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President George W. Bush, whose approval rating was at an historic low for a new president, unveiled his budget and his tax-cut proposal, and made it through his first major speech with only one minor Bushism. Agriculture Department bureaucrats announced that the government would continue to promote pork. Secretary of State Colin Powell traveled to the Middle East and proposed easing the ten-year-old sanctions on Iraq that disproportionately harm innocent civilians. The Pentagon announced a new “active denial system” that fires electromagnetic energy at people and creates a burning sensation on the surface of their skin. The weapon is meant to “influence motivational behavior”; the Pentagon hopes to use the weapon, which Human Rights Watch described as a “high-powered microwave antipersonnel weapon,” for crowd control, instead of tear gas and rubber bullets. Secret Service agents picked up Jenna Bush’s boyfriend at a Fort Worth jail after he was arrested for public intoxication. The grand champion steer at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo fetched a record $600,000 at auction. New York City’sBoy Scouts said they would try to convince the national organization to repeal its ban on homosexuals. Former president Bill Clinton was said to be feeling sad and lonely in his big empty house in Chappaqua, New York.
South Korean president Kim Dae Jung pleased Russian president Vladimir Putin by declaring his opposition to the United States‘ plan to build a national missile defense system that would violate the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty. American advocates of the missile scheme typically justify it by professing fear of tiny North Korea. A few days later, after American officials asked for a “clarification” of his statement, President Kim said that he wasn’t really opposed to national missile defense and that the whole thing was a big misunderstanding. Mexicanpolice beat protesters who tried to disrupt a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Cancún. Indonesia’s president Abdurrahman Wahid was sightseeing in the Middle East and north Africa while machete-wielding Dayak tribesmen in Borneo continued to hunt down Madurese settlers and chop off their heads. A bomb blew up a Thai Airways jet just before Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was to board it; the explosion, the cause of which was unknown, originated just below the seat assigned to Shinawatra. China ratified the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Chechen investigators were excavating a mass grave outside Grozny. Another Nigerian province said it would begin observing Islamic law. Hamas announced a new campaign of suicide bombings to welcome Ariel Sharon’s new government. Israelisecurity forces killed six Palestinians over the weekend, including a forty-three-year-old mother and a nine-year-old boy. A Palestiniansuicide bomber killed himself and three elderly Israeli women and injured many others in Netanya. A mob immediately tried to lynch an Arab bystander; police arrived just as they were about to hitch the unconscious man to a truck and drag him through the marketplace.
A team of scientists working on a Martian meteorite known as ALH 84002 said that they had discovered “conclusive evidence” of bacterial life on Mars 3.9 billion years ago, which would be the oldest evidence of life yet discovered. Other scientists were skeptical and appealed to the possibility of terrestrial contamination of the meteorite, which was on Earth for 13,000 years before it was found in 1984. Indian vultures were dying out, complicating the rituals of Bombay’s Zoroastrians, who still follow the ancient ways and lay out their dead to be eaten in an ancient stone amphitheater called the Tower of Silence. British and French governments were slaughtering tens of thousands of sheep and cattle in an increasingly futile attempt to control the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, a virus that is about as severe as the common cold. British authorities cancelled all horse races because of the disease; Ireland called off St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The school superintendent of Mobile, Alabama, proposed doing away with all extracurricular activities, including football, after the state imposed mandatory budget cuts. All Alabama was aghast. Brigitte Bardot was trying to save 200,000 mangy stray dogs in Bucharest, Romania, that bite over 20,000 people a year. Sir Richard Doll, the British epidemiologist who discovered the link between smoking and lung cancer, has concluded that it is true: children (and possibly adults) who live near electrical power lines are more likely to get leukemia. The United States Supreme Court rejected a challenge from industry groups to force the Environmental Protection Agency to use cost-benefit analysis in setting clean-air standards. Black rhinos were dying under mysterious circumstances in Tanzania. Belgium said it would legalize pot. Traces of cocaine were found in a seventeenth-century pipe discovered in Shakespeare’s house. Afghanistan’s supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, ordered the destruction of all statues in the country, which has some of the most significant ancient Buddhist statuary in the world, including two giant standing Buddhas carved out of a mountainside in the seventh century. Important clerics in Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran pointed out that the Mullah’s interpretation of the Koran was incorrect. Mawlawi Qudratullah Jamal, the Taliban’s minister of information and culture, replied that it was “not a big issue,” that the statues were “objects only made of mud or stone.” After announcing that the destruction of the Buddhas had begun, Jamal noted that “it is easier to destroy than to build.”
More from Roger D. Hodge:
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in Californiaâs ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as âinvasive,â âexotic,â âalienâ â all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as âindigenously Californianâ elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a âhome without its mother.â Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
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 tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the âworldâs biggest selfies,â and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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âShelby 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.â