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The European Commission announced its intention to test all beef cattle for mad cow disease. Italy banned the importation of French beef. Sales of beef in France dropped, even at McDonalds, even though France has rigid controls on the provenance of its homegrown beef cattle (each cow is given a “passport” at birth documenting its parentage and place of origin, which must be submitted to the slaughterhouse). Evidence that Kuru, a disease spread by eating human brains, is more widespread in Papua New Guinea than previously thought, suggested that the European epidemic of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human variant of mad cow disease, to which Kuru is related, may be more serious than government officials have been willing to admit. In an attempt to stop the spread of CJD, German officials asked people who have lived in Britain to refrain from giving blood. A French court ruled that a seventeen-year-old boy who was born retarded, deaf, and nearly blind could sue for having been brought into the world. Twenty couples got married atop Mount Misti in Peru. New Jersey Republicans accused Democrats of providing crazy people in mental hospitals with absentee ballots; it was suggested that the crazy vote may have decided a close congressional race. Republicans accused Democratic vote counters in Florida of eating chads they had secretly and illegally punched for Al Gore. President Askar Akayev was sued by eight Kyrgyzstan lawmakers who claimed that his election to a third term in office was illegal. Five people died in election violence in Egypt. Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said he was worried about factionalism in the government. Queen Elizabeth II of England banned the use of cell phones among her retainers.
Veerappan, the famous Indian bandit, finally released Rajkumar, the famous Indian actor, whom many Indians worship as a god, after holding him captive for 109 days. Shobha Guruputrayya Sutturmath, a 14-year-old girl in the Indian village of Maradur, was attracting attention for her ability to cry stones; doctors concluded that Shobha was slipping small stones under her eyelids, which then fell out to the amazement of all. Italiansheepfarmers in the village of Abruzzo started an adoption program whereby people become parents of a sheep, which entitles one to a year’s supply of merino wool and fresh cheese, and a photograph of the beast. Another option included lamb chops. Texas almost broke the record for the most executions by a single state in one year; a retarded murderer and rapist was granted a stay four hours before he was to be killed. American officials apologized and admitted they had violated international law by failing for over ten years to give two Germans, who were executed last year, access to their country’s consulate. A Germangeneral was named to head the European Union’s “rapid reaction force.” Germans were horrified that Israeli soldiers had killed a German doctor outside his home in the West Bank. Geneticists found that Jews and Palestinians have a fairly recent common ancestry, which supports historical evidence that Palestinians are descended from Jews and Christians who converted after the Islamic conquest in the seventh century C.E. Yasir Arafat ordered Palestinianpolicemen to stop firing at Israel’s occupying soldiers; no one paid much attention, and the shooting continued as before. Attacks on Canadian Jews were increasing. An Italian man found a wire sticking out of an egg and soon discovered that it was filled with explosives; a tube of tomato paste blew up a woman’s hand in a nearby town. Montreal experienced a series of egg and paint attacks against stores displaying Christmas decorations; responsibility was claimed by a group called No Christmas Before Its Time.
Serbs, having thrown off their dictator, were waiting, in the dark, for international aid to help them pay for electricity. California was running low on power again. The U.S. Forest Service recommended banning most logging in roadless areas of national forests; logging companies and their lawmakers were opposed to the idea. Maine’s wild Atlantic salmon was placed on the endangered species list, to the dismay of Maine’s Atlantic salmon fishermen. Boston banned mercury thermometers, each of which contains .7 grams of the toxin, enough to contaminate a small lake. President Bill Clinton drove through the streets of Vietnam in a limo sporting a Vietnamese flag on one fender, a U.S. flag on the other. The common people treated him like a god. A small airplane dropped leaflets over Ho Chi Minh City that said: “We bow our heads, Communists sit on our necks. We stand up, Communists fall.” It was signed by the “Global Alliance for the Total Uprising Against Communists.” An Air Force F-16 fighter plane collided with a little Cessna airplane in Florida; part of the Cessna landed on a golf course. Russia decided to go ahead and crash the space station Mir into the Pacific ocean, disappointing Dennis Tito, an American businessman who had hoped to pay $20 million to visit the doomed station, and television executives, who were planning to film a “reality-based” television program there. Russian oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky gave up and let the Putin government take over his media company, which owns Russia’s leading independent TV station, but the deal fell apart; esoteric explanations abounded. Another deal was announced that would prevent the Kremlin from assuming control. President Putin called for radically lower numbers of Russian and U.S. nuclear weapons, which was said to be motivated largely by the fact that Russia cannot afford to maintain weapons that are designed never to be used. North Korea was looking forward to another winter famine. Thousands in Venezuela were left homeless by flooding. Representatives of many different countries were attending talks at the Hague on the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, a global warming treaty signed by over 100 countries yet ratified by none. China banned a gathering of poets. A robot successfully read the mind of a monkey.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”