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President George W. Bush announced a “new doctrine” according to which the United States will permit itself to launch preemptive attacks on countries and organizations that have or might have weapons of mass destruction. Bush Administration officials were reportedly annoyed with Attorney General John Ashcroft for overstating the “dirty bomb” angle in the arrest of Jose Padilla, who was demoted from “potential bomber” to “scout” in a matter of days. President Bush said that Padilla was “a bad guy and he is where he needs to beâ??detained.” Justice Department officials said that they decided to hold Padilla as an “enemy combatant,” because they don’t have enough evidence to charge him with an actual crime, but said they would not try him before a military tribunal, because he is an American citizen. One official remarked that “he’s going to stay in the can until we’re through with Al Qaeda.” Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, told American sailors in Bahrain that Saddam Hussein is a “world-class liar” who already has chemical weapons and could soon have nuclear and biological weapons, too. A car bomb blew up outside the American consulate in Karachi, Pakistan; at least 11 people, none of whom were Americans, died. Rumsfeld, who said that he had “seen indications” that Al Qaeda is operating in Pakistan, recently mused that “there are no knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns, that is to say there are things we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns, things we do not know we don’t know.” He also noted that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
The C.I.A. and the F.B.I. declared a truce in their campaign to blame each other for a series of intelligence blunders prior to September 11. The 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty expired, and construction of missile-interceptor silos began in Alaska. Russia responded by withdrawing from the Start II treaty, which outlawed multiple-warhead missiles. Governor Jim Hodges of South Carolina declared a state of emergency and ordered state troopers to prevent federal shipments of plutonium waste from entering his state. A magnitude 4.4 earthquake was recorded in Nevada near Yucca Mountain, the federal government’s proposed nuclear waste repository. The White House proposed a rules change that would allow utilities to upgrade their facilities without improving pollution control. Scientists estimated that air pollution costs Europe’s farmers more than six billion Euros a year. Australian scientists concluded that pollution caused by North American and European power plants and factories may be responsible for severe droughts and famines in Africa. The United Nations World Food Summit convened in Rome; delegates dined on lobster, goose stuffed with olives, and foie gras on toast with kiwifruit.
President Bush met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, called off the Middle East peace summit that had been scheduled for this summer, and then suggested that he might be willing to back an “interim” Palestinian state that leaves border issues vague. Israeli bookies were taking bets on where terrorists will strike next; the bets are valid only “when there is an attack of Arabs against Jews and not vice versa.” A 71-year-old man ran amok at a Benedictine monastery in rural Missouri and shot two monks dead before committing suicide. A jury in Miami awarded $37.5 million to a former three-pack-a-day smoker whose tongue was removed because of cancer twenty years after he quit smoking. Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, South Africa’s health minister, proudly announced that the HIV epidemic appeared to have leveled off at 25 percent of the adult population. Peter Mokaba, a leading member of the African National Congress who for years insisted that AIDS does not exist, died, apparently of AIDS. Several people in BogotĂˇ, Colombia, buried themselves up to their necks and went on a hunger strike to protest the lack of clean water and other municipal services in poor neighborhoods. The Roman Catholic diocese of Brooklyn denied John Gotti a public funeral mass because of concerns that crowds of onlookers “would take away from the decorum.” In Dallas, Texas, a council of Roman Catholic bishops decided to remove any priest from the ministry who has ever abused a child. Members of the British House of Commons filed a petition for a parliamentary cat to kill the mice that infest their building. Mick Jagger was knighted for “services to popular music.” Jann Wenner announced that he was dumbing down Rolling Stone magazine because young readers no longer have the patience to read long articles. An octopus in England learned to unscrew a jar. A giant calf was born in Russia, as was a four-legged duck.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Price of ten pencils made from “recycled twigs,” from the Nature Company:
A loggerhead turtle in a Kobe aquarium at last achieved swimming success with her twenty-seventh set of prosthetic fins. â€śWhen her children hatch,â€ť said the aquariumâ€™s director, â€śwell, I just feel that would make all the trauma in her life worthwhile.â€ť
In Colombia, U.N. delegates sent to serve as impartial observers of the peace process aimed at ending the half-century-long war between the FARC and the Colombian government were chastised after they were filmed dancing and getting drunk with FARC fighters at a New Yearâ€™s Eve party.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of oneâ€™s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many timesâ€”in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."