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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:
For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.
One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.
Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:
Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.
An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”
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“He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.”