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More than 100 soldiers in the Israeli army reserve signed a petition declaring their refusal to serve in the Occupied Territories. “The price of occupation is the army’s loss of its human image and the corruption of all Israeli society.” The soldiers said they had in the past received orders to commit crimes such as firing automatic weapons into neighborhoods and shooting at boys throwing stones. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon said he wished he had “liquidated” Yasir Arafat in the 1980s when he had the chance. A state department official said “remarks like these can be unhelpful.” President Bush, in his first State of the Union address, identified Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an “axis of evil.” CNN aired a video of Osama bin Laden in which he gloated that “freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people and the West in general into an unbearable hell and a choking life.” A federal judge in New York opened hearings into whether the F.B.I. in its September 11 investigation had coerced and intimidated a Jordanian student into committing perjury. Doctors removed lesions from the left ear of John Ashcroft, the attorney general. Security workers at San Francisco International Airport employed by Argenbright Security lost a passenger whose shoes tested positive for explosives after the screener simply walked off to find a supervisor; the passenger apparently just got on his plane and flew away; the terminal was evacuated, though four airplanes took off anyway. Security cameras filmed the incident but the footage was of such poor quality that the passenger’s face was illegible. President Bush said he would reconsider his decision to deny Afghan war prisoners the protection of the Geneva Conventions but said that the men were “killers” and as such did not deserve to be classified as prisoners of war. “I will listen to all the legalisms,” he declared, “and announce my decision when I make it.”
The General Accounting Office said it would file suit to force Vice President Dick Cheney to turn over records of his meetings with Enron officials, with whom he met five times to discuss energy policy. Cheney, citing executive privilege, claims that he needs the ability to get “unvarnished” advice from outside consultants, who might not speak freely if they knew that their suggestions would be made public. Such concerns were apparently not considered when the Bush Administration released similar records from the Clinton Administration. Thomas White, the secretary of the Army and a former Enron executive, said his division of Enron had done nothing wrong. The Justice Department warned the White House not to destroy any records pertaining to Enron. Kenneth Lay, the disgraced former head of Enron, cancelled two scheduled appearances before Congress, saying that the lawmakers had already passed judgment on him. The Rev. Jesse Jackson compared Lay to Job. Florida governor Jeb Bush’s daughter Noelle was arrested for impersonating a doctor and calling in a prescription for Xanax, the anti-anxiety drug, to a Tallahassee Walgreens; Noelle pretended to be Dr. Noel Scidmore, a male doctor who no longer practices in Florida. Four hundred Cambodians lost their homes after a fire caused by a roasting cat destroyed 62 houses. An angry mother hippopotamus killed a photographer in South Africa who was taking pictures of her calf; hippos kill more people in Africa than any other wild animal. The owner of a roadside zoo in Canada was preparing to send a pair of lions to Kabul, Afghanistan, to replace Marjan, the lion that recently died after being taunted and teased for 38 years. “We thought the lion meant a lot to them with just what the people have gone through,” the zookeeper said. “It’s just somewhere they can go for a day to forget about their problems.”
Afghan warlords were beating and looting with impunity as they pretended to help American forces root out remaining Taliban leaders. Daniel Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was abducted in Pakistan by a previously unknown militant group that demanded the release of Pakistani prisoners from American custody in Cuba. France’s senate voted to return to South Africa the remains of the Hottentot Venus, an African woman who was displayed in Europe as a sexual freak during the nineteenth century. Doctors Without Borders announced that it would begin importing cheap generic versions of AIDS drugs into South Africa as part of a pilot project near Cape Town. Secretary of Health Tommy Thompson broadened the government’s eligibility definition for the Children’s Health Insurance Program to include fetuses; reproductive-rights activists immediately denounced the new policy. India’s supreme court ordered the confiscation of unlicensed ultrasound machines, which commonly are used to detect female fetuses, which are often aborted. The World Economic Forum was held in New York instead of Davos, Switzerland, and many celebrities were feeling left out when they weren’t invited to swanky parties populated with economists, businessmen, and sundry apologists of globalization. Panelists included Bono, the pop star, who told the press that “the great thing about hanging out with Republicans is that it’s very unhip for both of us. There’s a parity of pain here.” About 1,000 people demonstrated in front of a Gap store in Manhattan to protest the company’s use of overseas sweatshops. Media hopes for Seattle-style violence were disappointed. “Starbucks can rest easy for another day,” one policeman told a reporter. “Maybe tomorrow your fair-weather anarchists and sunshine Trotskyites will come marching forth.” And so they did, although they behaved themselves for the most part, and only about 150 people were arrested. President Vladimir Putin of Russia called for the establishment of a national sports channel on television to promote healthy living. The National Institutes of Health announced the opening of the Rat Resource and Research Center at the University of Missouri, a sort of vivisection boutique where researchers can shop for rare breeds and rats genetically engineered for specific needs. Advanced Cell Technology claimed that it had used cloning to create new kidneys for a cow.
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.
Rank of Detroit among major U.S. cities whose residents give the largest portion of their income to charity:
A South Dakota researcher concluded that only scant blood spatter results when chain saws are used to dismember pigs.
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