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President George W. Bush declared that all the nations of the earth must choose sides in the coming crusade against terrorism, and he promised to attack Afghanistan if its leaders refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, the famous terrorist, whom the President has described as “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” Secretary of DefenseDonald Rumsfeld told reporters that the preliminary brand-name of the American military campaign, Operation Infinite Justice, would probably be changed, because it was offensive to Muslims, for whom infinite justice is a divine attribute. Some Christians also found the name offensive. The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted a 14.3 percent loss, its worst week since the Great Depression. The United States continued its routine bombing of Iraq. Bush Administration officials announced that they would lift sanctions against Pakistan, which were imposed after it tested nuclear weapons in 1998. Congress approved a $15 billion bailout for the airline industry, which has already eliminated over 100,000 jobs. The Bush Administration decided that farm subsidies should be eliminated. Afghanistan’s leading clerics said they would try to persuade Osama bin Laden to leave their country voluntarily, an offer that was quickly scorned by the White House. There was a report from Islamabad that bin Laden was last seen in a training camp outside Kabul, just before he rode off into the desert on the back of a horse. One Afghan diplomat scoffed at President Bush’s threats: “So the only master of the world wants to threaten us. But make no mistake: Afghanistan, as it was in the past, the Great Britain, he came, the Red Army, he came. Afghanistan is a swamp. People enter here laughing, are exiting injured.”
Paleontologists in Pakistan discovered a missing link between the ancient hoofed ancestors of whales and their descendants, who fancied fish, learned to swim, and eventually just stayed in the water. A vial of Saint Gennaro’s dried blood liquefied in Naples, Italy. The miracle, which typically occurs twice each year, is thought to be a very good omen. Pope John Paul II went to Kazakhstan, where he celebrated mass in a giant yurt. After four concerts of his music were cancelled, Karlheinz Stockhausen, the German avant-garde composer, apologized for describing the attack on the World Trade Center as “the greatest work of art one can imagine . . . the greatest work of art there is in the entire cosmos.” Video-game makers delayed introducing several new titles; WTC Defender, a video game in which players try to shoot down airplanes before they destroy the World Trade Center, was removed from the Internet. Doctors in the United States used a remotely controlled robot to remove a gallbladder from a patient in France, inaugurating a new era of globalized surgery. Japanesescientists were developing remote-controlled cockroaches guided by means of backpacks that send electronic signals into their brains. The roaches could be outfitted with small cameras, the scientists said, and used in search and rescue operations. Newly released CIA documents revealed that the agency once trained cats to operate as spies equipped with listening devices. The first such spy cat was run over by a taxi.
King Mswati of Swaziland imposed a five-year ban on having sex with teenage girls. Men who violate the ban will be fined one cow, as will unmarried girls who become pregnant. Another disabled child won a lawsuit against doctors in France based on the argument that she should have been aborted. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon vetoed talks with Yasir Arafat for the usual reasons. Main Street U.S.A. in Disney World was largely deserted, as were the beaches of Waikiki. Somebody walked into Manhattan’s Richard Gray Gallery and, before anyone noticed, walked out with a Picasso drawing that had been hanging on the wall. A man from the country who recently moved to Buenos Aires tied himself to his sheep to protest his rejection by 20 landlords: “I don’t really see why I shouldn’t be allowed to live with my sheep, as I did for all of my life,” he said. American Eagle TV was laying plans for a cable channel that would broadcast continuous live coverage of an American eagle family. A 50-hour sex marathon, which was to have included 1,500 participants, was cancelled in Brazil after authorities determined that the appropriate license was lacking. There were rumors that New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whom some New Yorkers have taken to calling “our king,” would attempt to circumvent the city’s term-limits law. Hundreds of artificial hips were recalled by the Food and Drug Administration. Five workers in a Russian soap factory died after they fell into a giant cauldron of fat. Chinese factories were working day and night to manufacture flags for American patriots.
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.”