Weekly Review — February 1, 2005, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

Approximately eight million people turned out to vote in Iraq. International monitors gave the election their seal of approval, though all 129 of them stayed inside Baghdad’s Green Zone.The New York TimesSecurity measures included sealing the country’s borders, banning travel between provinces, prohibiting private vehicle traffic, and imposing curfews in cities.ReutersFake polling stations were set up with snipers positioned to guard the real ones, which were revealed 24 hours before opening. Many of the candidates kept their identities secret until election day, though two had made it known they were direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed.The New York TimesIraqi insurgents, who had been promising death to anyone who came within five hundred yards of a polling station,The New York Timessucceeded in carrying out nine suicide bombings, one of which was performed by a handicapped child.Associated PressProminent Sunni leaders who boycotted the election said they would be happy to help the elected National Assembly draft the new constitution.The New York Times“Two of the great ironies of history,” said President George W. Bush, “is there will be a Palestinian state and a democratic Iraq.”New York Times World leaders gathered in Poland to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, where Dick Cheney was criticized for wearing a green parka with fur trim instead of the more somber black coats everyone else had on.The Chicago Sun TimesVladimir Putin noted that “as there were no good and bad fascists, there cannot be good and bad terrorists. Any double standards here are absolutely unacceptable and deadly dangerous for civilization.”The Globe and MailA group of Russian legislators demanded that Jewish organizations be investigated, and possibly closed down, for carrying out ritual killings and hate crimes against themselves.The New York TimesCommercial flights opened between China and Taiwan for the first time in 55 years,Reutersand the government of Nepal shut down the Dalai Lama’s offices in Kathmandu.BBC NewsMore than 250 people were trampled or burned to death during a Hindu festival in western India when a stampeding riot was triggered by pilgrims slipping on spilled coconut milk.The New York TimesChina overtook the United States as Japan’s biggest trading partner,The Washington Postand scientists discovered that drinking green tea turns mice into better swimmers.CBC News

An international task force of scientists, politicians, and business leaders warned that the world has about ten years before global warming becomes irreversible. By then, average global temperatures will have risen two degrees Celsius since the start of the Industrial Revolution, resulting in major droughts, increased disease, and the termination of the North Atlantic Gulf Stream.New Zealand HeraldMeteorologists were forecasting record thinning of northern Europe’s ozone layer in the coming weeks,BBC Newsand astronomers concluded that Saturn’s largest moon had all the ingredients for life.Associated PressSenate Majority Leader Bill Frist declared that biological warfare is “the greatest existential threat we face today.”ReutersThe world’s first mad goat was diagnosed in France.United Press InternationalAt the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tony Blair and Bill Gates shared the stage with Bono and Bill Clinton and called for more aid to Africa.The New York TimesSharon Stone raised a million dollars for mosquito nets,BBC News and a special dinner was organized to promote dialogue between the U.S. and Iran; the idea backfired when Senator Joseph Biden, the American representative, showed up an hour and a half late, and wine was served to the Muslim guests.CNNScientists solved the mystery of the Venus Flytrap.The Boston GlobeSwaziland’s King Mswati chose his thirteenth wife and sent her to South Africa for an AIDS test.BBC NewsResearchers found that fidgety people are less likely to be obese,The New York Timespolice in Rome were cracking down on unlicensed tour guides,The New York Timesand Joseph Massino, the “Last Don” of New York, snitched on the mob.The New York Times

President Bush ordered his cabinet to stop paying off journalists after syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher admitted she had a $21,500 contract with the Health and Human Services Department to endorse the agency’s marriage initiative.The Washington PostTwo days later, another columnist admitted he’d been paid $10,000 for the same purpose.The Globe and MailScientists synthesized a pheromone produced by young women that helps post-menopausal ladies attract men.The Globe and MailSocial Security Administration workers testified that they had been ordered “to promote the idea that Social Security is in crisis and that Social Security privatization is the answer.”ReutersChristian groups were threatening to withdraw their support from any privatization scheme whatsoever unless Bush tries harder to ban gay marriage,The New York Timesand chimpanzees were found to have a sense of fair play.BBC News Condoleezza Rice was sworn in as secretary of state, despite Senator Mark Dayton’s objection during her confirmation hearing that “I really don’t like being lied to repeatedly, flagrantly, intentionally.”The New York TimesThe Justice Department threw a going away party for John Ashcroft. His term in office, said one assistant, “served as a full employment program for cartoonists and pundits.”The New York TimesThe Bush Administration requested an additional $80 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year,The New York Timestotaling 13 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s allotment,Swissinfoand making the 2005 budget deficit the biggest in history.The New York TimesThe State Department offended Mexico by issuing a travel warning along the border;CNNU.S. Ambassador Tony Garza tried to ease tensions by clarifying that “the wave of border violence is a result of successful efforts by President Fox’s administration in the fight against organized crime.”ReutersThe Sudanese government dropped bombs on women and children in Darfur,Reutersand the European Union reestablished diplomatic ties with Sudan for the first time since 1990.The New york TimesCommercial airlines were told they should be worrying about shoulder-fired missile attacks,The New York TimesHuman Rights Watch declared meatpacking to be “the most dangerous factory job in America,”The New York Timesand Ringo Starr was planning to become a cartoon superhero.The Guardian

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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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