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Congress passed the USA Patriot Act, a major antiterrorism bill that will greatly increase the power of the federal government to spy on citizens and potential terrorists. Senator Russell Feingold cast the only dissenting vote in the Senate; he argued that the bill’s language was too vague and would allow unconstitutional searches. President Bush said the bill would protect constitutional rights while “preventing more atrocities in the hands of the evil ones.” American planes again bombed and this time destroyed the Red Cross complex in Kabul. One plane that had been ordered to bomb the complex missed and instead hit a residential neighborhood. Another American bomb killed seven children who were sitting at home having breakfast. Northern Alliance soldiers in Afghanistan were upset that the American bombing was so paltry that it was raising Taliban morale: “If the United States did this for a hundred years, it’s not enough.” There was a report that American forces had passed up a chance to destroy a convoy carrying Taliban leader Mulla Omar Mohammed because they didn’t have authority to do so. Pentagon officials expressed surprise at the toughness of Taliban soldiers and warned that it would probably be a long war. Secretary of DefenseDonald Rumsfeld warned that Osama bin Laden might get away: “It’s a big world,” he noted. Other Pentagon officials were telling reporters that the Afghanwar will probably just make things worse, that short-term tactical gains may well lead to catastrophic strategic losses. Postal workers continued to come down with anthrax. Some died; others were upset that their security had been completely overlooked by federal officials. Secretary of Health Tommy Thompson was criticized for mishandling the anthraxattack and substituting spin control for effective public-health strategies. Campbell Gardett, a spokesman for the agency, defended his boss: “Something that’s factual at this moment proves not to be factual in retrospect. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t factual at the time.” President Bush warned that America was “still under attack.” Experts described the anthrax as “fluffy.” The terrorists “have the keys to the kingdom,” warned Al Zelicoff, a doctor who works on biological weapons. “They can do large-scale dissemination when they wish.” In a press release entitled “Pentagon Seeks Ideas on Combating Terrorism,” the United States Department of Defense announced that it “specifically seeks help in combating terrorism, defeating difficult targets, conducting protracted operations in remote areas, and developing countermeasures to weapons of mass destruction.”
Secretary of State Colin Powell appointed Charlotte Beers, an advertising executive best known for the Head and Shoulders campaign, to be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs; Beers said her job would be the rebranding of America: “It’s the battle for the 11-year-old mind.” Bush Administration officials met with television executives to discuss effective propaganda strategy. Donald Rumsfeld asserted that the Afghanwar is “not a quagmire.” Israelis and Palestinians continued to make war on one another; the death count rose to 728 Palestinians and 186 Israelis. The Irish Republican Army decided to disarm. United Nations officials asked Ethiopia and Eritrea to please pick up their dead bodies, which were left over from a recent border war, because of the health risk to international peacekeepers. New York was beginning to have trouble with rats in the ruins of the World Trade Center. O. J. Simpson was acquitted in his road-rage trial. Members of the Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae tribe occupied 84 ranches in Brazil that lie on their ancestral land. The United States agreed to clean up Vozrozhdeniye (“Renaissance”) Island in Uzbekistan, where the Soviets dumped tons of anthrax spores in 1988. The island was also the site of tests involving tularemia, Q-fever, brucellosis, glanders, and plague. Typhus, botulinum toxin, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, and smallpox were tested elsewhere. The Bush Administration announced that it would no longer veto environmentally destructive mining projects on public land. New York was shaken by a 2.6-magnitude earthquake. Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd asked his people to pray for rain.
The House of Representatives decided to repeal the corporate alternative minimum tax in a putative economic stimulus package.If signed into law, the repeal, which is retroactive to 1986, will this year result in $25.4 billion in tax refunds to corporations; seven large companies, including I.B.M. ($1.4 billion) and General Motors ($832 million), would receive $3.3 billion. Enron, the Houston energy company and a major Bush supporter, would get $254 million. Economists pointed out that such refunds do nothing to stimulate the economy. Florida’s obesity rate rose by 94 percent; 38 percent of Floridians are now fat. British women have the largest breasts in Europe, a study found, though they are not the fattest. Germany, for some reason, was not included in the study. Italians who were deprived of their cell phones reported sexual dysfunction, researchers found, and most Britons sleep naked. The Belgian Pumpkin Liberation Army stole dozens of Halloween pumpkins; the group, which opposes the “improper” use of pumpkins, announced that it will use the liberated squash to make soup for the poor. The Federal Aviation Administration opened the skies above American cities to all aircraft but news helicopters, which the agency said posed a unique threat. In New Orleans, a man accidentally carried a loaded handgun through checkpoints and onto an airplane, whereupon he gave the weapon to a stewardess. Several families of Columbine massacre victims sued the maker of Luvox, the antidepressant drug used by one of the shooters, because the drug can impair one’s judgment. Germanpolicearrested a man who was holding his girlfriend hostage in exchange for a crate of lager and two packs of cigarettes. A man from Uttar Pradesh cut off his tongue and offered it to the Hindu goddess Durga. Governor Jesse Ventura told the people of Minnesota to stop watching the news and reading newspapers because all the journalists are out to get him. Americans were drinking more beer. Sales of puppies were up 30 percent. Syphilis was on the rise in San Francisco.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Chances that a deep breath inhaled today will contain a molecule from Julius Caesar’s dying breath:
Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences, by John Allen Paulos, Hill and Wang (N.Y.C.)
The earth once had three moons; the two lost moons may have crashed into the surviving moon, or been sucked into the sun, or flung out of the solar system to drift through deep space.
In Florida, an 87-year-old World War II veteran flying touch-and-go drills in a Cessna collided with an airborne skydiver. “There was a ‘woof’ sound,” said a witness, “like falling on your face into your pillow.”
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”