Weekly Review — September 24, 2002, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

President George W. Bush challenged the United Nations to prove that it is “a force for good and peace” and not “an ineffective debating society”; he said that America must overthrow Saddam Hussein because “it’s time for us to secure the peace”; and he demanded that Congress give him unlimited power to make war. Iraq agreed to readmit United Nations weapons inspectors without conditions, but the White House denounced the offer as a stalling tactic and insisted that inspections would never work anyway. The Pentagon presented the President with detailed invasion plans, and Saudi Arabia agreed to allow American forces to attack Iraq from bases there but only if the United Nations blesses the war. Congressional Democrats explained that they were reluctant to oppose the war with Iraq because of the November election. The six Arab men from Lackawanna, New York, who were accused of being a secret Al Qaeda cell were charged with “providing material support” to terrorists under the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective death Penalty Act, which a federal judge recently declared “unconstitutional on its face.” The government admitted it had no evidence of any specific crime that the men were planning to commit, though prosecutors alluded to “catastrophes of biblical proportion.” Almost 15 million people in southern Africa are in danger of starving, the head of the World Food Program said, and Ethiopia announced that it was running out of food. McDonald’s recalled 100,000 “bobble head dolls” because they contain hazardous amounts of lead. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study concluding that an overly clean household environment can lead to allergies and asthma in children. Rats were said to be overrunning the mansions of Beverly Hills. Guidelines for vaccinating the entire population of the United States for smallpox in five days were sent to state health commissioners. The fourth annual East Coast Bigfoot Conference and Expo was held in Pennsylvania. The World Sheepdog Trials in Bala, Wales, were disrupted by a low-flying military jet. A magpie stole and ate a 73-year-old Dutchman’s artificial toe.

A bomb, apparently set by Jewish terrorists, exploded in a Palestinian elementary school shortly before recess, injuring several children. A suicide bomber killed an Israeli soldier, and another blew up a bus in Tel Aviv, killing five. “I ran outside and saw a heart still moving on the sidewalk,” one witness said. “A few meters away were the lungs.” An Israeli tank killed a 10-year-old Palestinian boy in Ramallah who was playing outside after curfew. Israeli soldiers destroyed all but one building in Yasir Arafat’s compound in the West Bank and put up a barbed-wire fence around the ruins; Arafat refused to leave his building even after the Israelis cut off his water and removed his air conditioners. British and Australian researchers found that suicide rates increase under right-wing governments. Turkey’s government banned the country’s most popular politician from the November election because he was convicted three years ago of reading a poem that was judged to be an incitement to religious hatred. The novelist Michael Houellebecq went on trial in France for saying that Islam is “the most stupid religion.” Christians at New Life Ministries in Loudon, Tennessee, tried to resurrect a 15-year-old girl who died of untreated bone cancer. A white-spotted bamboo shark gave birth to three baby sharks in Detroit even though she hasn’t been near a male shark in six years. Astronomers found evidence of water in the atmospheres of distant planets, and scientists in Switzerland created antimatter antiatoms of cold antihydrogen.

Germany’s justice minister was in hot water for saying that “Bush wants to divert attention from his domestic problems. It’s a classic tactic. It’s one that Hitler also used.” She later denied that she had compared Bush to Hitler but did say that their methods were similar. German chancellor Gerhard Schröder was reelected. France released Maurice Papon, who was imprisoned for deporting Jews to the Nazi death camps, because he is old and sick. The Bush Administration finally agreed to support an independent investigation into the intelligence failures leading up to September 11 after a congressional investigation continued to turn up embarrassing details such as the 1998 warning, ignored by the CIA, that terrorists wanted to fly planes into the World Trade Center. Russia reported that its population had dropped by 505,900 people so far this year. A scientist from the City of Hope in California created genetically engineered flies that turn gay when it gets hot. A federal appeals court said that the military can prohibit the sale of pornography on military bases. The Pentagon revealed that 800 American soldiers are stationed in east Africa. A translation of recently discovered Mayan carvings telling the story of a catastrophic war between two great powers was completed. Sonia Gandhi visited Kashmir wearing a bullet-proof vest. Moyer Packing, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, recalled 203,600 pounds of beef tainted with E. coli bacteria that was sold throughout the northeastern United States. Hundreds of people, mostly schoolchildren, were sickened and dozens died in Tangshan, China, from eating food from a snack-bar that had been laced with rat poison by a competitor. It was reported that many U.S. airports are not using their expensive new baggage-screening machines because they are inconvenient to operate. Pundits continued to reassure readers that the Constitution of the United States of America is not, in fact, a suicide pact. Researchers at Duke University discovered a gene that gives sheep large beautiful bottoms. Astronomers discovered a new type of black hole.

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Addressing the graduating cadets at West Point in May 1942, General George C. Marshall, then the Army chief of staff, reduced the nation’s purpose in the global war it had recently joined to a single emphatic sentence. “We are determined,” he remarked, “that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other.”

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