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[Weekly Review]

Weekly Review


President George W. Bush announced that the United States and Russia will sign a new arms-control treaty that will reduce both countries’ nuclear arsenals by two thirds. The weapons will not be destroyed, however, but simply put in storage. It was reported that an F.B.I. agent in Phoenix, Arizona, wrote a memo last summer warning his superiors about the enrollment of possible terrorists in American flight schools and cited Osama bin Laden by name. The White House acknowledged that President Bush received warnings in August that bin Laden was planning to hijack aircraft. Some members of Congress called for an investigation. “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile,” said Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser. The next day it was reported that in 1996 an Al Qaeda operative confessed on videotape to the F.B.I. that he had planned to use his American flight training to fly a plane into C.I.A. headquarters. In 1999 that confession and other information led to a widely distributed intelligence analysis by the Library of Congress warning that “suicide bomber(s) belonging to Al Qaeda’s Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency or the White House.” Vice President Dick Cheney warned that a new Al Qaeda attack on the United States was “almost certain.” A trucking industry group offered the services of the nation’s truckers in the war on terrorism. Thieves in Mexico stole a truck that was carrying ten tons of sodium cyanide. The truck was later found, but most of the poison was missing. Lawyers for John Walker Lindh, the young American who fought with the Taliban, used the Justice Department’s new interpretation of the Second Amendment to argue that firearms charges against him should be dismissed. American Green Berets landed in Tblisi, Georgia, to begin training the army there to fight terrorism. After NATO agreed to give Russia a more active role in the alliance’s decision making, particularly concerning terrorism and arms control, Secretary of State Colin Powell observed that “we don’t yet quite have a cliché to capture this all.”

Former president Jimmy Carter, who was visiting Cuba, expressed skepticism about an accusation last week by a State Department official that Cuba has been developing biological weapons. Colin Powell also cast doubt on the charge. President Bush signed a bill increasing subsidies to farmers, even though his party has been trying to do away with such subsidies for six years. A senior official said that the President signed the bill because to do otherwise was “political suicide in the November election.” German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder managed to get an injunction banning the German media from making any speculations as to whether or not he dyes his suspiciously youthful-looking hair. He submitted affidavits, including one from his hairdresser, Udo Walz, attesting to the authenticity of his hair color. “I am absolutely sure the chancellor does not dye his hair,” affirmed Walz. Belgium legalized mercy killing. People and birds were dropping dead in India because of a heat wave. A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded market in Netanya, Israel, killing two and wounding at least 50 people, including a number of young children. Israel arrested several suspected Jewish terrorists for planting a large bomb next to a Palestinian girls’ school in East Jerusalem; the bomb was set to go off at 7:45 a.m., just as the little girls would be arriving at school. India expelled Pakistan’s ambassador in retaliation for a terrorist attack that killed 32 people, mostly women and children. A man in Hiroshima, Japan, was murdered with an umbrella, apparently in a dispute over a parking spot. A 13-year-old boy in California was facing jail time for shooting a spitball that accidentally hit another boy in the eye; the boy, who has a heart condition and has undergone heart surgery twice, was convicted of causing serious bodily injury and mayhem and could be sent to prison for eight years. A British woman who was imprisoned for failing to make her daughters attend school was denied bail. The University of California at Berkeley established the Center for Peace and Well-Being.

French police were searching the Rhône-Rhine Canal for stolen artworks. After Stéphane Breitwieser was arrested for trying to steal a bugle from a museum in Switzerland, his mother threw much of his collection of stolen art into the canal and chopped up drawings and oil paintings by Watteau, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Pieter Brueghel the Younger. Police estimated the value of the art at $1.4 billion. A federal judge in West Virginia ruled that the Bush Administration’s recent decision to allow mining companies to dump the waste from mountaintop-removal mining into nearby streams and valleys is an “obvious perversion” of the Clean Water Act; he also said that the new rule was an attempt “to legalize their longstanding illegal regulatory practice.” Medicalmarijuana advocates were complaining about the quality of the government-grown pot being provided to patients in California. “It’s unconscionable that they would be giving this marijuana to patients,” said one. “It’s stale, low-potency ditch weed.” A government spokesman defended the marijuana and asserted that the government’s pot “does not contain sticks and seeds.” Other patients were protesting that the government’s pot is too strong. Orthodox priests in Bethlehem said that the Palestinian fighters who hid out in the Church of the Nativity “ate like greedy monsters” until the food ran out, drank all the clergy’s Johnnie Walker scotch, and tore up Bibles for use as toilet paper. Roman Catholic officials from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati declared that priests who molest postpubescent minors are “ephebophiles” not “pedophiles” and as such they are more amenable to treatment and can sometimes be returned to the ministry. Prominent psychiatrists said the distinction was nonsense. An influential Vatican canon lawyer published an article arguing that bishops should not cooperate with law-enforcement officials in sexual molestation cases involving priests, nor should a parish that receives a pedophile priest be told about his history because that would ruin the priest’s “good reputation.” After failing to diagnose mad cow disease in a dairy cow, a Japanese vet killed herself. “I’m so sorry for my unforgivable fault as a veterinarian,” she wrote in a suicide note. Lithuania did away with a law that required women drivers to undergo a gynecological examination. Some scientists said they thought the moon has a warm heart. Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, overturned a twenty-year-old law banning pets from defecating. A species of bald parrot was discovered in Brazil.

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November 2008

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