Weekly Review — August 27, 2002, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

After reviewing the devastation caused by the biggest wildfire in Oregon’s history, President George W. Bush announced his plan to protect 190 million acres of national forest land by allowing more logging to do away with flammable old trees and by protecting the timber industry from environmentalists’ lawsuits that could delay such logging. “There is a fine balance between people expressing themselves and using litigation to keep the United States . . . from enacting a common-sense forest policy,” he noted. Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf rewrote his country’s constitution, creating 29 amendments that allow him to dissolve the elected parliament, to appoint military leaders and supreme-court justices, and to give military officials political power. Musharraf, who came to power after a coup in 1999 and who declared himself president last year, also extended his term in office. “Obviously, to the extent that, you know, our friends promote democracy, that’s important,” President Bush responded, and assured the American public that Musharraf is “still tight with us in the war against terror, and that’s what I appreciate.” Lawyers for President Bush determined that he can launch an attack on Iraq without approval from Congress, since the permission his father received in 1991 to engage in the Persian Gulf War remains in effect. Saudi investors withdrew between $100 billion and $200 billion from the United States to protest criticism of the kingdom following September 11; at a Pentagon briefing two weeks ago, a Rand Corporation analyst called Saudi Arabia the “kernel of evil.”Six Jehovah’s Witnesses selling Avon door-to-door in the Philippines were abducted by the Muslim guerrilla group Abu Sayyaf, which decapitated two of the victims and left one head in the fruit stall of a public market accompanied by a note reading, “This is what will happen to those who do not believe in Allah.” A former U.S. Army scientist publicly identified as a “person of interest” in the FBI’s anthrax investigation filed ethics complaints against Attorney General John Ashcroft and others, claiming they violated Justice Department regulations by leaking inflammatory information about him. Plans were under way for a U.S. Army helicopter to drop a Welsh man’s one-ton ball of rubber bands into the Grand Canyon, to see if it will bounce.

A retired general who participated in a recent $250 million U.S. war game claimed that the simulation, involving 13,500 military personnel, was rigged to ensure an American victory, and to legitimize the new tactics that the exercise was designed to test. The general, who led “enemy” forces, pointed out that he was not allowed to use his own tactics during the three-week experiment and that when many of the American ships ended up at the bottom of the ocean, officials stopped the exercise to “refloat” them before continuing. A center for asylum seekers in Westende, Belgium, was allowing paid visitors to live as refugees and to mingle with the 300 residents, eating bread and cheese with them, and playing soccer and basketball to help pass the time. McDonald’s apologized for the timing of its new “McAfrika” launch in Norway; the sandwich, made of beef, cheese, and tomatoes, and ostensibly based on an African recipe, offended groups raising money to aid the 13 million Africans currently facing starvation. Children in Malaysia were skipping school after sightings of “hungry, headless ghosts” that coincided with the Hungry Ghost festival, held to raise awareness that spirits from hell roam the earth during August. NASA announced that it had located a missing $159 million comet-seeking spacecraft that turned out to be orbiting the sun. Researchers speculated that increased exposure to radiation might do us some good. Swedish scientists identified what may be a new form of life, a tiny particle in the spinal fluid of schizophrenics. In China, a vending machine was dispensing medicine to users who described their symptoms on a touch screen; more machines were expected to be installed in supermarkets. India’s supreme court was investigating the painting of the Coca-Cola and Pepsi logos directly onto the rock face in the Himalaya mountains. Cadbury apologized for an advertisement that compared the disputed land of Kashmir to chocolate that was “too good to share.”

Concerned about health risks, the Thai government was asking its citizens to please not buy giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches, which walk, spit, and defecate on food before feeding, as pets. More than a dozen people were killed during rioting and lynchings following attacks in Lucknow, India, by a mysterious “muhnochwa,” or “face-clawing monster” that flashes blue, red, or green and strikes only at night. Although police surmised that the attacker was an extraterrestrial being, scientists suspect that the victims were assaulted by lightning balls, which are sometimes created during droughts. A mother from the town of Brilliant, Ohio, was arrested for allowing her three children to get sunburned. Children were being killed in Swaziland so that their bodies could be used in good-luck potions by candidates preparing for upcoming elections. Calling him “a good man” who can “bring a breath of fresh air” to politics, President Bush campaigned for Bill Simon Jr., a California candidate for governor who codirects an investment firm that was ordered to pay $78 million last month for fraud. Indonesian officials were following the advice of a soothsayer who counseled them to dig under a 15th-century stone in search of a buried treasure that would cover the country’s $155 billion debt. A river was discovered flowing 700 feet under the Sahara. Human waste was coursing through Prague’s Vltava River after the city’s sewage-treatment plant was incapacitated by recent flooding. “Building on the simple fact that all living creatures are carbon-based and diamonds are carbon-based,” a company was offering people the chance to have their cremated remains converted into diamonds for surviving loved ones. Cambridge University scientists studying the effects of amphetamines on the brain were reprimanded for an experiment in which they subjected 238 mice to loud electronica music until seven of the drugged mice died and others were left brain-damaged; mice who were exposed to Bach instead also died, but those who were injected with salt water simply fell asleep. President Bush noted that as a jogger, “It’s interesting that my times have become faster right after the war began” and lamented that his job prevents him from running more than three miles a day: “It’s sad that I can’t run longer. It’s one of the saddest things about the presidency.” Bill Clinton was said to be negotiating a deal to host a television talk show. New Zealand was seeking a new official wizard.

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