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President George W. Bush claimed in a speech that Saddam Hussein could attack America “on any given day”; he accused Hussein of harboring terrorists, stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, and using such weapons on his own people. “Neither the United States of America nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small,” the President said. New documents were declassified concerning tests of biological and chemical warfare agents that were conducted by the United States government on its own soldiers in Alaska, Maryland, Hawaii, Canada, and Britain during the Cold War. Among the substances used on American soldiers were sarin and VX; the tests were given code names such as Green Mist, Red Cloud, Devil Hole, Rapid Tan, and Night Train. George Tenet, the director of central intelligence, sent a letter to Congress in which he appeared to undercut the President’s assertions about the purported Iraqi threat, arguing that it was very unlikely that Iraq would supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction or attempt to attack the United States, except in extreme circumstances, such as an American invasion. Current and former intelligence officials in the CIA, the FBI, and the energy department complained that President Bush’s case against Iraq was largely false: “Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level pronouncements,” said Vincent Cannistraro, the former head of counter-intelligence at the CIA. “And there’s a lot of unhappiness about it in intelligence, especially among analysts at the CIA.” The Iraqi government gave reporters a tour of Al Furat, an old industrial site that President Bush claims is being used to develop nuclear weapons. Seven people died in the bombing of a shopping center in Helsinki, Finland. Almost two hundred people were killed in bomb attacks on two tourist nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia; another bomb went off near the “honorary” American consulate. Two gunmen attacked American marines who were training in Kuwait, killing one. Fifteen people were charged with aiding the attackers, one of whom left a videotape in which he claimed to be a member of Al Qaeda, which last week released two audiotapes, one recorded by Osama bin Laden, to Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite television station, threatening to carry out new attacks on the United States and its allies. Several people died in rioting in Bombay that broke out as a result of Jerry Falwell’s comments that the prophet Muhammad was a terrorist, prompting a leading Iranian cleric to declare that Jerry Falwell is a “mercenary” who must be killed for his blasphemy. “The death of that man is a religious duty,” he said, “but his case should not be tied to the Christian community.” Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah disagreed and said that Muslims should not use physical violence against Falwell because Islam is “a religion of mercy and love.”
Iraqi citizens were preparing to vote “yes” in a referendum on Saddam Hussein’s continued rule; the ballot, which voters must sign, will contain one question: “Do you agree that Saddam should remain president?” Baath Party leaders selected as their campaign theme song Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” Former president Jimmy Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize; Gunnar Berge, the chairman of the prize committee, confirmed that giving the prize to Carter was intended as a comment on George W. Bush’s bellicose policies. Two British and one American scientist were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work on cell death, the process by which healthy cells commit suicide. An American undersecretary of state left for Europe to persuade individual nations to go beyond the European Union’s agreement to exempt American soldiers from prosecution by the International Criminal Court: “We expect that they will take into account that there is no reason not to exempt all Americans.” Bertelsmann, the giant German media company, expressed regret for using slave labor in its printing plants during the Nazi era but failed to apologize. A Serbian military court convicted two Yugoslav army officers of war crimes for killing civilians in Kosovo. The White House chastised Israel for an attack on Khan Unis, a town in the Gaza Strip, that killed 13 civilians. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the raid had been very successful and promised more just like it: “There is a need to be certain that terrorist organizations will not have the freedom to carry out intentional murder.” Israeli settlers were firing on Palestinians who were trying to harvest their olives; at least one man was killed. The Washington sniper continued to shoot people and broadened his targets to include children, and he left a tarot “death card” at the scene of one shooting on which he wrote: “Dear Policeman, I am God.” The American Tarot Association posted a list of “fast facts” on its website about the death card and said that the killer obviously knows nothing at all about tarot.
Democrats in Congress said they were hoping to “move on” and refocus their election campaigns on the economy and other domestic issues now that they have given the President what he wants on Iraq, and they were puzzled by the fact that it wasn’t working. Ian Duncan Smith, the leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, told his fellow Tories that it was time to reinvent their party, “and to those who want to live in the past, I simply say: You stay in the past. We’re moving on.” A sign of the new orientation was the theme of the party conference: “Representing the Vulnerable.” The Bush Administration joined the automobile industry in opposing California’s new requirement that manufacturers sell hybrid electric cars in the state to help satisfy emissions targets. The White House at the last minute blocked a compromise deal that would have established an independent commission to investigate the September 11 attacks. In West Virginia, a pipe burst at a Bandmill Coal plant and dumped 100,000 gallons of coal slurry into streams, killing fish and contaminating the water supply. Someone at the Pentagon leaked plans for the long-term military occupation of Iraq after the war. President Bush said that America would never seek to impose its “culture or our form of government” on another country, and said that he wants to liberate Iraq not occupy it. The Supreme Court heard arguments in Eldred v. Ashcroft, a challenge to the Sono Bono Copyright Extension Act, the 1998 law that prevented Mickey Mouse from entering the public domain by extending existing and future copyrights to 95 years. A Chinese appeals court overturned the death sentences of three Christian leaders; they were promptly resentenced to life in prison. Four other Christians were acquitted and then rearrested and sent without trial to a “reeducation through labor” camp. Manhattan’s district attorney said that the five teenage boys who were convicted in the 1989 Central Park jogger case were probably not involved in the attack. The United States deported a Canadian citizen to Syria, the place of his birth, even though he hasn’t lived there for 15 years and faces imprisonment and torture by the Syrian government. A three-year-old boy in Houston was placed in foster care after he brought a vial of crack cocaine to his preschool class. The World Conservation Union warned that 11,170 plant and animal species are currently facing extinction but noted that two species previously thought to have been wiped out are still alive: at least 60 Bavarian pine voles were discovered in Austria, and the last of the Lord Howe Island stick insects were not eaten by rats in 1920. Newly released documents from the U.S. Patent Office revealed that IBM has renounced its patent on a method of determining who is next in line to use a toilet. Nine hundred thirty-seven people in Germany set a world record for the largest simultaneous yodel.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
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 tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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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.”