Sunday, September 2, 2007

Weekly Review

By Claire Gutierrez
Harper's Magazine

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned.1 The CIA's inspector general released a report recommending that former CIA director George Tenet and other senior officials be held accountable for failing to prepare for the threat of Al Qaeda before the September 11 attacks,2 and the Pentagon announced it would close Talon, the database created after September 11 to monitor and store information about security threats and peace activists. 3 Grace Paley died.4 In a motion filed by the Justice Department, the Bush Administration argued that the White House Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, even though the office is listed as one of six presidential entities subject to FOIA on the White House website.5 The American Psychological Association ruled that many of the interrogation techniques used against detainees at U.S. facilities—including mock execution, simulated drowning, sexual and religious humiliation, stress positions, sleep deprivation, hooding, forced nakedness, exposure to extreme heat or cold, physical assault, and the use of mind-altering drugs—are immoral.6 At the court-martial of Army Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, the only officer to be charged in the Abu Ghraib scandal, witnesses for the prosecution said that Jordan did not “sign off on anything,” and that he had “nothing to do with the interrogations,” and “nothing to do with those detainees being abused.” The prosecution later rested its case.

Two humanitarian groups in Iraq announced that the “surge” in the number of American troops has led to a large increase in the number of Iraqis fleeing their homes, furthering the country's division into sectarian enclaves, and a new National Intelligence Estimate predicted that Iraqi politicians would be unable to fix sectarian rifts any time soon. 1 2 Returning from a three-day trip to Iraq and Jordan, Senate Chairman of the Armed Services Carl Levin (D., Mich.) declared the Iraqi government “non-functional” and recommended that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his cabinet be replaced. “We care for our people and our constitution,” said Maliki, who was visiting Syria, “and can find friends elsewhere.”3 4 The U.S. Justice Department released documents showing that Dr. Ayad Allawi, Maliki's chief opponent and the man most likely to replace him as prime minister, is paying the G.O.P. firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers $300,000 to lobby on his behalf.5 Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards dubbed himself the “candidate for change,”6 and the hip-hop magazine Vibe dubbed Barack Obama “B-Rock.”7 As part of President Bush's $15 billion anti-AIDS program, the United States will begin paying for African men to be circumcised,8 and researchers in Uganda said that washing the penis after sex increases the risk of HIV infection. “Don't just finish and jump out of bed,” advised Dr. Ronald Gray, co-author of the study. “There ought to be a little time left for postcoital cuddling.”9 Bob Allen, the Florida state representative who was arrested in July after offering to fellate an undercover police officer, was stripped of his legislative-committee appointments but remained unfazed. “I'm waiting,” he said, “for the politics to say it's okay to hug Bob Allen again—and they will.”10 Patrick Leahy, the 67-year old Democratic senator from Vermont who as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is pressing the Bush Administration to turn over documents relating to its warrantless wiretapping program, revealed that he has a small part in the upcoming Batman movie, and that he had to let his remaining hair grow out for the role.11 Researchers found that cornrows can cause permanent bald patches.12

Two bears at the Belgrade Zoo, Masha and Misha, spent the annual beer-festival weekend feasting on a 23-year-old Serb, who was discovered naked, dead, and half-eaten in their cage. “Only an idiot,” said zoo director Vuk Bojovic, “would jump into the bear cage.”1 Melting ice in the Arctic revealed previously unknown islands that have yet to be claimed.2 Studies in the U.S. showed that one in four adults read no books last year, that white youths are happier than the youths of other races, and that senior citizens are enjoying an active and varied sex life that includes masturbation, vaginal intercourse, and oral sex.3 4 5 After waiting 55 years for a Purple Heart, Nyles Reed, a 75-year-old Korean War veteran and former Marine, received a form letter from Navy Personnel Command saying the medal was out of stock and suggesting that he buy his own.6 Vacationers aboard a Taiwanese airliner in Okinawa slid down escape chutes and sprinted to safety moments before the plane exploded. “I ran so hard,” one passenger said, “my sock tore.”7 Scientists in England determined that Tyrannosaurus rex would have been able to outrun a professional soccer player.8 Thirty years after murdering six people, David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam killer, sent a letter to amNew York in which he apologized for his misdeeds,9 and previously unpublished letters by Mother Teresa revealed that beginning in 1948 and continuing until the end of her life in 1997 she was unable to sense the presence of God. “Repulsed—empty—no faith—no love—no zeal,” she wrote. “Heaven means nothing.” 10 Scientists found a very big hole in the universe.11