Weekly Review — April 29, 2003, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

United States officials met in China with their North Korean counterparts and warned them that talks would cease if they did not stop issuing “bellicose” statements. The North Koreans admitted they already have nuclear weapons and may test, export, or use them depending on U.S. actions; Donald Rumsfeld thought this might present an opportunity for another “regime change.” The U.S. warned Iran not to meddle in Iraq’s political affairs and accused the country of sending agents into the south to promote an Iranian model of government; to counter the damage, troops and intelligence officers were asking Iraqi clerics to please issue fatwas in support of the American administration of the country. The U.S. warned Iraqis not to exploit their country’s power vacuum by appointing themselves to political positions, and American soldiers arrested the former exile who announced that he was the mayor of Baghdad. Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister, negotiated a surrender to Diane Sawyer of ABC News but changed his mind and turned himself in to military officials, who were also holding the former liaison to U.N. weapons inspectors and a quarter of the 55 “most wanted” Iraqi fugitives. Bush was feeling nostalgic for Iraq’s former information minister, who famously overstated the Baathist defense of Baghdad: “He’s my man; he was great. He was a classic,” said the president. NASAresearchers were planning to fire bunker-buster missiles at the moon, to look for ice. Donald Rumsfeld denied that the Bush Administration wishes to establish military bases in postwar Iraq and worried that the widely reported story might give other countries the wrong impression. President Bush told a group of Arab Americans that Iraqis will be free to choose whatever form of government they like, as long as it’s a democracy. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites traveled to Karbala to flagellate themselves in commemoration of the death of Hussein, Muhammad’s grandson. The pilgrims, gathering for the first time since 1977 because “the government used to shoot us when we tried this in the past,” chanted, wailed, beat themselves with whips, cut their heads open with swords, and asked the Americans to go home. White House officials said they had underestimated the Shiites’ level of organization and fervor and were unprepared to deal with growing enthusiasm for the installation of an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist government. An Iranian fatwa warned that the Great Satan “will incite lust by allowing easy access to stimulating satellite channels.”

Gay rights groups were calling for the resignation of Senator Rick Santorum, who told the Associated Press that if the Supreme Court overturns a Texas ban on sodomy, “then you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.” The senator went on to reassure voters that “I have no problem with homosexuality” but “I have a problem with homosexual acts.” An Iranian film actress was sentenced to public flogging for kissing a male director on the forehead at an awards ceremony. An ABC News closed-captioning typist informed viewers that Alan Greenspan was “in the hospital for an enlarged prostitute“; viewers later that evening were advised that in fact the Federal Reserve chairman was having prostate problems. In an effort to contain the SARS epidemic, the Chinese government sealed dozens of hospitals and closed all movie theaters, bars, public libraries, and churches in Beijing, quarantined more than 7,500 people, and closed all of the city’s primary and secondary schools for at least two weeks, suggesting that the affected 1.7 million students study at home instead. Researchers warned that the disease was mutating and becoming more virulent, and concluded that at least 10 percent of victims are dying, not the 4 percent they had previously estimated. A Taiwanese man hanged himself because he incorrectly thought his wife had the disease. Airports in Singapore, Tokyo, and Hong Kong began using thermal imaging cameras to root out flushed faces, a sign of fever. Workers at LaGuardia Airport were arrested at the conclusion of “Operation Swig Swag” and charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of mini-bottles of airline liquor worth $1.5 million. Four American soldiers were arrested for stealing $900,000 from the $800 million they happened upon near abandoned Baghdad palaces and dog kennels. Customs agents detained journalists and soldiers who tried to bring contraband souvenirs back from the war, including paintings, artifacts, gold-plated firearms, swords, and now-worthless bonds. A Japanese businessman was selling gold-coated lumps of human excrement as lucky charms. China started producing beer made from cows’ milk. Pope John Paul beatified the 17th-century friar who invented cappuccino. The White House was pondering ways to punish France for opposing its invasion of Iraq, and noted that when President Bush attends an economic summit meeting in the French Alps in June, he will sleep in Switzerland.

President Bush’s advisers were busy planning his re-election and plotted to start the campaign later than any other in the 148-year history of the Republican Party, to capitalize on the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks. After former congressman Newt Gingrich accused Colin Powell and his staff of a string of diplomatic failures, an assistant secretary of state responded, “He is an idiot and you can publish that.” Scientists concluded that humans “are truly not that far in genetic complexity from the common bread mold.” Primate expert Jane Goodall pant-hooted like a chimpanzee at a federal hearing to bring attention to the problem of deforestation. “That may be the first time that the voice of the chimpanzee has been heard in the State Department,” she pointed out. Four hunger-crazed lions were shot dead by U.S. soldiers after escaping from the otherwise empty Baghdad zoo. President Bush prophesized that the U.S. would find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but rejected international calls for United Nations inspectors to augment the search. “Forget it,” said one administration official. “On principle, we don’t want the United Nations running around Iraq.” Hans Blix, the U.N. weapons inspector, pointed out that “We found as little, but with less cost.” Military officials admitted that they were holding children in the high-security prison for terrorists at Guantnamo Bay, Cuba, even though they have not been accused of any offense, and said that they would be detained “until we ensure that they’re no longer a threat to the United States.” A Florida mother said she accidentally stabbed her 19-year-old son in the buttocks with a 12-inch knife when he wouldn’t get out of bed for work. National SpankOut Day was marked by parents who refrained from hitting their children for a day. Dozens of children in Pennsylvania were hospitalized after a chemical plant released a sticky cloud of glue into the air. Residents of Dagestan feared they were under nuclear attack after a thick layer of salt covered their city. Researchers determined that Ukrainian worms were having more sex since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. A foul odor was floating through western Japan. Parts of Louisiana and Mississippi were sinking.

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