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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat failed to meet President Bill Clinton’s deadline for making peace in the Middle East; Clinton declared the summit over and flew to Okinawa for a meeting of the G8, the world’s seven richest industrialized countries plus Russia, where the leaders issued a strongly worded statement decrying the alarming lack of Internet access in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere. They pledged to form a “dot force” to combat this “digital divide.” Barak and Arafat remained at Camp David, chaperoned by Madeleine Albright, who received an encouraging note from the G8 leaders, each of whom scrawled his best wishes below a Japanese newspaper photograph of a grim Secretary of State and her two intransigent charges. Tony Blair, the prime minister of Great Britain, wrote: “You look like you’re having fun.” President Clinton apologized to the Okinawans for the sexual abuse their women and girls had suffered at the hands of American soldiers. The Blair government was caught up in a controversy surrounding the embarrassing leakage of two high-level memos, one written by the Prime Minister himself. In his memo, Blair suggested a number of policy initiatives designed to combat the widespread perception that New Labour was out of touch. “I should be personally associated with as much of this as possible,” he wrote. A large quantity of files from Helmut Kohl’s government, which were thought to have been destroyed in an effort to protect the outgoing German regime from corruption charges, turned up in the archives of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation admitted the existence of Carnivore, a specially designed computer that allows the agency to search for criminal activity by plugging into an Internet service provider’s “backbone” and reading people’s email. Clinton Administration officials proposed new rules that would streamline the process by which the government receives permission to spy on citizens’ private communications. Similar legislation is before the House of Commons. A hard drive containing a book manuscript critical of the government’s handling of nuclear secrets was seized by the FBI, who claimed the manuscript contained classified material.
A bill that would have banned Internet gambling failed to achieve the required two thirds majority in the House of Representatives, thus assuring continued campaign contributions from the Internet gambling lobby. Stephen King began selling the first chapter of a new novel directly to readers via his website, bypassing Simon & Schuster, his usual publisher. In California, a federal judge ruled that the government had failed to present convincing arguments against the medical use of marijuana. Hippies were said to be massing in the Californian desert in preparation for the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles; Mayor Richard Riordan promised to use rubber bullets if they tried any nonviolent civil disobedience. Malaysia banned unisex barbershops. In a policy designed to combat the spread of AIDS, Swaziland banned miniskirts in the schools. Afghan authorities arrested and shaved the heads of a group of visiting Pakistani boys for wearing shorts during a soccer game. The Iranianeducation minister announced that henceforth school girls would be allowed to wear “bright, happy colors such as light blue, beige, pink, light green and yellow.”
A twenty-five pound stucco ornament measuring four by six feet fell fourteen stories and cracked the skull of a tourist walking with his family in midtown Manhattan; the tourist, who was expected to live, was attending a six-day religious conference called “Changing Your World.” Two Japaneseterrorists were sentenced to die for releasing nerve gas in the Tokyo subway in 1995. Three families of Columbine shooting victims sued school employees for failing to prevent the massacre. A thirteen-year-old boy in Renton, Washington, stood up on a table in his school cafeteria and fired a shot into the ceiling; he wore black clothing and had dyed blue the tips of his blond hair. Russia and China again warned that America’s proposed national missile defense system would cause a new arms race. The Russian Orthodox Church nominated Czar Nicholas II and his family for canonization. The RussianParliament voted to give President Putin more power. A bear killed and partially ate a man in Alaska.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Percentage of British elementary-school students who think Isaac Newton discovered fire:
The earth once had three moons; the two lost moons may have crashed into the surviving moon, or been sucked into the sun, or flung out of the solar system to drift through deep space.
In Florida, an 87-year-old World War II veteran flying touch-and-go drills in a Cessna collided with an airborne skydiver. “There was a ‘woof’ sound,” said a witness, “like falling on your face into your pillow.”
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”