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Three days after Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan blamed “infectious greed” for the faltering of the stock market but declared the economy essentially sound, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 400 points, completing a two-week period during which it lost 15 percent of its value. President George W. Bush worried that Americans were getting too caught up in the recent spate of corporate scandals; he opined that since September 11 “I believe people have taken a step back and asked, ‘What’s important in life?’ You know, the bottom line and this corporate America stuff, is that important? Or is serving your neighbor, loving your neighbor like you’d like to be loved yourself?” Hundreds of women ended a peaceful ten-day occupation of ChevronTexaco’s main oil terminal in Nigeria that resulted in the company’s promise to build schools, clinics, town halls, electricity and water systems, and chicken farms for the local residents; about 700 workers had been trapped inside the terminal. “I give one piece of advice to all women in all countries,” said the leader of the demonstration. “They shouldn’t let any company cheat them.” A family sued a Virginia Pizza Hut for $2 million, claiming that they were refused service because they are black; the restaurant insists that it had run out of cheese and could not produce any more pizzas. Noted an attorney for the company, “It was a cheese issue, not a race issue.” Pfizer Inc. announced that it would acquire another drug maker, Pharmacia, for $60 billion in stock, creating the world’s most powerful drug conglomerate. A Walgreens pharmacy in Florida sent a 16-year-old boy an unsolicited one-month supply of Prozac. A hoax voucher circulated on the Internet, allowing people to sample Starbucks’ new “creme frappuccino” for free for several hours before the coupon was identified as fake. “It’s hard to believe this is real,” said one Washington Starbucks employee. “We’ve run out of the vanilla creme frappuccinos. It’s all gone.”
An Air Force fighter pilot accidentally dropped a practice bomb on a house in Texas, destroying the roof and a bathroom. A Virginian opened fire on a helicopter with an assault rifle after the pilot descended in order to pick up a local businessman, leading the shooter to assume that the plane was carrying terrorists. “Maybe I overreacted, but I did feel this was terrorism at its utmost,” said John Chwaszczewski. “If that helicopter didn’t land, I wouldn’t be out there shooting at it. I have no idea how this happened.” A group of prominent Indian performers was taken into custody and questioned by a terrorism task force after a passenger on their flight to New York deemed their pointing out the window and switching seats suspicious. One of the group, an 18-year-old starlet, decided that despite her detention and the fact that two fighter jets escorted the plane to its landing, “America is good country, and I understand people are afraid of people who look different.” The Postal Service decided not to take part in Operation TIPS, the new federal program that sanctions “millions of American truckers . . . train conductors, ship captains, utility employees and others” to snoop for America and report any “suspicious terrorist activity” they happen to come across. Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge pointed out that “There’s a big difference between being vigilant and being a vigilante,” to allay concerns that the program would cultivate Peeping Toms. “The last thing we want is Americans spying on Americans. That’s just not what the President is all about.” The head of research at Walt Disney agreed to become the head of research at the National Security Agency. Zacarias Moussaoui, the man accused by the United States of being the “20th hijacker,” attempted to plead guilty to having foreknowledge of the September 11 attacks, saying “I know exactly who done it,” but the judge refused to accept the plea, giving Moussaoui another week to mull over his options. John Walker Lindh, the 21-year-old American who was captured in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty to joining the Taliban and to carrying weapons. Attorney General John Ashcroft pointed out that “He will now spend the next twenty years in prison, nearly as long as he has been alive.” People in Los Angeles were complaining about a new brand of smoked sausage named after Joseph Stalin.
After a month of relative calm, a new wave of Palestinian suicide bombings struck Israel. President Bush, who had recently met with Arab leaders, concluded, “I’m beginning to think that every time we have a high-level meeting, something happens. That’s not coincidental.” Five Israeli settlers, four of them soldiers, were arrested for selling thousands of rounds of ammunition, stolen from the Israeli army, to Palestinians. An Iranian carpenter convicted of murder was sentenced to be thrown off a cliff in a sack. A bartender at a disco in Lima, Peru, ignited a fire that killed 25 people, a tiger, and a lion, and injured 100 others, when a fire-eating trick failed. A gang of clowns armed with a sawn-off shotgun and a knife attacked a wine bar in Manchester, England. Disney World ended a 30-year tradition of releasing homing pigeons during such shows as “Cinderella’s Surprise Celebration” when it realized the birds were routinely being attacked and eaten by red-tailed hawks. Researchers announced that they had genetically engineered mice with giant brains that fold up to fit inside the skull, as human brains do. Meow Mix, the cat-food company, was working on a television show for cats, featuring “squirrels, bouncing balls, birds, and all the things cats love to watch.” Members of the House committee on energy and commerce were worrying that a new HIV-positive Muppet that will appear on “Takalani Sesame,” the South African version of “Sesame Street,” would slip onto American screens. Officials in Catania, Sicily, bolted iron underwear onto a local statue of a stallion, covering its shame in preparation for a religious procession during which a statue of the Virgin Mary would pass the horse. One hundred Buddhist monks and nuns in Seoul, South Korea, protested a federal plan to build a major highway by marching three steps, then lying down, then marching another three steps, for almost two miles; the demonstration took four hours. Thousands of rats in search of food and water from palm trees were threatening the homes of celebrities in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and Malibu. Days after Morocco sent six soldiers to claim the island of Perejil, a half-mile-wide pile of rocks 200 yards off its coast, Spain deployed warships and special forces to take back the island, inhabited by goats, lizards, and wild parsley. A former speechwriter for Bill Clinton sailed a boat made from 160,000 wine-bottle corks 165 miles down a Portuguese river. Janet Reno held a dance party.
More from Margaret Cordi:
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.”