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President George W. Bush defended his monthlong Texas vacation after a poll showed a majority of Americans disapproved: “I’m working on lots of issues,” he said. “National security matters.” By the time the President returns to Washington, D.C., on Labor Day, he will have spent almost half his presidency at vacation spots. President Bush announced that he would permit federal research on human stem cells, though the restrictions he imposed amounted to a ban. The Day My Bum Went Psycho, a children’s book by Andy Griffiths, was removed from a literacy campaign by Australianeducation officials, who said that the book, which includes a character called the Great Unwiped Bum, was inappropriate. “It’s just a piece of nonsense to entertain children,” the author told reporters. “It’s just that bums are attempting to take over the world.” Three teens in Baltimore were charged with murder in connection with a four-month bum-stomping spree that resulted in three deaths. A homeless man in Brooklyn fell to his death while defecating into a manhole he habitually used as a toilet. A New Jersey woman fell 200 feet off a cliff and died after she stopped along an interstate in Pennsylvania to relieve herself. The accident occurred just three miles from the next rest area. A German businessman was planning to sell toilet paper in Britain printed with images of the Queen and Margaret Thatcher. Former president Bill Clintonsold his book to Alfred A. Knopf for over $10 million. Singapore’s highest Islamic authorities declared that Muslim men, who can divorce their wives by stating “I divorce you” three times in quick succession, may not do so via cell phone text messages. In Nigeria, an Islamic court refused to allow a woman to divorce her husband because his penis was too large.
American planes bombed Iraq. Scottish traffic cops were using “shamanic meditation” to cope with stress. In Hong Kong, a package containing a half million Ping-Pong balls spontaneously exploded. A 20-mm Vulcan anti-aircraft cannon on top of a hotel in Seoul, South Korea, went off accidentally during an inspection. Syngenta, a Swiss biotech company, denied that it was testing “terminator technology,” which prevents plants from reproducing without the application of special chemical triggers, in British fields. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in a Sbarro restaurant in downtown Jerusalem; at least 18 people, including 6 children, were killed. Over 60 were wounded. Five of the dead were from a single family. Another suicide bomber injured about 20 people in Haifa. Israel confiscated Orient House, the PLO’s headquarters in East Jerusalem. A family of five died in Pakistan when a bomb blew up a school bus. Warring parties in Macedonia signed a peace agreement and kept right on fighting. Albanian guerrillas released several Macedonian Slavs who were kidnapped, tortured, and forced to perform oral sex on one another. The guerrillas carved each man’s initials on his back. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi defended the actions of police at the G-8 summit in Genoa, where peaceful protesters were beaten and tortured and an unarmed demonstrator was shot dead, and said the meeting had been a “political and diplomatic success.”
Astronomers saw a dim haze they believed was a vision of the universe before stars began to shine. A few days later, another team of scientists had a vision of what they said was the “cosmic renaissance,” the time when stars first began to shine. NASA was planning to commission the boy-band Natural to compose a pop song to improve the agency’s image among young people and to encourage an interest in space exploration. “If we have to do it by being hip,” said a NASA space nerd, “so be it.” A dead man fell from the sky and landed in the parking lot of a Long Island lobster pound, narrowly missing a customer. The man, who wore no shoes, apparently stowed away on an airplane that took off in London, and hid among the landing gear, where temperatures at cruising altitude can reach minus 80 degrees centigrade and oxygen becomes quite scarce. After hiring a plane in order to have sex in mid flight, an elderly couple attempted to hijack the plane and force the pilot to fly to Cuba. In the ensuing scuffle the plane crashed into the sea near Florida and the couple drowned. In Boston, at a rehabilitation center for people with brain damage, one patient grabbed the eyeball of another patient and pulled it out. Microsoft asked the Supreme Court to review its antitrust case. A new report found that a $40 million government computer program designed to track Indian trust-fund money doesn’t work and never will; Indians have claimed in a class-action lawsuit that the Great White Father has squandered at least $10 billion of their royalties from grazing, logging, and mining. Sixteen garment workers were crushed to death in a stampede in Bangladesh that was caused by a faulty fire alarm; the gates on the factory’s eight floors had been locked to prevent workers from leaving. India closed 15 shelters in Erwadi, where crazy people were kept near a Muslim shrine, presumably hoping for some kind of miracle; 27 were killed recently in a fire because they were chained to poles. Britain briefly suspended the government of Northern Ireland after Protestants refused to accept a new disarmament offer from the IRA. Coal miners were having little trouble finding work. Wal-Mart’ssales were up 6 percent. Lake Michigan was shrinking. Mutant spiders were attacking humans in Kazakhstan.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Discussed in this essay:
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Henry Holt. 352 pages. $28.
The extinction symbol is a spare graphic that began to appear on London walls and sidewalks a couple of years ago. It has since become popular enough as an emblem of protest that people display it at environmental rallies. Others tattoo it on their arms. The symbol consists of two triangles inscribed within a circle, like so:
“The triangles represent an hourglass; the circle represents Earth; the symbol as a whole represents, according to a popular Twitter feed devoted to its dissemination (@extinctsymbol, 19.2K followers), “the rapidly accelerating collapse of global biodiversity” — what scientists refer to alternately as the Holocene extinction, the Anthropocene extinction, and (with somewhat more circumspection) the sixth mass extinction.
Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:
Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.
Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.
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Science’s crisis of faith