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Senator James M. Jeffords of Vermont defected from the Republican Party, handing control of the Senate to the Democrats, who promptly voted to confirm Theodore B. Olson as solicitor general, suggesting that the White House cabal had little to fear after all. Jack Kemp was exasperated with criticism that President Bush was governing from the far right, noting that Colin Powell was off in darkest Africa talking about AIDS. “What more do they want from this president?” Charles, the Prince of Wales, was said to be miffed with his father Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, because a senior courtier let it be known that the Duke regards his son as a poor candidate to be a good king. A Manhattan judge ordered Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to keep his mistress out of Gracie Mansion and away from his children; the judge also criticized the mayor for harming his children by allowing his lawyer to use language such as “uncaring mother” and “howling like a stuck pig” to describe his wife, Donna Hanover. The mayor responded by vetoing a bill that legalized the possession of ferrets, denouncing the little weasels as a menace. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani, the cousin of the emir of Qatar, was sentenced to death for attempting in 1996 to overthrow the government; Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the current emir, took power in 1995 after he overthrew his own father. A petition was circulating among French parliamentarians calling for the impeachment of President Jacques Chirac. Former president Gerald Ford received the Profile in Courage award from the John F. Kennedy Library for pardoning Richard Nixon. Peru’s attorney general filed charges against former president Alberto Fujimori, accusing him of approving the death-squad killings of 15 people. Vice President Dick Cheney was in trouble for using his official residence to raise campaign funds. Protesters in Brazil dropped their trousers in front of congress to protest rampant corruption.
The United States government reported that the economy grew less than 2 percent two months in a row. Congress passed a $1.35 trillion tax cut, thereby spending the projected federal budget surplus before it could even come into being. Missouri’s governor apologized for spending $1 million on his inauguration. The Texas legislature was working on a bill that would ban the execution of retarded people. A Chicago judge decided not to send a woman to jail for wire fraud because she claimed to be a shopping addict. South Korea’s advertising review board banned a Kim Jong Il impersonator from television ads, apparently worried that the public was not yet ready to buy soap from the Dear Leader of North Korea. The Museum of International Folk, part of the Museum of New Mexico, decided to leave an artwork on display that depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe wearing a rose-covered bikini; Roman Catholics were outraged. McDonald’s apologized to Hindus whom it lured into sin (condemning them, perhaps, to countless lifetimes of suffering) by secretly putting beef flavorings on its french fries: “We regret if customers felt that the information we provided was not complete enough to meet their needs.” After a five-year investigation, Heinz was fined $180,000 for underfilling its ketchup bottles and agreed to overfill them by 1 percent, at a cost of $650,000, for a year. There were new cases of foot-and-mouth disease in England. Israel declared a cease-fire with the Palestinians; Hamas responded by blowing up a car. Japan apologized to its lepers for keeping them confined in colonies for decades after the disease was cured. Alabama’s legislature approved a bill extending the law banning pimps and madams to cover prostitutes as well.
President George W. Bush gave the 300th commencement address at Yale University, received an honorary degree, and reassured other C students that their lives were not yet wasted. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton also spoke to Yale’s graduating seniors. “Hair matters,” she said. “Your hair will send significant messages to those around you . . . . Pay attention to your hair.” Someone threw a haggis through the window of a Scottish woman living in England; police said they were treating the incident as a “racially-motivated hate crime.” Doctors in Egypt removed a 100-pound cyst from the stomach of a 17-year-old girl. Two Danishresearchers found that the “placebo effect” was a myth, the result of wishful thinking and basic methodological errors. An honors student in Fort Myers, Florida, was suspended and banned from her graduation after a schoolsecurity guard found a kitchen knife in her car; the young woman, who spent the weekend in jail on a felony weapons-possession charge, tried to explain that the knife was left there accidentally after she moved house over the weekend. Charlton Heston was reelected president of the National Rifle Association. Scientists found signs of syphilis in the bones of a medieval girl from Essex, England; the find may prove that Christopher Columbus did not carry syphilis to Europe from the New World as was previously thought. Suspicion was cast on Vikings. Refugees in Afghanistan were suffering from scurvy. The Committee of Names of Fishes of the American Fisheries Society for the second time in its history changed the name of a fish; henceforth the jewfish, Florida’s largest species of grouper, will be known as the goliath grouper. Previously the society changed the name of the squawfish to pikeminnow. Surgeons removed a beer-can ring-pull from the lung of a New Zealand man. An enragedcow attacked a golfer in Stockholm.
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 California’s 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 “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — 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 “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” 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 “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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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.”