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[Weekly Review]

Weekly Review


The House Appropriations Committee passed a measure authorizing the President to use force to free any American detained by the new International Criminal Court, which Tom DeLay, the majority whip from Texas, called a “rump” and a “rogue” court. After noticing that some members of the committee seemed ignorant of the court’s location, David Obey, a Democrat from Wisconsin, pointed out that “we would be sending troops to invade the Netherlands.” The measure also bans military aid to countries that ratify the treaty creating the court (which President Bush “unsigned” last week) but specifically exempts NATO countries and other major allies, all of whom have ratified it. Government security auditors reported that several important federal agencies have done little or nothing to secure their facilities against terrorist attack: the Department of Agriculture, for example, was unable to account for three billion doses of a dangerous virus, and the Energy Department has lost track of nuclear material that it lent to foreign countries. Tom Ridge, the head of “homeland security,” showed off his office’s new situation room to the news media. Pim Fortuyn, a gay, right-wing, anti-immigrant politician, was assassinated in the Netherlands; police arrested an animal-rights activist in connection with the murder. In two footnotes filed with the Supreme Court, the Justice Department reversed 60 years of government policy and asserted that the Second Amendment to the Constitution “broadly” guarantees the right of individuals to own firearms, thus challenging the court’s current understanding that the Constitution protects only those gun rights that have “some reasonable relationship to the preservation of efficiency of a well regulated militia.” It was pointed out that in 1999, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 28,874 Americans were killed with guns.

A 13-year-old girl from Bolivia named Gabriela Azurdy Arrieta opened the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children. “We want a world fit for children,” she said in her speech, “because a world fit for us is a world fit for everyone.” The United States, the Vatican, and several Arab countries disrupted the proceedings by pushing anti-abortion and sexual abstinence agendas. The U.S. also blocked a statement calling for a ban on the execution of children, a provision of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, which only the United States and Somalia have failed to ratify. “We are trying to lead the world,” said one American official. Alabama executed a woman in its electric chair for the first time since 1957. Lucas Helder, a 21-year-old art student who was arrested for planting pipe bombs in mailboxes across five states, told a police officer that he was trying to make a smiley-face pattern with his attacks. Hamas carried out a suicide bombing near Tel Aviv, killing 15 people. Israel’s Likud Party voted never to permit the creation of a Palestinian state. A man in Malacky, Slovakia, tried unsuccessfully to decapitate himself with a homemade guillotine in front of the local tax office because he was unable to pay the taxes on his house. “It did not cut his head off completely,” said a policeman, “but he wounded himself so badly that he died afterwards.” The shrunken head of an Indian woman that was stolen from the Frontier Times Museum in Bandera, Texas, was found in a bag on the side of a road. “She looks all right,” said the local police chief. “They’re just tickled to death that nobody tore her up. We’re still going to investigate it, and hopefully we can get somebody in jail.”

German scientists announced that they had grown carrots genetically modified to produce the vaccine for hepatitis B. The director of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., refused to hand over the medical records of a dead giraffe, saying that the doctor-patient confidentiality rule applied “in principle” to animals. Jennifer Portnick, a 240-pound aerobics instructor, reached a settlement with Jazzercize Inc. after she brought a complaint against the company under San Francisco’s “fat and short” law for rejecting her because of her size. Jazzercize will no longer require its instructors to maintain a “fit appearance.” Federal tax receipts were down even more than expected, though spending was, on all accounts, going up. The Bush Administration was planning to reinterpret federal law to permit the funding of single-sex schools. Cardinal Bernard F. Law was deposed in Boston by lawyers for 86 people who say they were sexually molested by the Rev. John J. Geoghan, whom the Catholic Church moved from one parish to another even though he was a known pedophile. When Law was asked whether he was aware that Geoghan was a child molester when he was placed in the parish of one of the victims, Law replied: “I was aware that there was involvement because, because of the, of having removed him out of one parish and putting him between assignments before sending him back to another, and then necessitating a letter that would not have been necessary unless there had been a problem.” Janet Reno got into a fender bender in Miami while driving her red pickup. Jimmy Carter went to Cuba. The Pentagon was trying to teach bees to sniff out bombs.

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November 2008

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