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The Pentagon’s top-secret “Nuclear Posture Review” was leaked to the press. The document describes situations in which nuclear weapons might be used in a first strike on Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, or North Korea. There was concern that the Bush Administration was trying to redefine nuclear weaponry as an instrument of war rather than a deterrent; one Russian lawmaker suggested that the President’s men had “somewhat lost touch with reality.” An unnamed Bush Administration official acknowledged that the President was beginning to lose the political advantage that resulted from September 11; the “post-attack glow is fading,” he said. Washington’s state senate passed a ban on bullying. Texans for Public Justice revealed that President Bush has rewarded 43 of his “Pioneers,” people who raised more than $100,000 for his campaign, with ambassadorships and other government patronage jobs. President Bush tried to get Stevie Wonder’s attention by smiling and waving at him. There was heavy fighting in Afghanistan; eight American soldiers were killed. “First let me say that our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and the friends of the service members who have lost their lives in our ongoing operations in Vietnam,” said General Tommy Franks, who oversees Operation Enduring Freedom from Tampa, Florida. “Certainly that sacrifice is appreciated by this nation.” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that “the United States is leaning forward and not back.”
A woman in Fort Worth, Texas, was arrested for running over a homeless man and then parking her car, with the injured man still stuck in her windshield, in her garage; her lawyer denied accusations that his client apologized to the man, ignored his cries for help for three days, and let him bleed to death, but did not dispute the fact that her boyfriend dumped the victim’s lifeless body in a park. The carnage continued in Palestine: There were several suicide bombings, with the usual Israeli counterattacks, and civilian casualties were heavy on both sides. An Israeli tank was videotaped crushing two Palestinian ambulances. “If the Palestinians are not being beaten, there will be no negotiations,” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters. “Only after they’ve been battered will we be able to conduct talks.” Sharon was then publicly rebuked by the Bush Administration. A bomb was discovered in an Israeli Arab school in Jerusalem; a group called “Revenge of the Infants” claimed responsibility. Israeli veterinarians were giving Valium to nervous dogs to soothe their panic attacks. The Indian government was compensating the relatives of people killed in recent ethnic clashes at a rate of $2,050 per dead Muslim and twice that for a dead Hindu. Harish Bhai Bhatt, the leader of the militant World Hindu Council, defended the massacres of Muslims by his followers. “Now it is the end of toleration,” he said. “If the Muslims do not learn, it will be very harmful for them.” Quebec’s minister of population admitted that he and seven friends killed 18,000 doves, pigeons, and turtledoves in six days on a hunting trip to Argentina. “They’re really easy to kill,” he said. “In fact, it’s more shooting than hunting.”
Wonder Bread settled a lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission and agreed to stop claiming that its bread makes children’s minds work better and improves their memories. A Florida bong maker was nominated for Republican of the Year; he was arrested recently when his bongs, marketed under the brand-name Chills, turned up in a raid. “It’s a complete misunderstanding,” he told reporters. “I’m not going to make pipes again. I’m embarrassed that my government has put me in this position: They’ve lumped me in with some liberal longhaired dopers. That’s not the kind of crowd I run with.” Independent Counsel Robert W. Ray issued his final report on the Whitewater scandal and said he could have charged Bill Clinton with perjury but decided that the poor man had suffered enough. A New York judge sentenced a man to one year without television. The United Nations told fishermen along the Caspian Sea that they could resume the sturgeon caviar harvest. Starving Afghans were said to be selling their children for food. The Roman Catholic bishop of Palm Beach, Florida, resigned after he was exposed as a child molester. Twenty-one nuns in Pennsylvania won their appeal of a decision by the Social Security Administration to cut their benefits because the sisters had taken a vow of poverty. Congress decreed that the Education Department’s Office of Bilingual Education will now be called the Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students. Experts warned that boring sex was a global problem. The scientists who recently declared that the overall color of the universe was turquoise admitted that they had a bug in their code: the color of the universe is beige.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
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 naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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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.”