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North Korea began removing United Nations monitoring devices from its Yongbyon nuclear reactor and from its stockpile of plutonium; experts said that North Korea could potentially build a small nuclear arsenal within a year. Russia’s deputy foreign minister blamed George W. Bush for the crisis: “How should a small country feel when it is told that it is all but part of forces of evil of biblical proportions and should be fought against until total annihilation?” Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that Iraq has already committed a “material breach” of the latest Security Council resolutions by failing to disclose information about its putative weapons-of-mass-destruction programs. Powell was described by one widely-quoted Republican as having shown “the talons of the dove.” America agreed after many requests to share intelligence on suspected Iraqi arms sites with the United Nation’s weapons inspectors, who keep insisting that their work has only just begun. The United States, which edited Iraq’s weapons declaration before distributing it to other members of the U.N. Security Council, removed the names of 150 companies that were listed as contributors to Iraq’s arms programs. Two prominent teaching hospitals, apparently unconvinced that a smallpox attack is suddenly a real danger, refused to allow their employees to be vaccinated for smallpox, saying that the risks of side effects, including death, are too great. Wall Street’s largest brokerage firms agreed to pay almost $1 billion in fines for misleading clients during the stock-market bubble. In Israel, the Likud party was being damaged by revelations that the party’s central committee forced parliamentary candidates to buy their seats and that mafia figures bought spots for their allies. George Soros was convicted of insider trading in France. McDonald’s Corp. warned that it will post its first ever quarterly loss. Nicholas Calio, President Bush’s liaison to Congress, said that he was resigning because he can’t pay his bills. The Baghdad Stock Index was up 50 percent.
Senator Trent Lott, in what was widely described as a “coup” organized by the White House, was forced to resign as Senate majority leader even after coming out in favor of affirmative action “across the board” and promising to make the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation a national holiday. The dexterity with which the president’s men eliminated Lott so impressed Washington insiders that they were able to view the whole scandal as an unambiguous victory for the president rather than a national embarrassment for the Republican Party. David Duke, the “white survivalist” and former Ku Klux Klan leader, pleaded guilty to tax and mail fraud. A New York judge threw out the convictions of the five young men who as it turns out did not commit the famous Central Park jogger attack. The Department of Justice added Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Armenia to the list of countries whose adult male citizens residing in the U.S. must register with federal authorities but later dropped Armenia after it was pointed out that most Armenians are Christian. Federal authorities began releasing hundreds of Muslim immigrants who were arrested when they showed up to register under the new rules. It was reported that the Bush Administration will propose a new centralized system for monitoring all activity on the Internet. White House officials downplayed reports that the Pentagon is planning a propaganda assault on allied countries and emphasized that the president would never condone anything that involved lying. General Richard B. Meyers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took Roger Clemens and Drew Carey with him to Qatar to help cheer up the troops. Three women were killed in Kashmir, apparently for walking around without veils. Pakistan cracked down on pornographic movie theaters. Iran’s morality police arrested a barber for giving short haircuts to girls seeking to pass as boys.
The United States vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning Israel for killing United Nations workers in the Occupied Territories. The resolution, proposed by Syria, called on Israel to comply with its obligations, as an occupying power, to safeguard the lives of civilians as required by the Fourth Geneva Convention. Four teenage Palestinians, including two 11-year-old girls, were killed by stray bullets fired by Israeli settlers in Gaza. South Africa’s health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang told a reporter that her government cannot afford drugs to fight AIDS. “We don’t have the money for that,” she said. “Where would it come from?” After it was pointed out that her government is buying new submarines for the military, Dr. Tshabalala-Msimang said that the subs were needed to deter potential aggressors such as the United States: “Look at what Bush is doing. He could invade.” President Bush ordered the Pentagon to build a “modest” antimissile system. The European Union was planning a “Euro-Pentagon” that will be authorized to attack enemies anywhere in the world. Former president Alberto Fujimori of Peru, who is living as a fugitive in Japan, said that he was contemplating a political comeback in Peru. Baby Doc Duvalier said that he hoped to return to Haiti one day. The pope officially recognized a posthumous miracle attributed to Mother Teresa, who still needs to perform one additional miracle if she wants to become a saint. Joe Strummer died. A herd of wild drunken elephants went berserk and killed at least six people in Tinsukia, India. The Raelians, a Canadian free-love cult that has been trying to clone a human, said that a human clone baby could be born on Christmas day. Working kidneys were grown in mice using human stem cells.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Percentage of British elementary-school students who think Isaac Newton discovered fire:
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.”