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President George W. Bush signed an executive order that will allow him to block the release of 68,000 pages of Ronald Reagan’s presidential papers and to retain control of his own documents, which are supposed to be released 12 years after he leaves office; there was speculation that the president wishes to avoid embarrassing his father and other former Reagan officials who work in the current administration. Robert S. Mueller III, director of the FBI, admitted that he had no idea who was sending anthrax through the mail and appealed to ordinary Americans to help figure it out: “If you know somebody is doing different things with anthrax than they should be and it’s somewhat suspicious, we’re asking you to let us know.” Consensus was beginning to form that the anthrax was not only the same strain used in American bioweapons programs (the “Ames strain”) but that the spores were prepared using the top-secret American “weaponization” recipe. After the CIA’s “threat matrix” showed a “big and credible” threat, Attorney General John Ashcroft warned Americans that a new attack could be imminent. Manolo Blahnik removed a pair of titanium-heeled sandals from his fall collection because they have 3.5 inch heels that narrow to a point so sharp that they damage floors and could be used as a terrorist weapon on an airplane. Congress continued to debate whether to nationalize airport security; antigovernment Republicans, including President Bush, oppose the plan as an unwarranted expansion of federal power. Democrats and Republican moderates said they were more concerned about preventing terroristattacks. Fog, 100-mile-per-hour sandstorms, and freezing weather slowed the deployment of 100 American special forces “stealth” troops to the front lines in Afghanistan. The Air Force was planning to deploy more of its Predator surveillance drones in Afghanistan even though an internal Pentagon report recently concluded that the drone doesn’t perform well at night or in cold or rainy weather. Northern Alliance soldiers, initially pleased by the spectacular explosions produced by American B-52s, soon began to complain that the big stratofortresses were not very accurate: “The American bombs were the biggest I have seen in my life,” one fighter said. “But they missed the Taliban.” United States forces were suffering from an “intelligence vacuum,” officials said.President Bush told reporters that “this is not an instant gratification war.”
Reporters visited the village of Chowkar-Karez in Afghanistan where a man named Mehmood moved his family to keep them safe from the American bombs: “I brought my family here for safety,” he said, “and now there are 19 dead, including my wife, my two children, my brother, sister, sister-in-law, nieces, nephews, my uncle.” United States forces apparently thought the refugees were Taliban soldiers. Secretary of DefenseDonald Rumsfeld, asked about the massacre, said: “I cannot deal with that particular village.” General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that United States forces would change the color of the yellow food packets being dropped from the air. “It is unfortunate that the cluster bombs â?? the unexploded ones â?? are the same color as the food packets,” he said, but he couldn’t say when the change would take place “because there are many in the pipeline.” Human Rights Watch called on the Pentagon to stop using cluster bombs, each of which contains 202 soda-sized yellow bomblets, because “they have proven to be a serious and long-lasting threat to civilians, soldiers, peacekeepers, and even clearance experts.” Official sources revealed that the CIA’sNew Yorkcounterterrorism office was destroyed in the attack on the World Trade Center. America recalled its ambassador from Venezuela after President Hugo ChĂĄvez denounced the Afghanwar as “fighting terrorism with terrorism” and a “slaughter of innocents.” A Michigan fisherman was attacked by an enraged 200-pound deer; he wrestled the beast for 45 minutes, strangled it with his belt, and finally clubbed it to death with a piece of wood. The government was planning to make a plan to deal with smallpox. The National Weather Service introduced a new formula for calculating windchill. Police in Milan, Italy, arrested seven homosexuals who were found sexually linked together next to a highway.
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission decided to sue Daisy Manufacturing Company to force the recall of 7.5 million BB guns; safety officials said that two models of the BB guns are responsible for 15 deaths and 171 injuries since 1972. Pabst Blue Ribbon put up billboards in Tibet with the following text written in Chinese and Tibetan: “Pabst Blue Ribbon celebrates the 50th anniversary of the peaceful liberation of Tibet.” One of the billboards stands across the street from the traditional winter residence of the Dalai Lama, who has been living in exile in India since he fled the Chinese occupation in 1959. The economy officially shrank over the summer. In October, 415,000 Americans lost their jobs, one quarter of which were attributed to the September 11attacks. President Bush noted that this “is not good news for America.” The federal government settled its antitrust suit against Microsoft, the computer monopolist; state prosecutors weren’t so sure about the deal and said they wanted to think it over. Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres shook hands with Yasir Arafat, as did the Rev. Al Sharpton. Acting Governor Jane Swift of Massachusetts signed a bill exonerating five witches who were hanged in 1692 and 1693. An appeals court in San Francisco overturned a 50-year prison sentence of a shoplifter as cruel and unusual punishment. Arapahoe County, Colorado, officials were planning to prosecute a 10-year-old boy for putting white powder in a film canister so he could be a hero for finding anthrax at his school. Michael Jackson revealed his musical inspiration comes from climbing trees. A woman in Hong Kong cut off her unfaithful husband’s penis. Amsterdam installed condom machines in its taxis. Florida banned shark feeding. George Lucas sued the makers of a pornographic film called Star Ballz. New Yorkers were buying canaries in record numbers.
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. âThere was a âwoofâ sound,â said a witness, âlike falling on your face into your pillow.â
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âAmerican politics has often been an arena for angry minds.â