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Militants in Iraq attacked the Abu Ghraib prison, wounding forty-four American soldiers and twelve prisoners.BBC NewsBritain announced that it will pull 5,500 troops from Iraq and increase its presence in Afghanistan, to help with the hunt for Osama bin Laden.TelegraphSyria vowed to be out of Lebanon by the end of April,Arab Newsand Canada decided not to deport a flying squirrel.ReutersAn earthquake off Sumatra killed at least one thousand people, Wikipediaand five American soldiers were arrested for trying to use military aircraft to smuggle cocaine from Colombia into the United States.ReutersA Russian court found a museum director and an artist guilty of creating blasphemousart and fined them $3,600 each. The piece in question depicted Jesus on a Coca-Cola advertisement with the words “this is my blood.”The New York TimesIn France, radical wine producers threw sticks of dynamite at a state agriculture office and demanded that the state take action to stop the depression in French wine prices.Wine InternationalZimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s party won a two-thirds majority in a rigged election,Guardianand Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika insisted that he was not afraid of ghosts but did not comment on reports that one of his predecessors had often been visited by mysterious dwarfs.The New York TimesA Britishsex festival was cancelled because not enough people wanted to go,Reutersand the European Union placed a 15 percent duty on Americantrousers and sweet corn.Times OnlineFifty-nine former American diplomats were planning to send a letter urging the Senate to reject John R. Bolton’s nomination as ambassador to the United Nations,The New York Timesand a Saudi Arabian princess was arrested for keeping slaves in Winchester, Massachusetts.BostonHerald.com
A former scout master in Houston, Texas, resigned from the Lion’s Club and turned himself in for sexually abusing a blind nine-year-old boy,Houston ChronicleABC13.comand a former policeman was arrested for flying to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, in order to molestboys.Sign On San DiegoScientists in California developed a scale that can measure the mass of a cluster of xenon atoms. It turns out that they weigh a few zeptograms.BBC NewsHarvard students were upset that the brand-name cereals in their dining halls had been replaced with generic brands,Boston Globeand Terri Schiavo’s parents authorized a direct-marketing firm to sell a list of those who contributed to Terri’s cause.The New York TimesNew York State legislators met their budget deadline for the first time in twenty-one years.New York Daily NewsCambodiaprivatized the Killing Fields at Cheoung Ek; a Japanese firm will plant flowers near the tower of eight thousand skulls and will raise admission rates.ReutersLaura Bush said that she and President George W. Bush both have living wills, then spent six hours in Afghanistan.Sydney Morning HeraldCNN.comA federal judge refused to let the Bush Administration, which opposes torture, send prisoners from Guantánamo Bay to other prisons abroad without granting the prisoners access to the courts.Washington PostThe United States announced that it will establish nine new military bases in Afghanistan, bringing the total to twelve; Afghanistan announced that it will once again postpone parliamentary elections.Aljazeera.comTaliban militants killed nine policemen in southern Afghanistan.Arab News
A new report on American intelligence failures concluded that the Bush Administration’s evidence of biological weapons in Iraq was almost entirely derived from reports made by an Iraqi defector code-named “Curveball,” who was described by those who knew him as “crazy” and “a congenital liar.”LA TimesAn investigation determined that the rate of malnutrition in Iraqi children under five has nearly doubled since the U.S. invaded,Aljazeera.comand the U.S. Army’s Psychological Operations group was developing propaganda science fiction comic books for distribution in the Middle East.BBC NewsNearly ten years after the Oklahoma City bombing, an FBI search found explosives in a crawl space in Terry Nichols’s former home,APand Pakistan successfully test-fired the Hatf II, a short-range nuclear-capablemissile.Aljazeera.comIn Mecca, a man stabbed his father to death after the father threatened to tattle on the man for not praying,Arab Newsand in Israel, someone spray-painted the words “murderous dog” on Yitzhak Rabin’s grave.HaaretzNoting their mutual hatred of Jews, a neo-Nazi in Florida called on Al Qaeda to join forces with the Aryan Nations,CNN.comand Olga, the first Siberiantiger ever fitted with a radio collar, was killed by poachers.Eurekalert!Robert Creeley, Terri Schiavo, Johnnie Cochran, Frank Perdue, Mitch Hedberg, and the pope died, as did the man who wrote the theme song to “Gidget.” Indianapolis StarIndianapolis StarNew York TimesNew York TimesFredericksburg.comTurkeys attacked elementary school students in Indiana,IndyStar.comand the Boy Scouts’ Director of Programming was arrested on childpornography charges.CNN.comA Minnesota man threw a toddler at a policeman,WCCOand a huge naked screaming Wisconsin man was shot as he threatened his equally naked children with scissors.JSOnlineMs. WheelchairWisconsin was stripped of her title after she was caught standing up,CNN.comHamas and Islamic Jihad announced that they would join the PLO,Haaretzand a handicapped man used a computer chip implanted in his brain to control a television.BBCThe Marburg virus was still killing people in Angola.Medical News TodayPaul Wolfowitz was confirmed as head of the World Bank,The Hinduand a Toronto man attempted to pass a Breathalyzer test by stuffing his mouth full of his own feces.Ottowa SunIn Shanghai, a man stabbed and killed another man for selling their jointly owned imaginarycyber-sword without sharing the proceeds,ABC Newsand after four years of hard work, 1,300 researchers in ninety-five countries concluded that humans are destroying the world.BBC
More from Paul Ford:
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in Californiaâs ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as âinvasive,â âexotic,â âalienâ â all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as âindigenously Californianâ elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a âhome without its mother.â Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the âworldâs biggest selfies,â and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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âShelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.â