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Mad cow disease was discovered in the United States for the first time, in a Holstein cow that was too sick to walk but was nonetheless slaughtered and sold for meat. The mad Holstein’s brain and spinal column were sent to a rendering plant somewhere, possibly to be turned into dog or chicken food; there was no word on whether the cow’s blood was processed to be fed to young calves as a milk supplement. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Venemen, a former lobbyist for the beef industry, insisted that even meat from a mad cow is safe to eat, and she promised to feed beef to her family for Christmas.Guardian, New York TimesGovernment and other beef industry officials claimed that there were “firewalls” in place to prevent infectious prions from reaching American hamburgers; Dr. Stanley Prusiner, the Nobel laureate who discovered prions, contradicted those claims and explained that he believes the disease is already widespread in the United States. “They treat the disease as if it were an infection that you can contain by quarantining animals on farms,” he said. “It’s as though my work of the last 20 years did not exist.”New York TimesTen thousand pounds of beef were recalled in eight states,Reutersand about 100 people called hot lines to say they might have eaten some of the meat.New York TimesPresident Bush, a spokesman said, “continued to eat beef,”Washington Postand agriculture officials were hoping to blame Canada.ReutersBritish health officials reported the first possible transmission of mad cow disease to a human via blood transfusion, andNature.comChina reported a new SARS case.ReutersA Swedishmother was arrested for trying to bake her five-month-old baby.Sydney Morning HeraldFrat boys at the University of Georgia killed and ate a rabid raccoon.Associated Press
Several American soldiers were killed by Iraqi guerrillas in various attacks around the country. One died in a car accident. ReutersTwo Thai and five Bulgarian soldiers and seven Iraqis were killed in four major coordinated car-bomb attacks by guerrillas in Karbala; 500 Bulgarians were evacuated from the area, because their base was destroyed.Washington Post, ReutersGrenades, rockets, and mortars were fired at the Ishtar Sheraton Hotel in Baghdad.Associated PressPrime Minister Tony Blair claimed in a Christmas message to the British military that the Iraq Survey Group had found “massive evidence of a huge system of clandestine laboratories”; L. Paul Bremer, the American proconsul, dismissed Blair’s claim as a “red herring.”GuardianFive Afghan soldiers died when a man they had detained blew himself up.ReutersA bomb went off near some UN housing in Kabul.New York TimesGeneral Pervez Musharraf, the dictator of Pakistan, survived another assassination attempt.TelegraphFour Israelis died in a bus-stop suicide bombing outside Tel Aviv, andAssociated Pressan Israeli soldier shot a peaceful, unarmed protester. A national controversy erupted when it turned out that the protester was Jewish.New York TimesChina said it had broken up a Taiwanese spy ring, andNew York TimesSpain foiled a Basque terrorist plot to blow up a train in Madrid’s busiest station on Christmas Eve.New York TimesBritish police asked the government to grant them the power to stop cars by using remote control.Guardian
Britain’s Beagle 2 spacecraft apparently landed on Mars, though it failed to transmit its nine-note homing signal, which was composed by a pop band called Blur.Daily TelegraphAt least 138 passengers died on Christmas Day when an airliner hit a building on takeoff in Cotonou, Benin, and then crashed into the sea.Voice of AmericaCalifornia suffered an earthquake that measured 6.5 on the Richter scale; 3 people died when they were crushed by a clock tower.New ScientistHundreds of Filipinos were buried in landslides, and hundredsMalaya.com.phof Chinese were killed by poison gas emitted from a natural gas well.Financial TimesMost of Bam, an Iranian city, was destroyed in a massive earthquake; between 20,000 and 40,000 people were lying dead in the rubble.Washington PostParmalat, the Italian dairy company, went bankrupt and its founder, Calisto Tanzi, was arrested on suspicion of fraud.TelegraphMarriage makes women happier, a new study found, but men feel better while living in sin.New ScientistMichael Jackson said that when he was a boy he slept with grown men many times, and he complained that the police had locked him in a room that had “doo doo” all over the walls.CBS NewsA psychiatrist declared that Armin Meiwes, the famous German cannibal, is sane but would benefit from psychotherapy.Associated PressScientists in Texas cloned a white-tailed deer.ReutersPrincess Anne’s English bull terrier Dotty mauled Pharos, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite corgi, which had to be put down as a result; the princess was convicted last year under the Dangerous Dogs Act after Dotty attacked two children in a park.BBCA South African beauty queen was mauled by a hippo in Botswana, and aReuterslarge crocodile ate a young man in Australia.GuardianPiranha attacks were on the rise in Brazil.BBC
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Chances that a deep breath inhaled today will contain a molecule from Julius Caesar’s dying breath:
Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences, by John Allen Paulos, Hill and Wang (N.Y.C.)
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.”