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[Weekly Review]

Weekly Review


The Bush Administration found it necessary to deny that torture will be used against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the Al Qaeda leader captured in Pakistan last week, but confirmed that “routine techniques” such as sleep and light deprivation and withholding food and water and medical attention might be used. Officials confirmed that during the questioning of Abu Zubaydah, an Al Qaeda leader who was shot several times when he was captured, American interrogators withheld pain killers; and they confirmed that terrorism suspects are routinely forced to stand or kneel in “uncomfortable positions” for long periods wearing black hoods in the extreme cold and heat. Officials confirmed that during the interrogation of Omar al-Faruq, another senior Al Qaeda operative, sleep and light deprivation and prolonged isolation were used, that Faruq was fed very little, and that he was exposed to temperatures ranging from 10 to 100 degrees. In the end, he decided to talk. Another Guantánamo Bay detainee attempted to commit suicide; it was the twenty-first such attempt. Military officials were conducting a criminal investigation into the deaths of two Afghan men at the American air base at Bagram, Afghanistan; evidence suggested that the men had been beaten to death while in U.S. custody. Someone in the Bush Administration told a reporter that the president took the extraordinary step of sitting still by himself â?? “in solitude, undisturbed” â?? for ten whole minutes before he walked purposefully down a long hall on a red carpet to his first prime-time press conference in more than a year, where he told the world that he was prepared to launch an invasion of Iraq within days. He was described as “a leader impervious to doubt.” Bush said that “as we head into the 21st century, when it comes to our security, we really don’t need anybody’s permission.” Asked about the danger of undermining the authority of the United Nations, Bush replied: “I want to work â?? I want the United Nations to be effective. It’s important for it to be a robust, capable body. It’s important for its word to mean what they say.” Bush asserted that Saddam Hussein “has trained and financed Al Qaeda-type organizations,” and he said that his job “is to protect America. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do. People can ascribe all kind of intentions. I swore to protect and defend the Constitution. That’s what I swore to do. I put my hand on the Bible and took that oath. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.” Bush mentioned the September 11 attacks eight times. Some commentators were surprised by Bush’s odd, passionless tone; there was speculation in the Washington Post that the president was on drugs.

A new poll found that President Bush would lose, 48 to 44 percent, against an unknown Democrat if the presidential election were held today. Another poll found that 42 percent of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein is personally responsible for September 11. Sixty-eight percent of Americans believe in the devil, but only 48 percent believe that God created the universe; 28 percent believe in evolution. The House Administration Committee called for an investigation into recent suspicious deaths at the National Zoo. A Masai giraffe, a lion, and a pygmy hippo died, as did two zebras that were not fed enough to survive in the recent cold weather; two red pandas died when somebody put rat poison in their cage. A Palestinian zookeeper in the West Bank was stuffing dead animals (such as a giraffe that died of terror during a shootout and some zebras that were suffocated by tear gas), so that visitors would have something to look at. Denver’s Ocean Journey aquarium was bought by a seafood restaurant. The estimated federal budget deficit for the current fiscal year grew by 15 percent in five weeks. More than 300,000 American jobs were lost last month, the government reported, and teachers in Portland agreed to work without pay for two weeks to keep the public schools there from having to close five weeks early. People in Berlin were upset that the city was planning to spend $475,000 to build tunnels under a road for some frogs even as swimming pools and kindergartens are being closed to save money. The Environmental Protection Agency announced that new storm-water rules for small construction sites will not apply to the oil and gas industry.

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by Nira Schwartz, a former employee of TRW, the government weapons contractor, that accuses the company and the government of fraudulently covering up the fact that a key component of the antimissile defense system doesn’t work. The judge did not address the substance of the case but simply agreed with the government’s claim that the lawsuit might “expose matters which in the interest of national security should not be divulged.” Four North Korean fighter jets intercepted an American spy plane and scared it away. Two dozen long-range bombers were sent to Guam, where they will be close enough to strike North Korea if necessary; Donald Rumsfeld said that the move was not “aggressive or threatening or hostile.” People in the Congo were still dying of Ebola fever. Twenty-one people died when a bomb exploded at an airport in Davao City in the Philippines. A pregnant Palestinian woman who was ten days from her due date was killed when a wall fell on her during the destruction by Israeli soldiers of a neighboring militant’s home. A Palestinian suicide bomber blew up a bus in Haifa, Israel, killing 15 people, including young children on their way home from school. Coleen Rawley, the famous FBI agent, sent a letter to the bureau’s director, and copied the major media, charging that the FBI is unprepared for the wave of terrorist attacks that could come as a result of the invasion of Iraq. Germany’s intelligence agency published a cookbook of recipes from around the world. A school in England banned stories about pigs in the mistaken belief that talking about pigs is offensive to Muslims. British authorities arrested someone at its Government Communications Headquarters in connection with the leak of a memo detailing America’s spy campaign against Security Council members, and the United Nations opened an investigation into the spying. American officials refused to comment on the subject. President Bush warned Mexico that there could be reprisals against Mexican Americans if it fails to support the war on Iraq. After defeating a challenge from dancing, rodeo was declared the official sport of Wyoming. Scientists in California reported that Mars has a molten core. The United States Supreme Court ruled that it is not cruel and unusual punishment to put a man in prison for 50 years for stealing a couple of videotapes for his children. McDonald’s was trying to overcome the fact that the restaurant has come to be associated with poor, stupid, and fat people. Women with fake breasts are more likely to kill themselves, a new study found, and scientists announced that women with short thighs are at higher risk of diabetes. The Organization of the Islamic Conference met in Qatar; representatives from Kuwait and Iraq exchanged unpleasantries: “Shut up, you monkey,” said the Iraqi, to which the Kuwaiti replied, “Curse be upon your mustache, you traitor.” CBS admitted that it hired an actor to read the translation of Saddam Hussein’s remarks to Dan Rather in a fake Iraqi accent. Operation Kuwaiti Field Chicken was called off after all but two of the Poultry Chemical Confirmation Devices died. Seventeen U.S. Army tents blew away in a sudden desert windstorm.

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November 2008

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