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Doctors determined that the mysterious facial disfigurement of Viktor Yushchenko, the Ukrainian opposition leader, was caused by dioxin, a component of Agent Orange; his blood was found to contain over a thousand times the normal human level of dioxin, and someBBCspeculated that the poison was mixed into soup fed to Yushchenko during a dinner with the Ukrainian security service on the night before he became ill in September.The AustralianColin Powell and Russian leaders squabbled about each other’s interest in monitoring the upcoming Ukrainian election, andNew York TimesHamid Karzai was sworn in as Afghanistan’s first elected president.New York TimesMarwan Barghouti, the Palestinian leader who had vowed to campaign from prison to succeed Yasir Arafat in the January election, withdrew his candidacy and endorsed Mahmoud Abbas, now the clear frontrunner in the race who last week apologized to Kuwait for Palestinian support of the 1990 invasion by Saddam Hussein.BBCA military spokesman denied rumors that Saddam Hussein was on a hunger strike as the anniversary of his capture approached; some of his former associates had threatened such a strike but they were reported to be snacking.Agence France PresseWith its food supply running low, the crew of the international space station was asked to cut calories until fresh groceries could be delivered on Christmas.CNNDefense secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked at a pep talk in Kuwait, “Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?” Rumsfeld mused, “You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have.” Besides, he noted, “You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can still be blown up.”APTwo days later the Pentagon asked a contractor to speed up its production of armored Humvees.New York TimesThe notoriously outdated London Underground conceded that some of its spare parts were purchased on eBay, and scientistsAgence France Pressedeveloped a biodegradable cell phone cover that turns into a sunflower when thrown away.CNN
French police planted plastic explosives in a random dark-blue suitcase at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris as a security exercise, then failed to monitor the bag as a conveyor belt rolled it to one of 90 planes with an international destination. A police spokesman expressed the hope that whoever finds the explosives will return them to authorities.New York TimesBernard Kerik withdrew from consideration to replace Tom Ridge as head of homeland security after discovering that a nanny he had employed may have been an illegal immigrant for whom he may not have paid taxes; questions also arose about his failure to report financial gifts, including a $1,900 jeweled Tiffany badge he received while New York City’s police commissioner.Daily NewsCongress voted to overhaul the country’s intelligence structure, enacting some of the recommendations of the September 11 commission. The bill creates the job of director of national intelligence to oversee the CIA and 14 other spy agencies, requires more border guards, and forces cooperation among federal, state, local, and private organizations.CNNIt was revealed that the Bush Administration has been tapping the phone of Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency who questioned U.S. intelligence on Iraq, in an effort to find a reason to block his reappointment next summer.Washington PostElBaradei said he believed that North Korea has converted thousands of spent nuclear fuel rods into enough weapons-grade plutonium for four to six bombs, andNew York TimesIranian officials suggested that their country’s enrichment of uranium was accelerated to instigate offers of economic incentives from the West.New York TimesIsrael promised to release dozens of Palestinian prisoners as a favor to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak before the Palestinian election.APA survey found that about half of Britons have never heard of Auschwitz, andThe IndependentAugusto Pinochet was indicted and placed under house arrest by a Chilean court for the abduction of nine dissidents and the murder of one of them during his dictatorship.New York TimesThe fate of Pale Male, a virile red-tailed hawk residing on the cornice of a New York City building for 11 years, was uncertain after the family nest was removed by the co-op building’s board; the next day Pale Male was seen carrying twigs from Central Park in a futile attempt to rebuild. Those supporting the eviction took exception to the occasional bloody carcass of a prey pigeon or rat falling to the sidewalk, but protestors bearing signs that read “Honk 4 Hawks” began a daily vigil.New York TimesScientists were warning men not to place laptop computers on their laps since overheating the scrotum can reduce fertility.BBCEngland’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents urged people attending office Christmas parties to resist photocopying body parts and dancing on desks, and to avoid flaming Christmas puddings at all costs.ReutersThe Vatican disapproved of a nativity scene in Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in London that depicted David and Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice, as Joseph and Mary, with George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and the Duke of Edinburgh standing in for the three wise men. “There is a tradition in which each generation tries to reenact the nativity,” explained a spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury, “but oh deary me.”BBC
President Bush appointed attorney Gerald Reynolds to the chairmanship of the Commission of Civil Rights. “I just assume somewhere in my life some knucklehead has looked at me and my brown self and said that they have given me less or denied me an opportunity,” he said, “but the bottom line is . . . I am so insensitive that I probably didn’t notice.”New York TimesCanada’s supreme court ruled that the government can define marriage to include same-sex couples.APThe FCC estimated that 99.8 percent of complaints about broadcast indecency were filed by one conservative group, the Parents Television Council, accounting for the exorbitant rise in the number of complaints that chairman Michael Powell described to Congress earlier this year, from 350 in 2001 to 240,000 in 2003.Media WeekResearchers surmised that we are hardwired for instant gratification because hunter-gatherers were rewarded for grabbing food morsels rather than waiting for something better; blue jays given a choice of a small bit of food or waiting a short time for a larger quantity could not be trained to wait, even after a thousand repetitions.EurekAlertA report found that a federally funded program to promote abstinence in schools has been teaching students that a 43-day-old fetus is a “thinking person,” abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, touching a person’s genitals can result in pregnancy, and HIV can be spread by sweat and tears. One book preaches the story of a knight who rejects a princess when she becomes too opinionated about how best to slay a dragon. The parable concludes: “Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it may lessen a man’s confidence or even turn him away from his princess.”Washington PostScientists confirmed that men prefer subordinate women to dominant ones.EurekAlertKenneth Starr was having second thoughts about delving into Bill Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky.AP
More from Margaret Cordi:
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.”