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Millions of people around the world demonstrated against George W. Bush’s coming war on Iraq. More than a million people rallied in London, and 500,000 gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. There were protests in Amsterdam, Brussels, Barcelona, Melbourne, Paris, Rome, Seoul, Tokyo, and at least 600 other cities. In New York, where the authorities refused to permit a peace march, at least half a million people attempted to assemble at a park near the United Nations; police blocked streets and prevented many of the demonstrators from reaching the rallying point. In Colorado Springs, police fired tear gas into a crowd of protesters, even though children were in the adjacent playground. Al-Jazeera, the popular Arab television station, broadcast another Osama bin Laden tape; Bin Laden, or someone who sounded like him, made the usual denunciations of the United States and called on the Iraqi people to resist the upcoming American invasion. Colin Powell claimed that the tape was proof of an alliance between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, even though Osama referred to Saddam as an “apostate.” Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief U.N. weapons inspectors, gave an updated report to the Security Council and declared that they were making good progress and had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; Blix dismissed much of Colin Powell’s presentation before the United Nations last week and said that the satellite photographs of weapons installations he featured could easily depict routine activity. “Inspectors,” he explained, “must base their reports only on evidence.” Powell was frustrated in his attempt to rally the Security Council behind the war agenda, and Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, was applauded after he told Powell that “in this temple of the United Nations, we are the guardians of an ideal, the guardians of conscience. This onerous responsibility and immense honor we have must lead us to give priority to disarmament through peace.” “There is absolutely not a shred of an excuse for launching a military attack on the basis of this report. Not a shred,” said Tam Dalyell, a Labor member of the British parliament. “Even by their own criteria it would be wicked, wicked if they were to plunge us into war on the basis of that.” Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, denounced President Bush as a draft dodger, a stock market swindler, and a “stooge for the oil industry.” The man who admitted to last year’s bombing in Bali apologized to the victims’ families. A military plane tumbled off the USS Stennis aircraft carrier into the Pacific Ocean, and Saddam Hussein declared a ban on weapons of mass destruction.
Alan Greenspan, the head of the Federal Reserve, testified before Congress that the president’s new tax-cut plan made no economic sense and that the resulting large deficits would degrade an already dire economic outlook; then, the next day, after Republicans called for his removal, Greenspan backtracked and said that the deficits weren’t really so bad. Some economists predicted “budget fundamentals comparable to Brazil’s” within a decade if the proposals are accepted. Congress passed a $397 billion spending bill that included a last-minute provision to permit the organic certification of livestock even if their feed is not organic. The provision was included by Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia at the request of Fieldale Farms Corporation, which gave Deal $4,000 during his last campaign. The bill also includes $90,000 for the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, $350,000 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and $750,000 for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Congress agreed to restrict funding for the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness project, a massive domestic surveillance scheme run by Iran-Contra conspirator John Poindexter. The agreement bans the use of the program on Americans but permits the government to use it on foreigners both inside and outside the United States. A federal judge in Manhattan agreed to relax the rules governing the ability of New York City police to spy on political groups; previously the police required evidence of a crime to open an investigation. No longer. A consortium of more than 20 major scientific journals including Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science agreed to censor scientific articles that could possibly compromise national security. The Pentagon refused a Freedom of Information Act request for a training video that shows bureaucrats how to handle Freedom of Information Act requests. People were buying up large supplies of duct tape and plastic sheeting; Tom Ridge, the secretary of homeland security, backtracked somewhat from his advice to stock up on emergency supplies and advised people not to start sealing off rooms. Experts observed that the duct tape and plastic would be completely worthless in the event of a chemical, biological, or nuclear attack. Senator Bill Frist suggested that people simply “exercise regularly, eat well, and get a good night’s rest.” J. Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House of Representatives, was considering legislation to ban French wine and bottled water â?? for “health reasons,” he said. Hastert claimed that some French wine is clarified using cow blood.
Fourteen Muslim pilgrims were trampled to death in Saudi Arabia during the Hajj while performing a stone-throwing ritual. Israel sealed off the entire West Bank and Gaza, and Yasir Arafat agreed to appoint a prime minister. Six Hamas members died in a mysterious explosion, possibly caused by a booby-trapped toy airplane. Belgium’s supreme court ruled that the country’s “anti-atrocity” law does in fact apply to Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, and that he can be tried there once he leaves office. North Koreans celebrated the birthday of their “dear leader” Kim Jong Il, the “sun of the 21st century,” and the official media began a campaign to promote Kim Jong Il’s 21-year-old son Kim Jong Chul. Hyundai’s chairman said he was sorry for sending $500 million to North Korea to help gain contracts and secure a North-South summit meeting. Smith & Wesson introduced its biggest handgun ever, a .50-caliber Magnum powerful enough to bring down a charging bear. Thailand was cracking down on drug traffickers, 350 of whom had died under questionable circumstances since February 1. “I think human-rights activists shouldn’t worry too much about these traffickers’ lives,” said the interior minister. The Thai government urged women to enlarge their breasts with exercises rather than plastic surgery; as part of a demonstration, dozens of women wearing shorts and T-shirts squeezed their breasts outside the health ministry in Bangkok. Fifteen hundred gallons of tequila spilled into the Louisville, Kentucky, sewers. A federal appeals court said that Arkansas officials can use drugs to render an insane murderer sane enough to execute. Nelson Mandela said that he was thinking about visiting Iraq. Hindu activists looted and burned card shops in India to protest Valentine’s Day, and British police charged five men with conspiracy to kidnap a former Spice Girl. Dolly the cloned sheep was put out of her misery.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Number of people who attended the World Grits Festival, held in St. George, South Carolina, last spring:
The brown bears of Greece continued chewing through telephone poles.
In Peru, a 51-year-old activist became the first former sex worker to run for the national legislature. â€śIâ€™m going to put order,â€ť she said, â€śin that big brothel which is Congress.â€ť
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â€śCivilization masks us with a screen, from ourselves and from one another, with thin depth of unreality. We habitually liveÂ â€” do we not?Â â€” in a world self-created, half established, of false values arbitrarily upheld, largely inspired by misconception, misapprehension, wrong perspective, and defective proportion, misapplication.â€ť