Weekly Review — August 19, 2003, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

The United States and parts of Canada suffered a massive blackout that left millions of people in 8 states without electricity; New York City, Detroit, Cleveland, and Toronto were all affected. Officials soon determined that the outage, the largest in American history, was caused by a failed line in Ohio. “We are a major superpower with a Third World electrical grid,” said Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico.New York Times“We’ll have time to look at it and determine whether or not our grid needs to be modernized,” said President George W. Bush, who has opposed legislation to improve the grid. “I happen to think it does, and have said so all along.”UndernewsA toy airplane made of balsa wood and Mylar and weighing less than 5 kilograms flew across the Atlantic Ocean.BBCIt was reported that a Marine Corps lance corporal was convicted of using a military credit card to buy a car, a motorcycle, furniture, and a breast lift.ABCNews.comIn Iraq, saboteurs blew up a large oil pipeline to Turkey three days after it reopened,New York Timesa water main was bombed in Baghdad, and U.S. soldiers “engaged” and killed a Reuters cameraman;Austin American Statesmanthe police chief of Mosul was shot and two other officers died in an ambush; a Danish soldier was killed, some American soldiers were shot as they left a restaurant, and a sewage plant was set on fire.BBC“Every American needs to believe this,” said General Ricardo Sanchez, the head of U.S. forces in Iraq, “that if we fail here in this environment, the next battlefield will be the streets of America.”Associated Press Wildlife workers in Hawaii asked for permission to exterminate up to 200 nonnative red-and-green parrots.New York Times

Idi Amin, the former tyrant of Uganda, under whose rule more than 400,000 people perished, was said to be looking for a kidney donor to save his life.He was apparently unsuccessful.BBCThe Middle East peace process continued as Israeli forces conducted a raid in Nablus, killing at least two Hamas members; Hamas retaliated with a suicide bombing, killing an Israeli settler.The Al Aksa Martyrs brigade also carried out a bombing, killing one Israeli.Israel killed an Islamic Jihad commander, and the group promised revenge attacks.New York TimesAn eight-year-old girl’s thumb was recovered from the stomach of a pit bull in Romeoville, Illinois.Chicago Sun-TimesSylvester Stallone’s mother said that her dogs, which she believes to be psychic, have predicted a victory for Arnold Schwarzenegger in the California recall election, and an apocalyptic Christian preacher named Jack Van Impe claimed that he had been contacted by Condoleezza Rice, who he said asked him for an outline of what the end of the world will be like.MSNBC.comFox News sued Al Franken, the comedian, because his new book includes the words “fair and balanced” in the title; Fox claims to own the commonly used phrase, which it uses to great ironic effect in its advertisements.Associated PressTwo hundred U.S. Marines landed in Liberia,New York Timesand government workers in Bristol, England, were told to stop calling people “dear” and “love.”New York Times

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts discovered a one-celled creature, which they called Strain 121, that can survive temperatures up to 121 degrees centigrade, the temperature used by medical sterilization equipment.Boston GlobeThe United States Army delayed the destruction of more than 1,200 tons of VX, a deadly nerve agent, at the Newport Chemical Depot, 30 miles north of Terre Haute, Indiana, because the plant has failed to meet environmental standards.Associated PressA Greek oil tanker sank off a popular Pakistani beach and dumped at least 12,000 metric tons of oil into the water. People were complaining of dead fish and “pungent smells” as the oil washed ashore.New York TimesPenthouse magazine’s parent company filed for bankruptcy protection.BloombergUp to 3,000 people were estimated to have died in the French heat wave.Canada.comOpium production was up in Afghanistan; Donald Rumsfeld described the situation as “one whale of a tough problem.”New York TimesIn Antarctica, researchers for the first time successfully photographed a whale passing gas.News.com.auIceland resumed its “scientific” whaling program.BBCThe Department of Defense was said to be developing new gamma-ray weapons that it says could “revolutionize all aspects of warfare.”New ScientistThe World Health Organization said that Asia needs about 24 billion condoms a year but that only 6 to 9 billion are being distributed.BBCVaginal-enhancement surgery was all the rage in Britain; women in New York City, who are fond of narrow shoes, were said to be having their toes shortened.Observer.co.ukChinese scientists developed hybrid human-rabbit embryos.New ScientistA leading zoologist said that “homosexuals are at the pinnacle of human evolution.”Planetout.comA sniper was on the loose in West Virginia.Local6.com

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“One of the peculiar things about economic inequality is that the people who are most articulate about it are not poor, while the poor themselves have said little, at least in print, about their situation.”
Photograph © Reuters/Brendan McDermid
“It would be nice to get through this review without recourse to the term ‘writer’s writer.’ The thing is, in the case of Joy Williams, I have seen the cliché made flesh.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
“Miniatures originated in Persia and were brought to the Indian subcontinent when the Mughals conquered it in the sixteenth century. They could take on almost any subject: landscapes or portraits; stories of love, war, or play.”
Painting by by Imran Qureshi.
“The business of being a country veterinarian is increasingly precarious. The heartland has been emptying of large-animal vets for at least two decades, as agribusiness changed the employment picture and people left the region.”
Photograph by Lance Rosenfield
“Rosie and her husband had burned through their small savings in the first few months after she lost her job. Now their family of five relied on his minimum-wage paychecks, plus Rosie’s unemployment and food stamps, which, combined, brought them to around $2,000 per month, just above the poverty line.”
Illustrations by Taylor Callery

Ratio of children’s emergency-room visits for injuries related to fireworks last year to those related to “desk supplies”:


The ecosystems around Chernobyl, Ukraine, are now healthier than they were before the nuclear disaster, though radiation levels are still too high for human habitation.

The Islamic State opened two new theme parks featuring a Ferris wheel, teacup rides, and bumper cars.

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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

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