Weekly Review — November 2, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: The pope cast into hell.]

The Bush Administration reversed itself and declared that non-Iraqis captured fighting in Iraq are not protected by the Geneva Conventions; such prisoners, it was reported, have already been transferred out of Iraq in recent months and could be taken to Egypt or Saudi Arabia where torture is more common than it is in the United States.ScotsmanFour British citizens who were held without charges in Guantnamo Bay, Cuba, filed suit against Donald Rumsfeld and other senior administration officials, and claimed that they were tortured while in custody. The Pentagon responded that the men were “enemy combatants” and thus had no right to sue.ReutersA newly released document revealed that F.B.I. agents witnessed Iraqi prisoners being abused at Abu Ghraib but failed to report it because they saw nothing unusual about the abuse. One agent said that what he saw at Abu Ghraib was similar to what goes on in prisons in the United States.New York TimesA new study found that Iraqis are 58 times more likely to die a violent death than before the American invasion; the study concluded that 100,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion, and that coalition air strikes, which mostly kill women and children, were the primary cause of civilian deaths.BBCPresident Bush suggested that the missing explosives from the Al Qaqaa military facility might have been removed before the invasion, and he claimed that by criticizing him John Kerry is “denigrating the action of our troops.”Washington PostSeveral news agencies confirmed that their embedded reporters were present at the facility with American troops and that they saw boxes labeled as explosives; KSTP Television in Minneapolis broadcast footage taken at Al Qaqaa of boxes of high explosives. KSTP also photographed the seal of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which indicates that the explosives were known to be associated with Iraq’s former nuclear program.KSTP.comRudolph Giuliani went on television and said that it wasn’t the president’s fault that the Al Qaqaa explosives weren’t secured; on the contrary, he said, “the actual responsibility for it would be for the troops that were there.”NBCThe Pentagon extended the Iraq tours of 6,500 soldiers, and aNew York Timesfederal judge ordered the Defense Department to stop giving troops the anthrax vaccine and said that the Food and Drug Administration broke its own rules by approving it.Washington PostCongress approved a measure that will permit soldiers and their families to seek reimbursement for combat equipment, such as body armor, that they have purchased with their own money.New York TimesU.S. forces were preparing for another large military assault on Falluja, and nearby Ramadi was said to be “slipping into chaos.”New York TimesOsama bin Laden released a new video message and said that it was U.S. foreign policy, particularly U.S. support for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, that led him to plan the September 11 attacks. “Bush says and claims that we hate freedom, let him tell us then, ‘Why did we not attack Sweden?’”CNNBush-Cheney campaign officials were happy to hear from Osama: “We want people to think ‘terrorism‘ for the last four days,” said one. Another said that “anything that makes people nervous about their personal safety helps Bush.”NY Daily News

Voter suppression campaigns were reportedly underway all around the country, though all indications were pointing to an historically high turnout.Talking Points MemoWisconsin Republicans were trying to challenge about 37,000 voter registrations in Milwaukee, and thereJournal Sentinelwere reports of gay-marriage push polls in Michigan.Talking Points MemoIn South Carolina a letter purporting to be from the NAACP claimed that voters will be arrested at the polls if they have outstanding parking tickets or child support payments and said that voters must provide a credit report, two forms of photo ID, a Social Security card, a voter registration card, and a handwriting sample.Associated PressEarly voters in Florida, especially in heavily Democratic districts, were standing in line to vote for up to six hours.Talking Points MemoBroward County’s election supervisor said that up to 15,000 absentee ballots would be resent to voters whose ballots mysteriously disappeared.New York TimesA federal judge said that political parties in Ohio may not station challengers at polling places and said that to do so would create a “substantial likelihood that significant harm will result not only to voters, but also to the voting process itself.”Associated PressA Sarasota man failed to run over Florida Republican representative Katherine Harris in his car. “I intimidated them with my car,” he said. “I was exercising my political expression.”Associated PressThe Bush Campaign was forced to withdraw an ad that had been digitally altered to increase the number of soldiers in an audience listening to the president speak.New York TimesThe IRS decided to investigate the tax-exempt status of the NAACP.New York Times

Mobs of machete-wielding Christians and Muslims were slaughtering one another in Liberia,Associated PressLatvia’s government collapsed, and thereNew York Timeswas violence between Han Chinese and Hui Muslims in central China.New York TimesA teenage suicide bomber killed three people in Tel Aviv when he set off his explosives in a vegetable stall.ReutersFidel Castro banned the U.S. dollar, andNew York TimesPakistan’s lower house of parliament passed a bill that would impose the death penalty for honor killings, which have traditionally been ignored.New York TimesGovernor Rick Perry of Texas refused to proclaim “UN Day,” and aNew York Timesnew study found that up to 21,000 people are injured every year from air rifles, paintball pistols, and BB guns.Associated PressChief Justice William Rehnquist, who underwent a tracheotomy last week, was recovering from treatment for thyroid cancer and was unable to return to work.ReutersA clinic in Cleveland was hoping to perform a face transplant using skin and the underlying fat from a donor.USA TodayScientists announced the discovery of a species of hobbit-like humans on Flores, an island 370 miles east of Bali, that lived as recently as 13,000 years ago. The adult hobbits, who apparently hunted pygmy elephants and Komodo dragons for food, were about the size of a three-year-old modern human child.National Geographic, New York TimesNew research found that it is better to be bullied for the first time as a young child than as an adolescent.New ScientistIt was discovered that the stem cell lines approved for federally funded research in the United States are tainted with mouse characteristics, theNew ScientistWorld Health Organization announced that avian flu probably has not mutated into a form that can pass from human to human, and researchersNew York Timesin South Carolina concluded that high-fat diets can cause brain damage.New ScientistYoung mice treated with Prozac, a study found, grow up to be depressed.New ScientistScientists in California successfully implanted a brain prosthesis in a dish of rat brain slices.New ScientistThe widow of former French president Francois Mitterrand auctioned off some of her designer furniture to raise money for the defense of her son Jean-Christophe, who is under investigation for selling arms illegally to Angola.New York TimesBritain’s House of Commons voted to stop calling visitors “strangers,” andAssociated PressRussia’s Federation Council ratified the Kyoto Protocol.New York TimesThe U.S. murder rate was up.New York TimesThe Boston Red Sox won the World Series.New York Times

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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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