Weekly Review — February 11, 2003, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Colin Powell presented the United Nations Security Council with America’s latest case against Iraq. He played recordings of what he said were intercepted conversations of Iraqis discussing the removal of “forbidden ammo” from weapons sites, and he showed satellite photos in which trucks appeared to be parked next to warehouses. Powell referred to a “potentially sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist network” but provided no conclusive evidence of collaboration. French, Russian, and German diplomats said that Powell had made a good case for continuing the inspection process. President Bush missed the first half of Powell’s performance but watched the second half at the White House over cheese and crackers and a Diet Coke. “This is a defining moment for the U.N. Security Council,” President Bush said. “If the Security Council were to allow a dictator to lie and deceive, the Security Council will be weakened.” The British government admitted that its new “intelligence” dossier on Iraq, which purported to provide “up-to-date details of Iraq’s network of intelligence and security” and which Colin Powell cited approvingly in his presentation to the United Nations, was largely plagiarized from various published articles, including one by a student that described Iraqi intelligence activities in 1990 and 1991. One of the articles was published in 1997, and some of the plagiarized material even reproduced spelling and punctuation errors, though in several instances the language was tweaked to make it sound more sinister. France, Germany, and Belgium vetoed a NATO plan to reinforce Turkey’s defenses in anticipation of an attack from Iraq; American officials were said to be “livid,” and Colin Powell said the action was “inexcusable.” There was talk of a “crisis of credibility.” Ansar al Islam, the militant group that supposedly has links both to Saddam Hussein and to Al Qaeda, gave reporters a tour of the camp that Colin Powell identified as a poison factory. They found a primitive collection of buildings powered only by a small generator. The buildings had no plumbing. A State Department functionary insisted, however, that Powell’s description of the camp was accurate: “A poison factory,” he said, “is a term of art.” Scientists discovered that women are better at baby talk than men.

A copy of the Justice Department’s proposed expansion of the USA Patriot Act was leaked to the Center for Public Integrity. The draft bill, entitled the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, contains proposals to radically expand the authority of law-enforcement agencies, to increase the surveillance of American citizens, and to reduce or eliminate judicial oversight over that surveillance; it would also authorize secret arrests, create a DNA database of “suspected terrorists,” create new death penalties, and empower the government to strip American citizenship from anyone who “provides material support” to a terrorist organization. Suicide attempts were up among the detainees at Camp X-Ray. Howard Coble, a Republican congressman from North Carolina who chairs a House subcommittee on domestic security, declared that the interning of Japanese Americans during World War II “was appropriate at the time.” He also said that he thought President Roosevelt took the action “for their own protection.” Federal officials announced that the Army Corps of Engineers had removed 10,000 tons of soil contaminated with arsenic from a Washington, D.C., neighborhood about four miles from the White House. More than 425 munitions were removed from the area, which was used to test chemical weapons during World War I, and rounds containing arsine gas were taken from the Korean ambassador’s residence. South Korea was wondering what to do with a gigantic rice surplus. North Korea resumed “normal operations” at the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put two dozen B-52 and B-1 bombers on alert. Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said by way of explanation that “the president continues to believe that the matter with North Korea can be resolved through diplomatic means, but that does not mean that the United States will always have contingencies and make certain our contingencies are viable.”

President Bush sent a $2.2 trillion budget to Congress that includes a large increase in defense spending, large tax cuts, and record deficits ?? $304 billion for the current fiscal year and $307 billion for next year. The total deficit over the next five years was projected to be more than $1 trillion. Two years ago, reporters were quick to recall, the president forecast a $5.6 trillion surplus over the next 10 years and justified his first round of tax cuts for the wealthy on that basis. The budget does not include funds for the invasion of Iraq but does propose to make it more difficult for poor families to obtain government handouts. The Labor Department said that job creation was at a twenty-year low, and Governor Tim Pawlenty proposed cutting $300 from the budget of the Minnesota state band. NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe denied that cost cutting had led to the Columbia disaster, though last April the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel warned Congress that the shuttle fleet was being endangered by reductions in NASA’s budget, which is down 40 percent since 1990. The chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hired a mining lobbyist to oversee clean-air legislation. Doctors in New Jersey walked off the job to protest high medical malpractice insurance rates; one doctor carried a sign outside Christ Hospital in Jersey City that read: “When your water breaks, call your lawyer.” Doctors in Illinois were planning a similar walkout. A performance of John Cage’s “As Slow As Possible” began in Halberstadt, Germany. The piece was originally conceived to last 20 minutes; the current performance will last 639 years, and it will take more than a year to play the first three notes. Protesters in Shannon, Ireland, attacked a U.S. Navy plane with hammers, spray paint, and human blood. People in Congo were dying of Ebola fever. American soldiers were busy “banking genetic material before deployment,” and the Pentagon was stocking up on body bags. Brazil was suffering from a shortage of silicone breast and buttock implants. Russia outlawed profanity.

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