Weekly Review — July 20, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Calvin Burning, 1875]

The United Nations continued to issue warnings about the ongoing genocide in Sudan, where Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, have been slaughtering and raping black farmers in Darfur; more than one million people have fled their homes and hundreds of thousands of refugees could soon die of cholera and other diseases.Reuters, Associated PressA court in southern Darfur sentenced ten Janjaweed fighters to have their left hands and right feet amputated; the Sudanese ambassador in London denied that his government was supporting the militias.BBCYasir Arafat rejected the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, and the Palestinian National Security Council declared a state of emergency after militants seized several security officials and four French charity workers.Associated PressThe Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades assassinated an Israeli judge.ReutersA Sunni cleric in Ramadi declared a holy war on American forces.Agence France-PresseIraqi militants killed the governor of Mosul in an ambush, andReutersIraq’s justice minister narrowly escaped when a suicide car bomber attacked a convoy in Baghdad.ReutersAn audit of the Coalition Provisional Authority found that American officials did not know how much oil Iraq was producing or how oil revenues were being spent, andUSA TodayPhilippine forces were withdrawn from the country in response to the kidnapping of a truck driver. The Bush Administration was not pleased.CNNMike Ditka, the former coach of the Chicago Bears football team, said that he might make a run for the Senate, andReutersGovernor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California called his Democratic opponents “girlie men.”New York Times

The United Nations estimated that southern Africa will have 50 million AIDS orphans by 2010, and the World Bank reported that only 700,000 orphans receive support from AIDS resources.New ScientistMexico’s attorney general was implanted with computer chips that broadcast his location and his identity; security experts said that publicly revealing the existence of the location chip was unwise, since kidnappers could simply remove the chip.AnanovaCanadian patients were complaining about the quality of government-grown pot.Canadian PressCharges were dismissed against a Texas woman who holds “Tupperware-type” parties for housewives interested in buying dildos.Associated PressMartha Stewart was sentenced to five months in prison, andAssociated PressCondoleezza Rice said that there was no plan to cancel the November presidential elections.Associated PressGraduate students at the University of North Carolina discovered that 75 percent of the fish sold as red snapper was some other kind of fish.University of North CarolinaA first draft of the doggenome was released.NIHSenator John Kerry promised to double the number of American spies.Reuters

The Los Alamos National Laboratory suspended all classified research after it was discovered that two computer disks had been lost.Los Angeles TimesThe inspector general of the USDA said that the agency’s mad-cow surveillance system is weak, that the testing is not random, that it fails to require rendering plants to participate, and that it is based on flawed, unscientific assumptions.Seattle TimesA runaway cement truck killed 17 guests at a wedding party in Java, Indonesia.Straits TimesResearchers found that east Asians are not naturally nearsighted.New ScientistA large survey by the British Ministry of Health of male Gulf War veterans found that they suffer significant fertility problems.New ScientistA mule reportedly gave birth in Bhutan.AnanovaThe Senate killed a proposal for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, andNew York TimesBoston Scientific Corporation recalled 85,000 drug-coated heart stents.ReutersPublic-health experts said that 40 percent of the residents of Los Angeles County get no more than 10 minutes of exercise per week.Center for the Advancement of HealthResearchers in Montreal found that people who go blind as infants have better pitch than sighted people.ReutersPacific Gas & Electric revealed that it lost three segments of a used nuclear fuel rod.ReutersBritain’s Science Museum was thinking about using visitors’ excrement to cut down on its electricity bills.ReutersA study found that children who watch two hours of TV a night risk becoming fat smokers with high cholesterol.Associated PressSome drug companies were thinking about banning people who respond to placebos from clinical trials.New ScientistA plague of locusts was massing in Africa.New ScientistScientists said that they could estimate how many years a woman has left before the onset of menopause by using a technique called transvaginal sonography.New ScientistIn Florida, a man was accused of beating his girlfriend with a pet alligator.IndependentA British man was jailed for shooting off his testicles.Reuters

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On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.

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“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
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