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Defying historical trends, the Democratic Party managed to lose control of the Senate during a midterm election. Richard Gephardt responded to his party’s catastrophic failure by announcing that he will not seek reelection as House minority leader; he will instead prepare for a presidential run in 2004. France and Russia, after weeks of dickering, voted in favor of a United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq after the United States agreed to change the word “and” to “or” and the word “secure” to “restore.” “This would be the 17th time that we expect Saddam to disarm,” said President George W. Bush. “This time we mean it. This time it’s for real.” American officials claimed that the resolution was a “mousetrap” that gives the U.S. the right to go to war unilaterally; Europeans pointed to assurances from American diplomats that the document contains “no hidden triggers.” President Bush settled on a war plan for Iraq that will include a short air campaign followed by rapid ground operations involving about 250,000 troops. Administration officials confided that they were hoping for a defiant challenge from Saddam Hussein rather than a slow drawn-out refusal that could fritter away the strategically important winter months, which are the best time for fighting a war in the Middle East. “I think a lot of people are saying, you know, gosh, we hope we don’t have war,” President Bush said. “I feel the same way.” A million people converged on Florence, Italy, to protest the coming war. French prostitutes took to the streets in Paris to protest new restrictions on the sex trade. Communists in Russia marched to protest the betrayal of the Great October Socialist Revolution. Winona Ryder was convicted of shoplifting.
It was reported that Admiral John M. Poindexter, who was convicted in the Iran-Contra affair in 1990 but later acquitted on a technicality, joined the Bush Administration earlier this year as head of the Office of Information Awareness at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Poindexter is in charge of a new system called Total Information Awareness, which would permit the military to spy on the civilian population of the United States without search warrants by scanning personal information such as email, credit-card statements, banking and medical records, and travel documents for patterns that suggest criminal or terrorist activities. Deployment of the surveillance technology would require new legislation, since the military traditionally has not been allowed to spy on ordinary American citizens. “This could be the perfect storm for civil liberties in America,” said Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, “The vehicle is the Homeland Security Act, the technology is Darpa, and the agency is the FBI. The outcome is a system of national surveillance of the American public.” A British court declared that the American detention of prisoners at Camp X-Ray in Cuba, which it called “a legal black hole,” is in clear violation of international law and the concept of habeas corpus. The author of The Story of Stupidity and Understanding Stupidity was arrested for trying to solicit sex on the Internet from an undercover cop who was posing as a 15-year-old girl. A judge in Michigan was in trouble for smoking pot at a Rolling Stones concert. Police in Racine, Wisconsin, cracked down on fans of. techno music and issued 445 tickets. “Rave parties,” said a cop, “are not going to be part of our community and are not going to be tolerated.” The White House was thinking about abandoning its prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, which was not going so well, and trying him instead before a military tribunal, where victory would be assured.
The CIA, using a Predator drone, assassinated an Al Qaeda leader and several of his companions in Yemen; it turned out that one of the men was an American citizen. Amnesty International accused Israeli security forces of committing war crimes during offensives in Jenin and Nablus last spring. A suicide bomber killed two people at an Israeli mall. Irv Rubin, the leader of the Jewish Defense League, was declared brain dead after he apparently slit his own throat and jumped from a balcony. Rubin was in jail for allegedly trying to blow up a mosque. His wife refused to believe that he had attempted suicide: “This was a hit,” she said. “This was a hit.” Rubin’s brain was later reported to be “very much alive,” and he was listed in critical condition. Harvey Pitt resigned as commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Federal investigators issued subpoenas to Duke Energy, Reliant Resources, and the Williams Company in connection with an investigation into price manipulations during the recent California energy crisis. China closed the Yangtze River as part of its ecocidal Three Gorges dam project. It rained in Los Angeles. A large study of Danish children determined that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine does not cause autism. A new study found that smoking pot is probably more dangerous than smoking tobacco. British researchers found that having a positive attitude does no good whatsoever in fighting cancer. Two people in New York City were diagnosed with bubonic plague. A judge ruled that a Barbie doll dressed as a dominatrix wearing a “lederhosen-style Bavarian bondage dress and helmet in rubber with PVC-mask” does not infringe on Mattel’s copyright because the parody poses no threat to Barbie sales. Germany’s supreme court ordered Bavaria to end its ban on wife-swapping.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Rank of Detroit among major U.S. cities whose residents give the largest portion of their income to charity:
A South Dakota researcher concluded that only scant blood spatter results when chain saws are used to dismember pigs.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature