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The United States decided not to sign a new anti-germ-warfare treaty, bringing to at least five the number of international agreements the U.S. has rejected in recent years, including the Kyoto Protocol, the Landmine Convention, the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. President George W. Bush and Russian president Vladimir Putin agreed to work toward a disarmament framework that would reduce nuclear weapons while allowing the U.S. its missile-defense scheme; a few days before their discussion, Putin remarked that Bush was “a fairly good-hearted person, nice to talk to, I would even say . . . even a little bit sentimental.” Secretary of State Colin Powell played a cowboy in love for a skit marking the end of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations conference; his Vietnamese paramour was portrayed by Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka. Former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid finally ended his occupation of the presidential palace nearly a week after his impeachment. In his last press interview before flying to the U.S. Wahid predicted dark times ahead for Indonesia but ended with a joke about the difference between American and Japanesefarmers. Scientists reported that the human brain responds differently to faces of different races; African Americans were found to recognize all races rather easily, but whites generally had a hard time recognizing any but white faces. The Serbian government confirmed that three blindfolded bodies found in a mass grave were those of Albanian-American brothers sentenced to fifteen days’ imprisonment for entering Yugoslavia without visas. The playwright Harold Pinter joined the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, saying the former Yugoslav leader’s detention at The Hague is illegal. Seventeen Brazilians broke out of prison using a cardboard gun. A watermelon rigged with a bomb inside was left on an Israelibus; the fruit was detonated safely.
One of the world’s largest paintings, by French fauvist Raoul Dufy, was found to be coated in cancer-causing asbestos; the Paris Museum of Modern Art will spend a million dollars scraping it off. A report funded by Philip Morris to dissuade the Czech Republic from raising cigarette taxes was made public. The study helpfully pointed out that the country saves hundreds of millions of dollars in housing, health care, and pensions for former smokers who no longer require such services, because they’re dead. Blood-sucking bedbugs, “the new scourge of America,” were said to be thriving in luxury hotels. Katherine Harris, Florida’s Secretary of State, decided to run for Congress. A Britishstudy found that 80 percent of women fake orgasms during intercourse. Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s Dear Leader, while on a train to Moscow to meet with President Putin, promised that his country won’t shoot missiles at the United States. Three Frenchmen, carrying five grams of uranium-235, were arrested for trafficking in nuclear material. The largest teachers union in the U.S. decided to offer $150,000 homicide insurance policies to the families of teachers killed on the job. Authorities in Kashmir banned the use of the word “widow” in official records, claiming that the term only deepens the women’s depression. Five million Afghans, one fifth of the country’s population, were reported to have little or no access to food due to drought and civil war. A woman filed a $100,000 suit against the makers of Pop Tarts after a tart ignited and caused a fire in her home. Norwegians were preparing to sell millions of tons of edible whale blubber to Japan. Queen Elizabeth’s husband told a 13-year-old boy he was too fat to be an astronaut. A survey found that children today are more spoiled than they used to be. Japanesescientists invented a bionic suit to help nurses lift patients. Three genetically modified pigs stolen from a U.S. university were made into sausage by an unsuspecting butcher.
Pope John Paul II advised President Bush that the use of stem cells for research is an evil akin to infanticide; Bush reassured the pope that he would think long and hard about his own opinion: “My process has been, frankly, unusually deliberative for my administration.” A German court ruled a Hamburg citizen incapable of managing his affairs after he tipped a waiter $11,000 for a cup of coffee; the court impounded the tip. The House voted to reject Bush’s recommendations for increased arsenic in drinking water, returning instead to levels established under President Clinton. New Zealand officials dropped 120 tons of rat poison on Campbell Island. A nanny was fined $50 by a New York Citypolice officer after her three-year-old ward peed on a tree. Hot lava spilled through the streets of Sicily. Earth Wind & Fire was launching a new tour sponsored by Viagra. Researchers found that female cockroaches become much less choosy about their mates as they get older. A 511-million-year-old crab was found in England. A 15-year-old Boy Scout in Utah ripped out dinosaur tracks, believed to be 200 million years old, and tossed them into a reservoir. A pair of seagulls in London were terrorizing bald people.
More from Elizabeth Giddens:
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.”