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[Weekly Review]

Weekly Review


At a meeting of the Arab League in Beirut, the assembled leaders agreed to endorse Saudi Arabia’s proposal for peace with Israel, Iraq recognized Kuwait’s sovereignty and promised not to invade it again, and Saudi crown prince Abdullah publicly kissed an Iraqi official. Palestinian militants carried out five suicide bombings in Israel, one of which was an attack on a Passover seder, and killed at least 44 Israelis. The Israeli army invaded the West Bank city of Ramallah and laid siege to Yasir Arafat’s headquarters. Arafat said that he wished for a martyr’s death and was for a time reduced to a single candle for light as he listened to the muffled Hebrew of his captors through the walls. Palestinian men and boys were rounded up, water mains and buildings and cars were destroyed, civilians and at least one American journalist were shot by snipers. Residents were running low on food, but the army provided Arafat and his men with 1,000 pitas, 20 bottles of water, cheese, eggs, flashlights, candles, and canned meat. Israel declared Ramallah a closed military zone and ordered the foreign press to leave or risk fines and the loss of credentials. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared that Israel was at war. About 40 Europeans managed to get inside Arafat’s office and announced their intention to act as human shields. The United States joined the rest of the United Nations Security Council in demanding that Israel withdraw from Ramallah, though later that day President George W. Bush, speaking from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, said that he thought Sharon was doing what he had to do. Israeli soldiers were said to be broadcasting hardcore pornography over three of Ramallah’s television stations.

The Czech Republic banned moviemaking at the Nazi concentration camp Theresienstadt after it was reported that a pornographic film was shot there. A lawsuit seeking reparations from several American companies on behalf of all descendants of American slaves was filed in a Brooklyn federal court; the plaintiff cited recent Holocaust reparations lawsuits as a precedent. United Nations scientists found widespread traces of depleted uranium in Serbia and Montenegro and said that precautions should be taken to prevent stirring up the highly toxic material but nonetheless insisted that the population was safe. Italy’s government issued a decree empowering its military to destroy ships used to transport refugees. A man who hates Muslims drove his truck into a mosque in Tallahassee, Florida; the man had tried to join the military so he could kill Muslims but was rejected. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that every day two Pakistani women are murdered in “honor killings” by male relatives. The group also said that nearly half the country’s children are malnourished. Doctors at Guantánamo Bay naval base force-fed two Afghan war prisoners who had not eaten for 30 days; the other prisoners are eating well, a spokesman said, and have each gained about ten pounds. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld explained that even if Afghan war prisoners manage to be acquitted in military tribunals, it would be “mindless” to let them go. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission admitted that it still doesn’t keep a very close eye on the security of nuclear power plants. President Bush traveled to Mexico, Peru, and El Salvador; when he was in Mexico he noted that “Mexico es a grand amigo de los Estados Unidos and we’re equal partners.” The President promised to add $5 billion to American foreign aid. After this amount was criticized by Latin American leaders, the White House said it had got the math wrong and that the amount was really $10 billion.

Documents released by the Department of Energy revealed that President Bush signed an executive order on energy policy that was almost identical to a draft submitted by the American Petroleum Institute. Two Oxford dons resigned in a bribery scandal triggered by a reporter for the Sunday Times who posed as a rich banker trying to get his dull son into university. As part of an anti-corruption campaign, Chinese prosecutors distributed playing cards illustrated with cartoon depictions of crimes, such as sexual bribery, to thousands of local officials and police officers who are notorious for spending much of their time playing poker. Playboy magazine was looking for models to pose in its upcoming “Women of Enron” pictorial. President Bush continued to find time to go running every day. “I really like to run,” he said. He also found time to sign the campaign finance reform bill before he went out on a fund-raising tour. Candidates for local office in Abbeville, Louisiana, signed pledges not to buy votes in the upcoming primary. Denver, Colorado, banned begging. People in Washington State were alarmed at the numbers of urine-filled bottles and other human waste being found along the state’s highways. “It’s really getting yucky out there!” said one official at the Department of Ecology. The Pentagon was lobbying Congress for an exemption from the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Noise Control Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Endangered Species Act because the laws are all inconvenient and expensive. The Supreme Court ruled that cities can evict people who live in public housing if any member of their household or their guests are caught using drugs, with or without their knowledge, in or outside the home. Nielsen Media Research announced that it will equip ten homes in Tampa, Florida, with experimental face-recognition equipment that will allow the ratings company to know who is in the room when the television is on. A contestant in the upcoming NBC “reality” show “Dog Eat Dog” was hospitalized, reportedly unconscious and spitting up blood, after a contest to see who could hold his breath the longest somehow went awry. A major study found that boys who watch more than one hour of television per day are more likely to commit violent crimes; the television need not contain violent images. Milton Berle died, as did Billy Wilder and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. In Kampala, Uganda, a woman was arrested for biting off her husband’s penis and testicles after he slapped her during an argument. Mercy killing was legalized in the Netherlands. Vietnam’s government finally recognized the Miss Vietnam beauty pageant. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand warned that taxi drivers were spreading nasty rumors about him. A shark bit off a surfer’s foot in Hawaii.

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November 2008

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