Weekly Review — July 16, 2002, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Scientists succeeded in constructing a live polio virus from scratch using ingredients that are publicly available. It was pointed out that making a virus such as smallpox from scratch would be much more difficult. Ted Williams, a famous baseball player who died last week, was hung upside down and frozen in a titanium-steel cryonics cylinder at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation along with about three other bodies and as many as five heads. Some members of Williams’s family were upset and charged that his son, John Henry Williams, plans to sell his father’s DNA. President George W. Bush made a speech about corporate crime and called for a number of minor reforms. He declared that “there’s no capitalism without conscience. There is no wealth without character.” The President defended his suspiciously well-timed 1990 sale of stock in the Harken Energy Corporation and tried to blame Harken’s lawyers for his failure, as a company insider, to report the sale in a timely manner as required by law. “I still haven’t figured it out completely,” he said. When challenged about some of Harken’s shady accounting practices, the President said: “In the corporate world, sometimes things aren’t exactly black and white when it comes to accounting procedures.” The stock market continued to drop, reaching 1997 levels; Nasdaq was down about 75 percent. Winnie Mandela went on trial in South Africa for fraud and theft. Guatemala’s government proposed a new tax to fund benefits for former members of paramilitary death squads. Attorney General John Ashcroft warned Congress that Al Qaeda has a “hidden but active presence in the United States” and that restrictions on law-enforcement agencies must consequently be loosened even further. Argentina charged its former military dictator and several other former officers in the kidnapping, torture, and murder of 20 leftists. Archaeologists found 25 Incan mummies near Lima; they also found evidence of human sacrifice.

Israel’s cabinet voted to endorse a bill that would ban Israeli Arabs from buying homes built on state land, which constitutes more than 90 percent of the country. The bill was a response to a supreme court decision banning discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel in the allocation of state land. Critics condemned the bill as a racist attempt to “create a new apartheid,” and a few days later the cabinet changed its position and effectively killed the measure. Israeli authorities shut down the office of Sari Nusseibeh, the leading Palestinian moderate, and seized all his files; Nusseibeh, the president of Al Quds University in East Jerusalem, has called on Palestinians to stop suicide bombings and to renounce their claim to a right of return for refugees. Israeli troops killed a Palestinian journalist after he and a photographer stopped to take pictures of an Israeli tank. An Arab woman and her two-year-old daughter were shot by Israeli troops as they returned home from a wedding; the troops said they opened fire because they saw suspicious people. Investigators determined that the 11-year-old boy in Pakistan whose sister was raped to punish him for raping a 30-year-old woman from another tribe was himself sodomized by three high-caste tribesmen who then fabricated the charge against him. Vietnamese authorities destroyed some 44,000 CDs, videodiscs, and CD-ROMs, 2,833 books, and 570 advertising banners in a attempt to purge the nation of “poisonous cultural products.” Prosecutors in Moscow charged novelist Vladimir Sorokin with pornography because his 1999 novel Blue Lard depicts a homosexual act between clones of Stalin and Khrushchev. A blind German clairvoyant named Ulf Buck claimed that he could foretell people’s future by feeling their naked buttocks: “The bottom is much more intense,” Buck said. “It has a much stronger power of expression than the hand in my experience.”

A large federal study of hormone-replacement therapy for postmenopausal women was halted after researchers found that the estrogen-progestin combination therapy increased the risk of breast cancer. Authorities in Calcutta arrested two men for hawking an AIDS, cancer, and tuberculosis “cure” composed of cow urine and cow dung. Britain all but legalized the possession and use of small amounts of pot. A white couple who underwent in vitro fertilization treatment in England gave birth to black twins. Jesse Ventura had a blood clot in his lung. The schoolgirl from California whose atheist father successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance is a Christian and has no qualms about reciting the pledge, her mother told the press. “I was concerned,” she said, “that the American public would be led to believe that my daughter is an atheist.” A Baptist minister and his twin brother were arrested for almost beating an 11-year-old boy to death for cheating in Bible study class. French scientists found a 7-million-year-old human skull in Africa. Bono, the rock star, denied that he had a hair implant. King Mohammed of Morocco got married and pardoned more than 8,400 prisoners. Researchers at the University of Chicago concluded that “the benefits of divorce have been oversold.” A swarm of locusts descended on Beijing, where they were promptly gathered by the bagful, deep fried, and eaten.

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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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