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The United Nations suspended its food convoys into Afghanistan because of the American bombing campaign. U.S. forces dropped over 100,000 yellow ration packets into Afghanistan, where there are thought to be 7.5 million people facing starvation. Each packet, decorated with an American flag, contains one day’s worth of food, a book of matches, and a Moist Towelette: “Here is your Moist Towelette,” the packet says in English. “It will clean and refresh your hands and face without soap and water. Self-dries in seconds, leaving your skin smooth and soft.” Jean Ziegler, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, said the food drop was “totally catastrophic for humanitarian aid” because it links such aid with military operations; he also warned that the indiscriminate “snowdropping” of food could lead hungry children into mine fields. As a result of a “targeting process error,” an American bomb went astray and landed in a residential neighborhood in Kabul. Tom Brokaw’s assistant at NBC Nightly News tested positive for cutaneous anthrax; another case turned up at a Microsoft office in Reno, Nevada. The F.B.I. was notified on September 28 about the suspicious envelope at NBC but didn’t get around to testing it until a private doctor treating the victim called the New York City health department. Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been hiding out in an undisclosed location, observed that there might be a connection between the anthrax cases and the September 11attacks. The image of Bert from Sesame Street showed up in an Osama bin Laden poster used by protesters in Pakistan; “This is not at all humorous,” said a spokesman for the Sesame Workshop. Rush Limbaugh lost his hearing. The major American television networks agreed, out of patriotism, they said, to a request by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice not to broadcast future statements by Osama bin Laden; Rice said she was concerned about secret messages being communicated to “sleeper” terrorists in the United States but did not reveal how she would prevent such evil-doers from viewing the speech via the Internet or satellite television.Tom Ridge, the new head of “homeland” security, was sworn in at the White House, where he told friends and supporters that “Liberty is the most precious gift we offer our citizens.”
Thousands of children in public and private schools across the country simultaneously pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America in what might have been the largest mass recitation in history outside the People’s Republic of China. President Bush was still trying to exploit the terroristattacks as an excuse to drill for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. House Republicans were opposing legislation that would federalize national airport security because they didn’t want to see an increase in the federal payroll. Argenbright Holdings Ltd., an airport security contractor, was in trouble again for hiring convicted felons to screen passengers at Philadelphia International Airport; the company, which last year was fined $1.2 million and placed on probation for a related offense, has also committed major violations at La Guardia, Logan, Dulles, Los Angeles, and Reagan National airports. Two cops in Albuquerque, New Mexico, were in trouble for using a police helicopter to make a doughnut run. The crew of an Austrian military helicopter landed their aircraft in the parking lot of a wine bar near the Slovenian border, walked inside, and ordered lunch. Terrorist Mohamed Atta’s father told reporters that he always thought his son was too girlish. A commuter plane crashed in Alaska, killing nine people. DuPont Lycra unveiled the Wonderbum, a new kind of panty hose that “lifts, separates and shapes,” giving its wearer “a perfectly peachy, pert bottom.” Unfortunately, only two prototypes of the hose had yet been produced. Russian sailors raised the sunken submarine Kursk and were greeted by a pod of dolphins swimming in formation.
President Leonid Kuchma finally admitted that Ukraine accidentally shot down a commercial Russian airliner, but said that mistakes happen everywhere: “Look around the world, in Europe; we are not the first and not the last.”Independent Prosecutor Robert Ray filed his final report on the personal misconduct of Bill Clinton. New York City began dumping 60 million gallons of sewage a day into Brooklyn’s Jamaica Bay while a treatment plant is temporarily closed for repairs. Officials claimed that environmental damage would be “minimal. ” Nine pilot whales beached themselves on Pensacola Beach in Florida. Homemade bombs made of Drano and foil were thrown at peace supporters at the University of Wisconsin. Anthrax, the heavy metal band, decided not to change its name even though it was making the band members feel bad. A new survey found that 52 percent of American women prefer shopping to sex; 93 percent of men prefer sex. Most Germans prefer quickies to slow, gentle lovemaking, a study found. Lothar Machtan, a German historian, revealed that Hitler was gay. Crowds of fishermen in Germany were trying to catch a giant catfish that ate a pet dachshund in a lake near Moenchengladbach. In Nigeria, a pregnant woman was sentenced to death by stoning for the crime of premarital sex. Secretary General Kofi Annan shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the United Nations. A car bomb went off in Madrid. American life expectancy was up. There was an outbreak of dengue fever in Hawaii. Citrus canker was spreading in Florida.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Number of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD in 2011 for “furtive movements”:
The faces of Lego people were growing angrier.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature