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Federal authorities placed the United States on “orange alert” and American embassies in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Malaysia were closed after an Al Qaeda prisoner claimed that terror attacks were scheduled for the September 11 anniversary. The New York Lottery’s evening number came up 9-1-1 on September 11, and President Bush shed a tear during a speech on Ellis Island. Police shut down a large section of Interstate 75 after a woman named Eunice Stone thought she heard four young Arab men “laughing about 9/11″ in a Shoney’s restaurant in Calhoun, Georgia. The men, who were detained in Florida for 17 hours, turned out to be medical students on their way back to school. New York City police stopped subways and roped off Battery Park for several hours after someone saw a man wearing a turban climb out of a subway maintenance hatch; calm was restored after it was determined that the man was a Sikh transit worker. An American Airlines flight to Dallas returned to Houston and was searched after a stewardess noticed a passenger with a suspicious object, which turned out, upon investigation, to be a comb. An Israeli Arab who had been indicted but not convicted of helping a suicide bomber was stripped of his Israeli citizenship. A federal judge ruled that the Chicago police have been routinely violating the rights of witnesses by locking them up in small rooms without a lawyer for up to 24 hours. Five Yemeni men in Lackawanna, New York, were charged with being an Al Qaeda terrorist cell, and American forces in Pakistan captured Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an Al Qaeda operative who officials said was supposed to have been the “twentieth hijacker” on September 11. President Bush addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations and demanded that something be done about Iraq; he also announced that America was rejoining UNESCO. The Dow Jones Industrial Average immediately dropped 202 points.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee decided not to subpoena Martha Stewart about her suspiciously well-timed trade of ImClone stock. British scientists determined that sheep have a remarkable memory for faces. The Internal Revenue Service announced that it will audit more rich people. A technology expert warned that everyday electronic gadgets such as laptops, tape players, and Palm Pilots could be used by an airline passenger as electromagnetic weapons to disable a plane’s instruments. General Tommy Franks was busy moving the U.S. Central Command from Tampa, Florida, to Qatar, in the Persian Gulf. Democrats in Congress were worried about the political cost of opposing President Bush’s obsession with attacking Iraq. “I have strong beliefs,” Richard Gephardt, the House Democratic leader, told reporters, “but I have never known that I was right on everything. In fact, I have never known that I was right on anything.” Yasir Arafat was forced by the Palestinian Legislative Council to fire his entire cabinet. The National Rifle Association offered to provide armed escorts to Republican election volunteers in “uncomfortable” immigrant neighborhoods in Charlotte, North Carolina. Noelle Bush, Governor Jeb Bush’s 25-year-old daughter, was caught with what appeared to be a rock of crack cocaine in her shoe. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont wondered whether this year’s outbreak of the West Nile virus was the result of biological terrorism.
Legislation was introduced in Argentina to require all political candidates to undergo psychiatric tests to determine their mental competency. Levi Strauss introduced a new line of trousers with an “anti-radiation” pocket designed to shield wearers from mobile phone emissions. American special operations forces in Afghanistan were told to shave their beards and start wearing proper uniforms. The Bush Administration decided that Colombia has sufficiently improved its human rights record and released $42 million in military aid even though new emergency powers permit the Colombian government to do pretty much whatever it wants to whomever it chooses. Human rights groups denounced the decision. Officials in Hong Kong said they were planning to introduce a new law to prohibit sedition and subversion. Another mass grave was found in Chechnya, and the mutilated bodies were quickly identified as Chechens who were arrested by Russian forces in May. President Vladimir Putin of Russia threatened to preemptively invade Georgia as part of the war on terrorism. Yugoslavia won the world basketball championship for the fifth time. Physicists at Middle Tennessee State University sent electronic signals through coaxial cable at more than four times the speed of light using cheap off-the-shelf equipment. Nigerian police arrested a mortuary worker who tried to sell a pair of human breasts to undercover officers; the man also had bottles of blood and pubic hair for sale. Archaeologists found a 100-million-year-old shellfish fossil with two penises. The ostracod was described as having “the longest and most ostentatious display of sex in the fossil record.” Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani stopped combing his hair to cover up his bald head, and former president Bill Clinton told David Letterman that he has a room at home in Chappaqua where he takes his saxophone, shuts the door, and blows the night away. Thousands of pilgrims in Thailand were visiting a water puddle in the shape of the Buddha’s footprint; the puddle is guarded by a frog, and the frog was said to be dying because people keep rubbing talcum powder on its skin hoping to see lottery numbers.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Chances that a deep breath inhaled today will contain a molecule from Julius Caesar’s dying breath:
Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences, by John Allen Paulos, Hill and Wang (N.Y.C.)
The earth once had three moons; the two lost moons may have crashed into the surviving moon, or been sucked into the sun, or flung out of the solar system to drift through deep space.
In Florida, an 87-year-old World War II veteran flying touch-and-go drills in a Cessna collided with an airborne skydiver. “There was a ‘woof’ sound,” said a witness, “like falling on your face into your pillow.”
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”