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Bethlehem was empty this Christmas, devoid of lights or trees or public celebrations, having been sealed off by the Israeli army.Jerusalem’sChristian churches endorsed Palestinian demands for sovereignty in East Jerusalem; they condemned Israeli violence against demonstrators and noted that an oppressed people living under a military occupation has the moral right to resist its overlords.The United Nations Security Council rejected Palestine’s request for U.N. peacekeepers; United States Ambassador Richard Holbrooke commented that “this is a resolution that will never be adopted.” The Supreme Court of Zimbabwe ordered President Robert Mugabe to come up with a viable land-reform program, declaring his ad hoc policy of evicting whitefarmers illegal; Mugabe’s spokesmen dismissed the decision, saying it was “of no consequence.” India’s prime minister expressed support for building a Hindu temple on the site of a sixteenth-century mosque, which was destroyed by Hindu officials eight years ago, resulting in riots and killing. Hindus believe that Ram, a deity, was born there.A group of oil and mining companies agreed to do a better job of respecting the human rights of people in remote areas who do not wish to collaborate in their own exploitation; the accord was nonbinding.U.S. officials decided not to apologize for the slaughter of unarmed Korean civilians at No Gun Ri during the Korean War.
Yugoslavia, unlike the United States, joined the International Criminal Court.Serb voters gave a coalition of liberals allied with Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica a majority in parliament, thus completing their repudiation of former dictator Slobodan Milosevic and his Socialist party.After a mad cow was discovered in Bavaria, Germany’s health minister warned that the nation’s supply of sausage might be contaminated with mad-cow brains; German consumers, who each devour about 55 pounds of sausage yearly, were near hysteria.Canadian Inuit were killing themselves in alarming numbers.A Hewlett-Packard employee who jumped out of a corporate plane at two thousand feet, landing in a vegetable garden, committed suicide, a coroner decided.Over 3.2 million Sudanese were endangered by food and water shortages.Lawyers were on strike in France.Canada’s Health Ministry gave a $3.8 million contract to a company that will grow medicalmarijuana in a mine deep below a lake in Flin Flon, Manitoba, a famously remote town where there is little to do but play hockey and smoke medical marijuana.Uruguay’s president came out for legalizing drugs.Secret Service agents arrested a man in Atlanta who said he was going to “take down” George W. Bush for stealing the election.George W. Bush named former senator John Ashcroft to be attorney general; Ashcroft is best known for his extreme conservatism and for being unable in the last election to defeat a dead man.
Congress passed the Children’sInternet Protection Act, which will require all schools and libraries that receive federal funds for Internet access to install filtering software; civil-liberties groups were concerned that this would prevent minors from accessing porn sites.Major media companies, fearing competition from church groups, community centers, and Boy Scout troops, purchased a piece of legislation that ended the plans of the Federal Communications Commission to license over 1,000 low-power radio stations to small organizations.Republicans were upset about Senator-elect Hillary Clinton’s $8 million book deal; concerns were expressed about the potential conflict of interest created by accepting money from a major media company with an aggressive legislative agenda.Nature, the science magazine, reported that the Queen of England’s accent has become noticeably more vulgar over the last four decades.Britain approved rules allowing researchers to clone human embryos; German officials called such practices “cannibalism.” Cheap Chinesepigskin miniskirts were appearing in malls all over America.A new survey showed that teenage boys in America were getting more oral and anal sex.After a Swedish study found that pregnant women who drink five cups of coffee a day double their chances of having a miscarriage, the president of the National Coffee Association claimed the study proved that women could safely drink four cups a day.Many Roman Catholics were hoping that Pope John Paul II would use his absolute power in such matters to declare the Virgin Mary a co-redeemer with Jesus Christ; 6 million Catholics, including 550 bishops and 42 cardinals, have signed petitions beseeching the Pope to do so, which effectively would make the Virgin a god.Mexicans living near the Popocatepetl volcano, many of whom worship the mountain, refused to be evacuated during its current eruption; local shamans said the mountain would not hurt them.They were right.Russia was planning to earn billions for becoming the world’s largest nuclear waste dump; the atomic energy minister, Yevgeny Adamov, said the plan would allow Russia, which just announced it might default on its debt again, to avoid “going with a begging bowl to the IMF, which we have done up to now to our shame.” Adamov recently criticized the Ukraine for closing the Chernobyl power station, saying that it was perfectly safe.A U.S. government report, “Global Trends 2015,” concluded that, in general, things were getting worse for most people; the global economy, the report admitted, “will not lift all boats.”
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Discussed in this essay:
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Henry Holt. 352 pages. $28.
The extinction symbol is a spare graphic that began to appear on London walls and sidewalks a couple of years ago. It has since become popular enough as an emblem of protest that people display it at environmental rallies. Others tattoo it on their arms. The symbol consists of two triangles inscribed within a circle, like so:
“The triangles represent an hourglass; the circle represents Earth; the symbol as a whole represents, according to a popular Twitter feed devoted to its dissemination (@extinctsymbol, 19.2K followers), “the rapidly accelerating collapse of global biodiversity” — what scientists refer to alternately as the Holocene extinction, the Anthropocene extinction, and (with somewhat more circumspection) the sixth mass extinction.
Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:
Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.
Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.
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Science’s crisis of faith