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General Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, walked up to President Atal Behari Vajpayee of India and shook his hand at a meeting in Katmandu; Vajpayee then gave a speech denouncing Pakistan’s empty gestures. Indian troops fired at their Pakistani counterparts across the Line of Control in Kashmir. Officials at India’s Archaeological Society were planning to cover the Taj Mahal with green cloth in case of war. A Hindu priest decapitated an eight-year-old boy in a ritual sacrifice to Shiva, the god of destruction, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Prime Minister Hun Sen declared a moratorium on all logging in Cambodia: “If any company wished to act against the ultimatum,” he said, “we will arrest them and shut down their company without any further notice.” Democrats were beginning to attack President Bush on the economy, arguing that he had presided over “the most dramatic fiscal deterioration in our nation’s history.” The President responded by echoing his father’s fatal tax pledge: “Not over my dead body will they raise your taxes.” The Pentagon was pushing for a $20 billion budget increase. Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota engineered a $30 million Christmas present for Homestake Mining, a South Dakota company: the federal government, in a provision written by the company’s lobbyists, will assume all legal liability for environmental damage caused by a 125-year-old Black Hills gold mine. Physicists plan to build a neutrino detector in the mine after it closes, though similar closed mines were declared federal Superfund sites. Senate Democrats were planning to subpoena documents from Enron executives to determine whether the collapse of the company, which had extraordinary influence with the Bush Administration, might yield a Whitewater-like scandal. Texas deregulated its energy market. Buddy Clinton, the former First Dog, was killed in a Westchester County, New York, cul-de-sac by an S.U.V.
Tommy Suharto, the son of former president Suharto of Indonesia, sued two men for failing to secure a presidential pardon for him after he paid a $2 million bribe. Prostitutes in Berlin were rounding down and selling their bodies at a rate equal to two euros per mark, a price cut of 2.2 percent; hookers in Hamburg rounded up and were charging about 17.4 percent more. “We’re accepting both marks and euros until the end of February,” said a whore, “the way you’re supposed to.” Italians were having a hard time adjusting to the euro; one old lady tried to pay 600 euros ($542) for a cappuccino. The world’s oldest man died. Spain did away with the military draft. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that Afghanistan’s interim government was doing just what America wants: “They agree with us. They want the Al Qaeda the dickens out of their country.” Afghan warlords were stealing food aid, making famine relief in some areas difficult, and there were reports that some warlords were using their influence with American forces to arrange air strikes against rivals, which could account for several questionable attacks. In Tampa, Florida, a 15-year-old student pilot stole an airplane and crashed it into a downtown office building, killing himself but no one else. People in Kano, Nigeria, were said to be naming their babies Osama.
Investigators said that the tail of American Airlines flight 587, which crashed in Queens in November, was not flawed after all, thus eliminating their main theory of the accident, which was advanced soon after the crash to counter speculation that terrorists were to blame. Rodrigo Deambrosio Zas, the American Airlines passenger who urinated on a row of seats and warned that everyone on the flight would die in a fireball, was indicted in Miami for interfering with a flight crew. Police in Thailand caught a woman trying to board a flight with 6,000 hits of speed in her platform soles. Argentina’s congress selected another president, the country’s fifth president in two weeks, as demonstrators rioted outside. Men on motorcycles threw grenades at several churches in Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, just before midnight as thousands of people gathered to celebrate the new year; another bomb, a hand grenade, went off in Jakarta. Rwanda got a new national anthem, a new flag, and a new emblem: an ear of sorghum and a coffee branch. Colombian rebels attacked five towns in preparation for peace talks with the government. Brazil sold $200 million worth of rocket launchers to Malaysia. North Korea was buying up used bicycles from Japan as it tried to come up with a bike for every household in the country, as promised by Dear Leader Kim Jong Il in honor of his sixtieth birthday. Historian Stephen E. Ambrose admitted to plagiarizing several passages in his best-selling book The Wild Blue. Parents of a boy killed in the 1999 Columbine massacre charged that their son was shot accidentally by a police officer. A new study found that the heart can repair itself. Ebola fever was spreading in Gabon and Congo. A bomb squad in Northern Ireland blew up a box of tampons.
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.”