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Yugoslavia established a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the causes of the wars in its former territories and to help the country achieve “social catharsis.” President Vojislav Kostunica said that Slobodan Milosevic should never be extradicted to the Hague. Japan approved a new history textbook that, according to critics in China and elsewhere, fails adequately to criticize Japanese conduct in World War II. A Palestinian man who was suspected of collaborating with Israel was assassinated by three men wearing hoods. Jewish settlers in Hebron blew up several Arab shops. Israeli soldiers shot an 18-month-old Palestinian girl in the head from a distance of about ten yards. Human-rights groups said that 51 bodies had been exhumed from a mass grave in Chechnya; many had been tortured; 12 were Chechens last seen in Russian custody. Italianpolicearrested two men for stealing the body of a dead investment banker to protest the recent drop in the stock market; the body was found under a pile of hay near Turin. The men said they chose their victim because he was easy to kidnap. Former president Bill Clinton paid a $25,000 fine in Arkansas for lying under oath in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment lawsuit. The United States and China were negotiating an apology for the spy-plane accident in which one Chinese pilot died; American officials visited the crew of the American plane, who were still being held by the Chinese, and handed out candy.
The United States Senate passed a budget plan that contained a $1.2 trillion tax cut. NASA said it would have to cut costs on the International Space Station because it faced a budget shortfall; the agency also launched the Mars Odyssey, which will reach Mars in October if all goes according to plan, though the ship’s name bodes ill. Astronomers discovered 11 new planets, one of which was in a “habitable zone” where temperatures conducive to life might be possible. Scientists found evidence of negative gravity, also known as dark energy and the “cosmological constant,” in a photograph of an exploding star. A 13-year-old boy in Queens, New York, was arrested after he took a stun gun to school; he and his friends used it on one another, inflicting minor burns. Elizabeth Bush, a 14-year-old girl who shot a classmate in the shoulder, was remanded to a psychiatric ward; she claimed that she wanted only to scare her victim. In Philadelphia, a crazed drifter cried, “God lives on,” and struck the Liberty Bell with a hammer, damaging it slightly. Several Americans died in Vietnam when their helicopter crashed; they had been looking for the remains of American soldiers who were missing in action. Two beggars in Chisinau, Moldova, were arrested for selling human body parts, which were apparently taken from a cancer clinic, as dog food.
Researchers in Texas found that men who sniffed T-shirts in a laboratory were able to tell whether they had been worn by a woman who was fertile; the men described such shirts as smelling “pleasant” or “sexy.”The Girl Scouts unveiled their new, up-to-date uniforms. New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced his new decency panel, which will police the city’s museums for smutty art; the panel includes Leonard Garment, the lawyer for pardoned fugitive Marc Rich, and John Howard Sanden, an artist who makes portraits of corporate chief executives. Israelireligious leaders declared that Viagra was not kosher for Passover, though a rabbi can authorize its use “in the event of urgent medicalneed.” Customs officials in New York arrested a Canadian stripper who tried to smuggle 78,771 hits of ecstasy into the United States inside some Legos. An Algerian who tried to smuggle explosives into the United States from Canada was convicted of “an act of terrorism transcending a national boundary.” The Bush Administration proposed dropping a program of random salmonella testing of ground beef destined for school lunches; the public was not amused, and the secretary of agriculture withdrew the proposal. There were reports that President Bush will try to open millions of acres of public land in the Rockies to oil and gas development. Former Philippine president Joseph Estrada was indicted for “plunder.” Vice President Dick Cheney said he thought the United States should build some more nuclear power plants; “I think I am a pretty good environmentalist,” he said. Wildlife in the New York area failed for some reason to notice three separate oil spills. San Diego banned the use of the word “minority,” deeming it offensive to minorities. Members of Clowns International held their annual meeting and discussed the legal implications of pieing people who turn out not to have a sense of humor. Finnish researchers found that babies whose mothers swallow capsules of certain benign bacteria while pregnant are less likely to develop eczema and asthma, which supports the theory that excessive cleanliness contributes to these conditions. A man was arrested in New York for using a spray bottle to contaminate Manhattan salad bars with a cocktail of his own urine and feces; he was charged with reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, criminal tampering, possession of a forged instrument, and public urination.
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.”