Weekly Review — October 29, 2002, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Former senators Warren Rudman and Gary Hart warned in a new report that the federal government has done virtually nothing to secure the nation against terrorist attack. Power plants, refineries, and transportation infrastructure are still unprotected; local police, firefighters, and other emergency personnel are almost as unprepared for attacks now as they were in September 2001; almost none of the cargo containers entering the country are inspected; and the federal government has authorized only $92 million of the $2 billion needed to secure the nation’s ports. The FBI warned that terrorists might be planning an attack somewhere, possibly involving trains. A distributed denial-of-service attack on the 13 root servers of the domain name system failed to bring down the Internet. Newly declassified documents revealed that in 1976, on the day before Chilean agents assassinated Orlando Letelier with a car bomb in Washington, D.C., a senior State Department official told American ambassadors not to speak to their local Latin American dictators about the need to stop using death squads to deal with dissidents. Laurence Foley, an American diplomat, was shot dead outside his home in Amman, Jordan. Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, one of the last liberals in Congress, died in a plane crash on his way to the funeral of a steelworker. Lobbyists were giddy at the prospect of a Republican Senate; one anonymous source remarked that “it’s the domestic equivalent of planning for postwar Iraq.” The Pentagon announced that it will set up a new intelligence unit because senior officials are not happy with the reports they are getting on Iraq, especially the judgment that Iraq has no connection with Al Qaeda and that it has no intention of attacking the United States. “There is a complete breakdown in the relationship between the Defense Department and the intelligence community,” said an unnamed official. “Wolfowitz and company disbelieve any analysis that doesn’t support their preconceived conclusions. The CIA is enemy territory as far as they’re concerned.”

The United States, Japan, and South Korea issued a statement warning North Korea that the country will be shunned if it refuses to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, and President Bush, frustrated that Russia and France still have not submitted to his demands in the Security Council, again threatened to invade Iraq no matter what. Bush had earlier explained that Iraq is “unique” because Saddam Hussein has gassed his own people and “thumbed his nose” at the United Nations. American drones were flying over the Empty Quarter in the Arabian desert looking for terrorists. The Yemeni government was holding about 40 sons of tribal leaders hostage to ensure the tribes’ cooperation in the search for Al Qaeda members. “It is something ordinary in Yemen, a tradition,” said one sheikh. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld mentioned that some of the prisoners at Guantánamo naval base might be released someday: “There are some people likely to come out the other end of the chute,” he said. One expert explained that this decision “shows how reasonable the executive branch is.” About 100,000 people traveled to Washington, D.C., and circled the White House to protest the coming war with Iraq; it was the largest antiwar demonstration in the capital since the Vietnam era. Israeli soldiers who have refused to serve in the Occupied Territories petitioned the Israeli supreme court to find that the ongoing military occupation of Palestinian land is illegal; they argued that the occupation has become a systematic “mechanism of collective punishment,” which is prohibited under international law, and that Israel has failed to meet its legal duty to safeguard the welfare of the occupied population. Fourteen people were killed in Israel when a sport utility vehicle armed with a bomb smashed into a bus and exploded. Another suicide bomber killed three people after he was shot by soldiers at a gas station. A reporter at the scene noticed that a cell phone was ringing in a dead soldier’s pocket. Israeli forces reoccupied Jenin, killed a few people, and seized at least 40 homes. Warlords in Somalia signed a cease-fire agreement. A satellite television station in Egypt was advertising a 41-part treatment of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Russian anti-Semitic forgery; the series, called “Horse without a Horseman,” will be broadcast during Ramadan.

Russian commandos stormed the Moscow theater occupied by Chechen rebels and rescued about 750 hostages; more than 100 soon died, however, all but one from the unidentified gas used to rescue them, and 145 were in intensive care. Although the government originally claimed that the raid was undertaken only after the Chechens began to execute the hostages, this story was soon discredited. Police arrested a Gulf War veteran and his teenage Jamaican sidekick in the Washington sniper case, ending a media frenzy that included a request by CNN to interview actors from the CBS series “Crime Scene Investigation.” Lengthy footage was broadcast of a tree stump being dug up and hauled away. Experts and profilers who had spent untold hours on television speculating about the killer were forced to admit that their prophecies had been worthless. “My predictions were not that close,” one expert said. “But the average American was hungry for information. And when there isn’t real news, people make up their own. People wanted a story of who this guy was. What we did, by providing it, comforted them.” In Vietnam, a man died trying to rescue a co-worker who had fallen into a giant vat of fish sauce; four other workers fell in and passed out from the fumes before they were rescued. Researchers in Japan found that monosodium glutamate, the flavor enhancer used in many processed foods, can cause blindness in rats. Applied Digital Solutions launched an advertising campaign (“Get Chipped”) for its implantable human-identification microchip; the product, called VeriChip, is the size of a grain of rice and emits a 125-kilohertz radio signal that transmits its ID number, which is tied to a database file on the client containing personal information. It was reported that new patents have been issued recently for an inflatable push-up bra, an instant-release bra clasp, a bra with detachable straps, an electromagnetic push-up bra, and a bra with a built-in breast pump. A Russian army commander admitted to beating his soldiers with a black latex dildo. A Chinese qigong practitioner swallowed 162 rusty nails. Dogs, scientists found, are better behaved when listening to Bach than when listening to Metallica. There was a marijuana shortage in New York City. Uzbekistan outlawed billiards.

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