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[Weekly Review]

Weekly Review


President Bush, who continued to insist that he has “seen no evidence to date that indicates that this country could have prevented the [September 11] attack,” nonetheless called for a new cabinet-level agency for domestic security. The proposal combines 22 federal agencies into one but leaves the C.I.A. and the F.B.I., whose computers are so primitive that agents are able to search files for “aviation” and “schools” but not for “aviation schools,” essentially untouched. Attorney General John Ashcroft claimed that federal authorities had prevented a terrorist attack on Washington, D.C.; Ashcroft said that the arrest last month of an American Al Qaeda operative named Abdullah Al Mujahir at Chicago O’Hare airport had disrupted “an unfolding terrorist plot to attack the United States with a radioactive dirty bomb.” An unnamed official admitted, however, that Mujahir, whose real name is Jose Padilla, did not actually possess such a bomb: “We don’t believe it went beyond the planning stages.” The attorney general also proposed regulations requiring 100,000 Muslim and Middle Eastern foreigners to register with the federal government and submit to fingerprinting; potential terrorists who are already in the country are expected to comply voluntarily. The inspector general of the Justice Department testified before Congress that the I.N.S. and the F.B.I. are “years away” from integrating their fingerprint files. Kansas repealed a law that barred Asian immigrants from owning property. Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Butler was suspended from duty for publishing a letter to the editor in a California newspaper in which he called President Bush “a joke.” President Bush was asked about the recent report by the EPA that contradicted many of his previous statements on global warming: “I read the report put out by the bureaucracy,” he replied, and then he reiterated his opposition to doing anything about global warming. In Oregon, a state appeals court reinstated $79.5 million in punitive damages against Philip Morris, saying that the company’s perpetuation of a spurious argument over the safety of cigarettes warranted “strong judicial punishment.” Japan ratified the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Indian soccer fans attacked the offices of the local electric company in Kalikavu, Malappuram, because the power kept going out during the World Cup.

A Palestinian suicide bomber attacked a bus in northern Israel and killed 17 people, including 13 soldiers; in retaliation, Israeli forces attacked Yasir Arafat’s headquarters, and a tank fired a shell through his bathroom wall. Sheikh Abdallah al-Shami of Islamic Jihad confirmed that his group had sent the bomber, and he said that Arafat can do nothing to stop such attacks: “The Palestinian Authority is broken; its institutions are destroyed,” he said. “How can the Palestinian Authority assure the security of the Israelis when it cannot even protect its own people?” An Israeli company displayed its new bulletproof infant car seat at a security conference in Tel Aviv, and Israel confirmed its first case of mad cow disease, at a kibbutz in the Golan Heights. Experts said that many more cases will probably be discovered since Israel has for many years imported cattle feed containing rendered animal carcasses from Britain and other European countries. President Bush said it was time to start work on building a Palestinian state: “We’ve got to get started quickly, soon, so we can seize the moment.” Alarmed that India might be willing to go to war with Pakistan over terrorist attacks on its citizens, President Bush called his friend Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s military dictator, and used “very firm language” to demand that incursions over the Indian border by Islamic terrorists stop immediately. Musharraf complied, and the terrorists were said to be confused. A member of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, was elected lord mayor of Belfast, Northern Ireland, for the first time. A number of elderly pop stars, including Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Cliff Richard, and Brian Wilson, performed at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the 50-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Ozzy Osbourne sang Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.” Ten thousand Korean troops were put on alert in preparation for the World Cup soccer match between Korea and America; President Kim Dae Jung, whose youngest son was just indicted for taking $3 million in bribes, decided not to attend the match. President Jorge Batlle of Uruguay apologized to Argentina for saying that its politicians were “a pack of thieves, from the first to the last,” and tearfully begged for forgiveness.

New York’s state education commissioner declared an end to the practice of removing all references to religion, race, sex, alcohol, drugs, and other topics from quotations of famous writers that appear on standardized tests. State bureaucrats had said that they did not want students to feel “uncomfortable” for any reason while taking the tests. Prominent American Roman Catholic officials criticized new proposals on sex abuse by a council of bishops because the new policy would allow bishops the discretion to give sexually abusive priests a second chance if they repent. The Food and Drug Administration said it will permit Lotronex, a drug used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, back on the market even though several people died after taking it, because thousands of patients said it was the only thing that helped them. Jerusalem enjoyed its first gay-pride march. A Nigerian woman who was convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning was given a two-year reprieve so that she can wean her baby. A Japanese man was stabbed to death with an umbrella, the second such killing in a month. Scientists who tested whale meat on sale in Japan found extremely high mercury levels; some samples had 5,000 times the government’s safety limit. “Acute intoxication could result from a single ingestion,” they warned. Rats who ate a single mouthful of whale liver suffered severe kidney poisoning. Biologists who study the marine iguanas of the Galápagos Islands said that the 150,000-gallon fuel spill last year had killed more than half the iguanas on Santa Fe island; the pollution seems to have killed bacteria in the iguanas’ guts that were essential for digestion, causing the animals to starve. McDonald’s agreed to donate $10 million to Hindu and vegetarian organizations to settle a lawsuit over the false claim that its french fries were suitable for vegetarians. The Army decided to close its Peacekeeping Institute. John Gotti died. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton revealed that she once hunted ducks.

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November 2008

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