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[Weekly Review]

Weekly Review


The National Security Agency has mounted a surveillance “surge” targeting the communications of United Nations Security Council members, with special attention directed to Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria, and Guinea. The spy campaign was outlined in a top secret memo written by Frank Koza, the NSA’s chief of staff for regional targets, that was leaked to the London Observer. Koza instructed analysts to focus on “the whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to US goals or to head off surprises.” He also requested that analysts “make sure they pay attention to existing non-UNSC member UN-related and domestic comms for anything useful to the UNSC deliberations/ debates/ votes.” Turkey’s parliament rejected a proposal to allow American troops to use Turkish bases for the invasion of Iraq, undoing weeks of bargaining with the United States over a multi-billion-dollar fee. “What more do you want?” said Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish leader. “It was a completely democratic result. May it be for the best.” American officials asked for a “clarification” of the decision, and Yasar Yakis, the Turkish foreign minister, said that his government would request a second vote. Two dozen American ships laden with military supplies were still floating off the Turkish coast. Members of the Bush Administration hinted that Russia might have a hard time collecting its Iraqi debts if it fails to support the American war drive: “What we’ve said is that if you are legitimately concerned about recouping your $8 billion of debt, and if you are interested in economic opportunities in a liberated Iraq, then it would be helpful if you are part of the prevailing coalition.” American diplomats were telling Security Council countries that they risked “paying a heavy price” if they don’t vote for war with Iraq, although Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, denied that the Administration was trying to bribe countries for war votes: “The president is not offering quid pro quos,” he said. When a French reporter pressed him on the question, Fleischer said: “Think about the implications of what you’re saying, you’re saying that the leaders of other nations are buyable,” whereupon the assembled reporters all burst out laughing and Fleischer left the stage in a huff. Eighteen million people watched Dan Rather interview Saddam Hussein on television, beating out interviews with the “Preppy Murderer” and Robert Blake. Some conservatives questioned Dan Rather’s patriotism. Saddam Hussein challenged George W. Bush to a debate.

The United States, Britain, and Spain asked the United Nations Security Council to affirm in a new resolution that Iraq had missed its last chance to disarm. France, Germany, and Russia responded by demanding four months of further inspections. An American diplomat in Athens, Greece, resigned in protest over the President’s policy toward Iraq and said that “our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America’s most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson.” Russia’s foreign minister threatened to veto the new American resolution on Iraq. Federal officials lowered the terrorist threat level to “yellow” so that they could raise it again to “orange” right before the invasion of Iraq. Pakistani authorities arrested Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Al Qaeda leader who is suspected of planning the September 11 attacks, and turned him over to the United States. Iraq crushed four Al Samoud 2 missiles with a bulldozer; Hans Blix said that the decision to destroy the missiles was a “very significant piece of real disarmament.” A pack of dogs attacked six parked cars in Munich. A three-year-old boy and a six-month-old girl were married in Nepal; the ceremony was briefly halted after the bride got fussy but resumed after both the bride and groom were breast-fed. The sale of young girls was on the rise in Afghanistan, and President George W. Bush declared that making war on Iraq will lead to peace in the Middle East.

James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA, said that stupidity is an inherited genetic disorder: “If you are really stupid, I would call that a disease.” “People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty,” he added. “I think it would be great.” A panel of experts assembled by the National Academy of Sciences denounced the president’s proposed research plan on the dangers of global warming; the plan, the experts said, lacks “a guiding vision, executable goals, clear timetables and criteria for measuring progress, an assessment of whether existing programs are capable of meeting these goals, explicit prioritization, and a management plan.” Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that by 2050 Britain will reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 60 percent; Blair also criticized the United States for refusing to fight global warming. British beef returned to France, and Prince Charles and several famous French chefs all ate some. “This wonderful piece of beef,” said the prince, “is not just a delicious lump of meat we enjoy eating â?? it represents an entire culture.” Bernard Loiseau, one of France’s greatest chefs, committed suicide after his Cote d’Or restaurant was downgraded by GaultMillau from a score of 19 to 17. The House of Representatives voted to ban all human cloning. The Pentagon admitted that it was planning to deploy the new missile defense system before it actually works. “I happen to think,” said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, “that thinking we cannot deploy something until you have everything perfect, every ‘i’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed, is probably not a good idea.” President Bush nominated N. Gregory Mankiw to be the head of his Council of Economic Advisors; Mankiw once ridiculed supply-side economics and its faith in tax cuts as “fad economics” dreamed up by “charlatans and cranks.” A sketch of Christ on the cross by Salvador Dali was stolen from the lobby of the high-security men’s prison on Riker’s Island in New York City. American border inspectors began screening all travelers entering the United States for radiation, apparently because the government believes someone might try to hide a “dirty bomb” in his shoe. The Transportation Security Administration announced a new system that will check airline passengers’ credit reports and criminal histories whenever they attempt to board a plane. Lightning struck a small plane that was carrying Florida governor Jeb Bush but failed to destroy it. Mr. Rogers died. State Farm Insurance declared that it will not cover claims arising from nuclear blasts or fallout. Nevada was considering a special tax on whores.

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November 2008

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