrodites of frogs.” The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of botulism to paralyze facial muscles to do away with frown lines. An appeals court in California ruled that a “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?” contestant was not libeled when two radio announcers in San Francisco called her a “local loser,” a “big skank,” and a “chicken-butt.” The court said that the terms were “too vague to be capable of being proven true or false.” A Saudi newspaper editor who grew up with Osama bin Laden said that his old friend loved watching American TV shows, particularly “Fury” and “Bonanza.” A little boy from Minnesota was awarded patent number 6,368,227 for “a new method of swinging on a swing.”

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For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.

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