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One day after Iraq’s parliament rejected the terms of the Security Council resolution calling for resumed weapons inspections, a letter from Iraqi foreign minister Naji Sabri agreeing to the demands was delivered to the United Nations. The letter was somewhat hostile, referring to the Americans and the British as a “gang of evil,” and it declared that the Security Council “has now been transformed into a kitchen house for big power bargaining, providing cover for war, destruction, blockades, and starvation to be inflicted on peoples.” The letter also contained the following proverb: “He who remains silent in the defense of truth is a dumb devil.” Al-Jazeera television received a new audiotape from Osama bin Laden in which he threatened more attack on citizens of countries supporting the United States; Bin Laden referred to George W. Bush as “the pharaoh of the time” and to the Bush Administration as a “gang of butchers.” A German prosecutor agreed to return the brain of Ulrike Meinhoff, the cofounder of the Red Army Faction, to her family. A certain Dr. Bernard Bogarts was believed to be in possession of the brain, which was removed from Meinhoff’s body in 1976 after she committed suicide; Dr. Bogarts has claimed that the brain exhibits “pathological modifications” that might explain Meinhoff’s violent behavior. Two other Red Army Faction brains were also said to be missing. Jiang Zemin resigned as head of the Communist Party of China and was replaced by Hu Jintao, who is best known for imposing martial law in Tibet in 1989. A psychiatric evaluation was ordered for Slobodan Milosevic, whose ill-health has repeatedly delayed his genocide trial. Israelis and Palestinians continued to slaughter one another. A group of medical experts estimated that 500,000 people, mostly civilians, would probably die as a result of an American invasion of Iraq. President Bush was asked what would constitute a “material breach” of the new Security Council resolution on Iraq: “Zero tolerance,” Bush replied. “About as plain as I can make it.”
A new aphrodisiac called Tadalafil was announced; the drug, which will go on sale in Europe next year, works much like Viagra but takes effect more quickly and lasts three times as long. The British government, concerned about closing-time binge drinking, proposed to let pubs stay open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Army announced a contract with Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. to help build John Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness electronic surveillance system. A provision was added to the House version of the Homeland Security Act that would expand the ability of the government to eavesdrop on telephone and Internet communications without a search warrant; the bill also promises life sentences for private citizens who carry out computer intrusions. “A mouse,” said Representative Lamar Smith, who sponsored the measure, “can be just as dangerous as a bullet or a bomb.” Senator John Warner said that he will hold hearings in the Armed Services Committee next year to review the Posse Comitatus law, which prevents the military from policing American civilians. The FBI warned that Al Qaeda might be planning a “spectacular” attack; the Bush Administration was annoyed at the FBI for releasing the warning, and Senator Bob Graham attacked the administration for ignoring Al Qaeda in its obsession with invading Iraq. The United Nations and Human Rights Watch condemned the police in Kabul, Afghanistan, for shooting into a crowd of unarmed student protesters; at least two students were killed. Russian troops, apparently inspired by Israeli tactics, began demolishing the homes of Chechen civilians in Grozny in retaliation for guerrilla attacks. Congress approved a defense authorization bill that contains an item funding research in nuclear “bunker buster” artillery shells. Democrats were searching for a leader and a message; a prominent Democrat from South Dakota said she was worried: “I don’t know if it’s really cool to be a politician these days.”
Russia’s lower house of parliament voted down a proposal for an independent investigation of the hostage fiasco in Moscow last month. “The reason why the Duma rejected the proposal is quite clear,” said a human-rights advocate. “Our parliament is servile.” The White House finally agreed to support an independent commission on the events of September 11 but only after it was agreed that the president will select the chairman. The pope addressed Italy’s parliament for the first time and urged Italians to have more children; a fugitive mobster was so moved by the pope’s words that he turned himself in. Nine Army linguists, including six experts in Arabic, were fired for being homosexuals. Unrest continued in Caracas. The Pentagon hired actors to play hecklers in a fake Arab town that was set up in southern California to help troops prepare for the Iraqi invasion. An American soldier wearing a “chem-bio” protective suit collapsed during an Army press conference; the collapse was apparently triggered by the heat from television lights. American television producers were reportedly increasing the rate at which actors deliver their lines on the theory that viewers will find the characters more intelligent. A lawyer for Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones sent a cease-and-desist letter to Bill Wyman, a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, telling him to stop using his name, which he was given at birth, unlike the rock star, who was born William George Perks. Some clippings of Elvis Presley’s hair sold at auction for $100,105. Jesus Christ appeared in southern India on a toasted chappati.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Discussed in this essay:
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Henry Holt. 352 pages. $28.
The extinction symbol is a spare graphic that began to appear on London walls and sidewalks a couple of years ago. It has since become popular enough as an emblem of protest that people display it at environmental rallies. Others tattoo it on their arms. The symbol consists of two triangles inscribed within a circle, like so:
“The triangles represent an hourglass; the circle represents Earth; the symbol as a whole represents, according to a popular Twitter feed devoted to its dissemination (@extinctsymbol, 19.2K followers), “the rapidly accelerating collapse of global biodiversity” — what scientists refer to alternately as the Holocene extinction, the Anthropocene extinction, and (with somewhat more circumspection) the sixth mass extinction.
Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:
Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.
Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.
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Science’s crisis of faith