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Chaos ruled Baghdad for a second week; much of the city, already without water, food, electricity, a stable currency, or a governing body, was on fire, though the rampant looting that defined the country’s first days of liberation abated when there was nothing left to loot. Iraqis exercised their newfound freedom to complain, with tens of thousands publicly protesting their conditions and the possibility of a long-term American occupation. U.S. officials insisted they were not interested in occupying Iraq, but expected to retain four military bases there to be used for future crises. The White House was said to regard Syria, Cuba, and Libya as members of a “junior varsity axis of evil,” but although the administration repeated accusations that Syria was providing sanctuary to Iraqi fugitives, Colin Powell assured the world that Washington has no war plan “right now” to address that country’s disobedience. Another administration official worried about wasting an opportunity in the Middle East: “We have to make it clear that we didn’t just come to get rid of Saddam. We came to get rid of the status quo.” The United States persuaded some Iraqi civil servants to show up for work with a promise of $20 for each, and a returning exile declared himself mayor of Baghdad. Some looters were surrendering stolen goods after learning that a cleric issued an edict forbidding Iraqi wives from having sex with their looter husbands. The Ministry for Religious Affairs was set on fire, destroying thousands of Korans, some a thousand years old. “When Baghdad fell to the Mongols in 1258, these books survived,” said a ministry official. “If you talk to any intellectual Muslims in the world, they are crying right now.” A poll found that most Americans believe that the war against Iraq will have been worthwhile even if weapons of mass destruction are never found and Saddam Hussein is never captured or killed. Abu Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian terrorist group responsible for the 1985 attack on the Achille Lauro cruise ship, was captured in Baghdad, demonstrating to the White House a “nexus” between Saddam Hussein’s government and terrorism. Antiwar organizations were searching for a new message, and one considered changing its name from Win Without War to Win Without Wars. Marines stationed outside Tikrit were eating fresh gazelle from Saddam Hussein’s personal hunting preserve.For fear that gunshots in the woods might be mistaken for enemy fire, “We hunted them with rocks, as Stone Age as that sounds,” said one soldier.”We gutted them and skinned them and pretty much carried them over our shoulders barbarian-style.”
Pizza Hut and Burger King set up their first Iraqi franchises, on a British military base near Basra. Cameroon made it illegal for restaurants to serve gorilla. A company in Philadelphia was busy experimenting with a thermal depolymerization process that converts turkeys, tires, plastic bottles, old computers, municipal garbage, cornstalks, medical waste, and anything else containing carbon into oil. “There is no reason why we can’t turn sewage, including human excrement, into a glorious oil,” said a representative. America disabled an oil pipeline that had been carrying 200,000 barrels a day from Iraq to Syria, in flagrant violation of United Nations economic sanctions. President Bush was anxious for the U.N. to lift the 12-year-old sanctions against Iraq, so that its oil could be sold to help pay for the country’s rebuilding, but the six nations that border Iraq â?? Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, and Jordan â?? argued that sanctions should not be removed until a legitimate government, formed by Iraqis, was in place. The Bechtel Corporation, whose chairman advises President Bush on international-trade issues and whose senior vice president advises Donald Rumsfeld on defense policy, won the first major Iraq reconstruction project, with a value of up to $680 million. Investigators revealed that a retired banker living in Switzerland spent 10 years helping Saddam Hussein hide millions of dollars via a Bahamas bank account under the name of Satan. An army sergeant found $650 million in a hole in a wall at one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces, and pictures of President Bush’s twin daughters were found in a palace belonging to Uday Hussein. An ancient village was discovered underneath Illinois. A British designer unveiled an inflatable church; the gray plastic building features a blow-up organ, pulpit, altar, gothic arches, and fake stained-glass windows, and can be carried around and set up anywhere there is a need for impromptu services. Thirteen people in the Philippines had their palms and feet nailed to wooden crosses to commemorate Good Friday; an American missionary said the practice “is a proof that you can be very sincere but be sincerely wrong.” Citizens of El Paso began collecting $400,000 to build the country’s largest flagpole.
Syria introduced a draft resolution to the U.N.Security Council that would declare the entire Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, claiming that Israel is the only country in the region with such weapons; Israel is believed to have roughly 200 nuclear warheads. An Associated Press cameraman wearing a fluorescent green vest that said PRESS was shot in the head and killed by an Israeli soldier as he covered a fight between Israeli troops and Palestinians in Nablus; the cameraman was shot above the right eye as he looked into his viewfinder. The Chinese health minister and Beijing’s mayor were fired for concealing the scale of the SARS epidemic; the government confirmed that the numbers of infected and dead in Beijing alone were ten times higher than previously reported. In Taiwan the health department was offering cash rewards to informants who report “their family members, close friends, or neighbors” who may be infected with SARS, and a man returning from China was fined $1,700 for refusing to have his temperature taken at the airport. Paul McCartney’s flu germs were up for sale. Russian train conductors were hospitalized following a contest that involved smashing their heads repeatedly against a train window to determine who had the strongest forehead. The Great Sasuke, a professional wrestler who campaigned for a state assembly seat in Japan while wearing his trademark mask, won and vowed to continue wearing his mask: “I won support from voters with this face, and to take it off would be breaking promises.” Iraqi doctors said that the much-televised rescue of prisoner of war Jessica Lynch from a hospital “was just a big, dramatic show,” since her captors had fled before rescuers arrived, leaving only four doctors and two patients, one of whom was paralyzed and connected to an IV drip, to be bound and handcuffed by American forces. Ali Ismail Abbas, the 12-year-old boy who lost his arms, his pregnant mother, his father, siblings, and home in a U.S. air strike in Baghdad, was taken to Kuwait for treatment after complaining that the steady stream of media focused on him resulted only in gawking and empty promises of help from journalists. “You are coming to make fun of me because I have lost my arms?” he asked one reporter. “Doctor, doctor, no more journalists please.” A wild boar charged into an elderly German couple’s house and leapt into bed with them, waking them from their afternoon nap. Police in Berlin confiscated an air-raid siren from a 73-year-old man who had been using it to stun his talkative wife into submission. Tony Blair’s wife pointed out that the prime minister was not doing enough housework.
More from Margaret Cordi:
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 â€śhallwayâ€ť must have a nautical name. Why didnâ€™t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet heâ€™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 theyâ€™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 donâ€™t belong to, that doesnâ€™t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isnâ€™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 â€” because ocean life pays better than money! â€” 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