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[Weekly Review]

Weekly Review


President Bush made his first visit to Germany, where he gave a speech at the Reichstag in Berlin, compared terrorists to Nazis, and enjoyed apple strudel and ice cream with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, told German television that the German government needs to educate its people about the horrors of Saddam Hussein. “We also expect German support for the story that we are telling about this terrible man who has tried to acquire terrible weapons his entire life,” she said. The Tageszeitung, a leftist newspaper, ran a blank front page under the sarcastic headline “Bush’s Historic Speech.” American and Russian officials were unable to agree on what to call their new arms-control treaty, signed this week by Presidents Putin and Bush: the Americans insist on calling it the “Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Strategic Offensive Reductions,” whereas the Russians call it the “Agreement on the Reduction of Strategic Offensive Potentials.” Asked what he thought about Russia’s brain drain, President Bush replied: “It’s going to take a lotta brains in Russia to create a drain.” India and Pakistan moved closer to war: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told Indian soldiers in Kashmir to prepare for a “decisive battle.” “We’re deeply concerned about the rhetoric,” said President Bush. Senator Bob Graham, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned that a group of foreign “extremists” might have sneaked into the United States aboard container ships “and then disembarked,” only to be “lost in the American population.” Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, predicted that suicide bombing attacks in America are “inevitable.” Other officials, including the vice president and the secretary of defense, also warned of vague, unspecified threats. Face-recognition software that compares tourists’ faces to those of known terrorists was installed at the Statue of Liberty. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters that “you need time for an administration to grow,” and that because of September 11 the President has come to understand “the value of coalitions and friends.”

The Pentagon admitted to testing nerve gas and other chemical agents on American sailors during the 1960s. The defense rested after one day in the trial of Bobby Frank Cherry, the Kluxer from Alabama accused of blowing up a church in 1963 and killing four little girls. Bobby Wayne Cherry, Bobby Frank’s grandson, was asked whether he ever heard Bobby Frank utter a racial slur. “No,” he said. “Only the use of the word nigger.” The mostly white jury found Bobby Frank Cherry guilty as charged. Israel began encircling several major cities in the West Bank with high barbed wire fences. Pro-Israel pressure groups were organizing boycotts of major American newspapers such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post, as well as many smaller publications, because they feel the news has been insufficiently solicitous of the Israeli point of view: “I would suggest,” said one boycott organizer, “that there is no moral equivalence between cold-blooded murder and self-defense.” Israeli Defense Forces killed a woman and her 13-year-old daughter because they were working in a field that had been declared off-limits to Palestinians. Israel suffered a number of suicide bombings and prevented several more. Harvard’s faculty voted to end grade inflation. The White House admitted to a Senate investigation that it had many more contacts with Enron executives than had previously been disclosed. Lawmakers in Oklahoma approved a bill permitting the castration of repeat sex offenders. J. Kendrick Williams, the Roman Catholic bishop of Lexington, Kentucky, removed himself from pastoral duties until the church completes an investigation of charges that he molested an altar boy. Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, resigned after it was revealed that he recently paid $450,000 to settle a sexual assault case. Pope John Paul II traveled to Bulgaria as part of his continuing mission to unify the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches. Archimandrite Sioniy, the rector of the Orthodox seminary in Sofia, proposed a solution to the ongoing Catholic pedophilia scandal: “If the Catholic priests could marry and have families, as we do, then perhaps the problem would not be so great.”

The National Academy of Sciences reported that most oil pollution in the coastal waters off North America is the result of tiny spills by ordinary people rather than large oil spills by tankers and such. The Environmental Protection Agency reported that the amount of toxic chemicals released in America was down last year by 9 percent, or about 700 million pounds. Consumer advocates charged that the nation’s meat safety system was not working; they characterized the system as a “don’t look, don’t find” policy. The Irish Food Safety Authority reported finding bovine and porcine DNA in a significant percentage of chicken fillets, leading to fears that mad cow disease could be transmitted via chicken meat. Belarus began cracking down on the proliferation of McDonald’s restaurants. China announced that it would establish a base on the moon by 2010. “Our long-term goal is to set up a base on the moon and mine its riches for the benefit of humanity,” said a Chinese space official named Ouyang Ziyuan. Schippers, a Belgian company, announced that it had created the MS Reflexator, a vibrating device that sexually stimulates a pig during artificial insemination. Police in Turin, Italy, arrested a 24-year-old prostitute for engaging in unfair competition by charging too little for her services. The New York Times reported on its front page, just a few inches below a picture of people jumping to their deaths from the World Trade Center, that editors of the various international editions of Cosmopolitan magazine had descended on Manhattan to sit at the feet of the sages of the Hearst Corporation and were told that “beefcake” is “what’s hot now.” Israeli scientists unveiled their new genetically modified featherless chickens, which are supposed to be cheaper to kill, as they need not be plucked, though the naked birds have been unable to mate, because the males cannot flap their wings, and they are vulnerable to mosquito attacks and disease, and they fall down stunned if they happen to wander out into the sunlight.

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November 2008

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