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[Weekly Review]

Weekly Review


United Nations weapons inspectors presented their interim report on Iraq’s compliance with Security Council resolution 1441. Hans Blix, one of the chief inspectors, complained that Iraq had failed to provide important information about its weapons programs. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that his inspectors had found no evidence that Iraq has restarted its nuclear-weapons program. “Is Iraq complying, yes or no? If the answer is only partially yes,” said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, “then the answer is no.” Bush Administration officials were very upset over France and Germany’s latest statements condemning America’s war plans and their continued unwillingness to support an American invasion of Iraq. Secretary of State Colin Powell was said to be “incandescent” with rage at the new opposition, which took him by surprise and has purportedly undermined his position among President Bush’s advisers. Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, dismissed France and Germany, and said they were part of “old Europe.” “We’re nearing the end of the long road,” Rumsfeld said. Rumors were circulating among defense analysts that the Pentagon was preparing to use nuclear “bunker busters” in the invasion of Iraq. President Bush gave a speech touting his economic-stimulus package at a trucking company in St. Louis; behind him was a printed canvas backdrop of shipping boxes displaying large “Made in America” labels; before him was a stack of real boxes that were made in China â?? though somebody, allegedly an “overzealous volunteer,” had taped over all the “Made in China” labels. President Bush said that watching Saddam Hussein was like watching “a rerun of a bad movie.” Reporters asked the president when he planned to attack Iraq. “I will let you know,” he replied, “when the time has come.” Saddam Hussein convened his war cabinet and said: “I want you to know that even when I am not smiling, I am in fact smiling.” Saddam also said that he rarely has trouble sleeping: “I sleep as soon as I put my head on the pillow.”

Important people from all over the world descended on Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum. Protesters threw snowballs at police; police fired tear gas at the protesters. Colin Powell told participants that it would be useless to give the inspectors more time. King Abdullah of Jordan appeared resigned to the war: “Let us hope that whatever happens between Iraq and the international community is as quick and painless as possible.” A movement was afoot in Mexico to remove the “United States” from its official name: the United Mexican States. Hispanics, the Census Bureau reported, are now the largest minority group in the United States. Six men being held on immigration charges by the American government went on a hunger strike to protest their detention; several of the men said they simply wanted to be able to hug their children during visits. “I’m going to keep going,” said one Lebanese man, who has been in custody for 13 months, “until I’m dead or I see my daughter.” The Senate voted unanimously to prevent the deployment of the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness program, which would use data mining to monitor the American population, looking for signs of terrorism. An attack by an extremely virulent computer worm slowed much of the Internet over the weekend. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the federal government is building a computer system that will mine the nation’s health data for evidence of disease outbreaks. Officials hope the system will be able to quickly detect a smallpox or other bioweapons attack; privacy groups were concerned because of links between the program and the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness project. The president’s smallpox inoculation program got underway with the vaccination of four doctors in Connecticut. Two frozen Caucasians fell from the sky in Shanghai, China, apparently from the undercarriage of an Air France jet; one of the men crashed through the roof of a house. British police sent polite letters to habitual criminals asking them to behave themselves.

Tom Ridge was confirmed unanimously by the Senate as the first secretary of homeland defense. A Muslim cleric who has advocated the use of nuclear and chemical weapons on nonbelievers and once said that the bodies of dead nonbelievers could be burned for electricity went on trial in Britain for inciting racial hatred. Pakistan expelled three Indian diplomats in response to India’s expulsion of four Pakistanis. An American official said that Libya’s election as chairman of the United Nations Human Rights Commission was “regrettable.” Children from single-parent homes are more likely to go crazy, a Swedish study found. Another study found that U.S. veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange are more likely to get leukemia. A cylinder containing highly radioactive cesium 137 was lost in Canada; the cylinder, which is smaller than a triple-A battery but very dangerous, was lost somewhere along a 600-kilometer truck route. A doctor in Lexington, Kentucky, was accused of branding “UK,” the initials of the University of Kentucky, which he attended, into a patient’s uterus. A Virginia man who was trying to beat his dog to death with a shotgun accidentally shot himself to death. A Pennsylvania couple was charged with fraud for dressing up their seven-year-old son as a Cub Scout and sending him door-to-door seeking donations. The scam yielded almost $700. Astronauts on the space shuttle Columbia took photographs of sprites and elves among powerful thunderclouds over Australia. Scientists in New Zealand revealed that they have genetically engineered cattle to produce higher levels of protein in their milk, which could speed cheese production. “This could be a very cool thing,” said one expert, “especially if you like pizza.” Researchers successfully persuaded a quail embryo to grow a duck’s bill.

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November 2008

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