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North Korea admitted that it has resumed work on its nuclear arms-program; the United States retaliated by formally withdrawing from a 1994 arms-control agreement, which will immediately stop annual shipments of 500,000 tons of fuel oil to North Korea. Bush Administration officials accused Pakistan of giving the North Koreans nuclear technology in exchange for missiles to use on India. Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, claimed that his government was ready to hold talks if the United States would end its “hostile policy.” A diplomat from the North told one from the South that a “wind from the West” was disturbing the weather. President Bush said he thought that Al Qaeda was responsible for the Bali, Indonesia, terror bombing and reemphasized the firmness of his desire to disarm Saddam Hussein. Abu Bakar Bashir, the Muslim cleric whom American intelligence officials have blamed for the attack in Bali, refused to condemn the bombing and said that “the United States intelligence agency is behind the Bali bombings in an attempt to justify their accusation that Indonesia is a terrorist base.” He also warned Australians not to cooperate with America “because it will bring tragedy for your country.” Indonesia, which does not yet have American-style antiterrorism laws that permit detention without evidence, was reluctant to arrest Bashir but finally did so after he collapsed and was admitted to a hospital. Buses were blown up in Manila and Israel. Several mail bombs exploded in Karachi, Pakistan, and more shots were fired at American soldiers in Kuwait. The Council on Foreign Relations in New York released a report arguing that the Bush Administration will never succeed in cutting off funds to Al Qaeda and other terrorists until it confronts Saudi Arabia, where most of such funds are raised. It was reported that the CIA has begun covert operations in Kurdish Iraq, and American officials acknowledged that the CIA had put the wrong man’s face on its wanted poster for Mullah Muhammad Omar, the former head of the Taliban. Maulvi Hafizullah, whose picture does appear on the poster, has been forced into hiding. An American soldier in Afghanistan accidentally blew up a giant container of Coca-Cola.
Israeli soldiers fired cannons and machine guns into a refugee camp in Gaza, killing a four-year-old girl, a fifteen-year-old boy, two women, and two men. Peter Hansen, the commissioner-general of the U.N. relief agency for Palestinian refugees, denounced the attack: “This is another case of disproportionate force being used against civilian targets, including schools full of children.” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that the Israeli army “has the highest level of morality in the world.” The last inhabitants of Khirbat Yanun, a Palestinian village in the West Bank, fled their homes because of a steady campaign of violence (gunfire, vandalism, stone-throwing, physical assault) from neighboring Jewish settlers. A former British soldier contradicted the official version of events regarding Bloody Sunday, when British paratroopers fired on Northern Irish demonstrators and killed 14 in 1972, and said that the troops had not been fired upon before they started shooting the marchers. Police in Wales cracked down on the practice of fueling automobiles with cooking oil to avoid paying taxes. Iceland, which plans to resume commercial whaling in 2006, was readmitted to the International Whaling Commission by one vote after Sweden accidentally voted for the motion. A law banning many common English phrases was awaiting presidential approval in Romania; if signed, the English word “laptop” will be replaced by “an apparatus for putting at the top of the lap,” and a “hotdog” will be known as “a kind of sausage on a roll.” An Iranian cleric declared a jihad on dog owners: “I demand the judiciary arrest all dogs with long, medium, or short legs together with their long-legged owners.” The Pentagon deployed spy planes in an attempt to catch the Washington-area sniper, and the White House requested a study of “ballistic fingerprinting” technology that can tie bullets and shell casings to the gun that fired them, though the gun lobby is expected to veto any such policy. “These are acts of a depraved killer who has broken and will continue to break laws,” said Ari Fleischer, the President’s spokesman. “And so the question is not new laws; the question is the actions here represent values in our society.” The judge in Miami who tried Alex and Derek King threw out their convictions in the murder of their father and said that their right to due process was violated by the district attorney’s “bizarre” prosecution of the case. Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani went down to clean up all the crime in Mexico City in exchange for $4.3 million. The Internal Revenue Service let it be known that it is considering the use of private debt-collection agencies to hound people into paying billions of dollars in back taxes. Welfare families in Michigan can be required to submit to drug testing, a judge ruled, because the state’s interest in not paying for illegal drugs is stronger than a citizen’s right to privacy.
The Bush Administration, apparently judging that the attention of the public has moved elsewhere, was attempting to undo the large increase in funding it had called for in the budget of the Securities and Exchange Commission to fight corporate evildoers. The Vatican rejected the “zero tolerance” policy on pedophile priests crafted by American Catholic bishops because it does not conform to the laws of the Roman Catholic Church. Some of the American bishops said that they were relieved. Vatican sources said that Pope John Paul II, who says that he has entrusted his future to the Virgin Mary, will add five new mysteries to the rosary. Environmental and consumer groups said that the contamination and subsequent recall by Pilgrim’s Pride of 27.4 million pounds of cooked turkey and chicken was the result of weak food-safety standards, and called for more inspections. Ikea recalled 57,000 teddy bears. It was confirmed that a 22-year-old Florida woman has mad cow disease, but officials claimed she was infected in England. In South Africa a drug dealer was accused of cutting up a woman, boiling her, and feeding her to lions. A wrestler from Portland, Oregon, was in trouble for biting the head off a live rabbit. A two-headed snake was captured in Majorca. China put 1,000 cleaners to work scraping 600,000 wads of chewing gum off Tiananmen Square. New observations of S2, a star orbiting Sagittarius A, the compact radio source at the center of the Milky Way, all but confirmed that Sagittarius A is a supermassive black hole with 3.7 million times the mass of our sun. A woman in South Dakota gave birth to her own grandchildren. Scientists discovered the cause of teen angst.
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. “When her children hatch,” said the aquarium’s director, “well, I just feel that would make all the trauma in her life worthwhile.”
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 Year’s Eve party.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—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."