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Saddam Hussein refused to appear in court to defend himself against war crimes, complaining of a lack of clean underwear. “Go to hell, all you agents of America,” he said.CNN.comAt least 66 people were killed in suicide bombings in Iraq,PakTribuneand 625 prisoners were found packed in a small space in Baghdad.The New York TimesIraq’s Victorious Army Group was holding a contest to see who could design the best website to promote their message of jihad. The contest winner will receive Allah’s blessings and be allowed to fire three rockets at an American military base.The New York TimesThe probe into the U.S. policy of paying Iraqi newspapers for positive coverage widened to include the Baghdad Press Club, a military-created P.R. organization; the military admitted that the club compensated reporters, but made clear that it did not insist on positive coverage. An Iraqi journalist said that the club paid $25 for each story that ran ($45 for stories with photos), and $50 for television reports.USA TodaySecretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld criticized the media in a speech, claiming that news is “reported and spread around the world, often with little context and little scrutiny, let alone correction or accountability after the fact.”ReutersIn Iran a military plane crashed into an apartment building, killing at least 115 people, most of them journalists.The New York TimesAustralianwhites rioted against people of Arab descent.The New York TimesPakistan extended its ban on kites due to the deadliness of kiteflying; in February, 19 people died and over 200 were injured during a kite festival.The New York TimesCondoleezza Rice made a deal with Romania that will allow the United States to use military bases there.BBC NewsIt was reported that there were 80,000 names on the United States’ list of possible terror suspects.AFP
A conference on global warming was held in Montreal. The United States was represented by Harlan Watson, whose appointment as U.S. climate negotiator was suggested by ExxonMobil; Watson’s presence led to complaints by environmentalists.The Washington PostCanadian Prime Minister Paul Martin criticized the United States for its reticence in dealing with global warming. “There is such a thing as a global conscience,” he said, “and now is the time to listen to it.”ReutersThe European Sound Climate Policy Coalition, an ExxonMobil-funded lobbying group, was working to destroy Europe’s support for the Kyoto treaty on climate change.The New Zealand HeraldThe Inuit people filed a suit against the United States over its role in global warming,Breitbart.comand an increasing number of Americans were heating their homes with corn.IndyStar.comA religious studies professor at the University of Kansas was beaten up on a roadside after he mocked creationism in an email,CantonRep.comand at least eight American megachurches planned to cancel their Sunday services on Christmas day.The New York TimesChristmas activists were upset to receive White House greeting cards that wished them a happy “holiday season” instead of a Merry Christmas,The Washington Postand the office of the Governor of Georgia issued a press release to announce the lighting of a holiday tree; a half-hour later the office announced that the tree was “in fact a Christmas tree.”The New York TimesA passenger jet slid off the runway at Chicago’s Midway Airport and hit a car, killing a six-year-old boy as he ate some McDonald’s food and sang “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”KVIA.comA Funyun shaped like the Virgin Mary cradling the baby Jesus sold online for $609.The Miami HeraldFidel Castro said that Florida Governor Jeb Bush was fat; Bush, who at 225 pounds is between 18 and 44 pounds above the ideal weight for his height and frame, said he was flattered by the criticism. “It is not a criticism,” clarified Castro, “rather a suggestion that he do some exercises and go on a diet, don’t you think? I’m doing this for the gentleman’s health.”APElian Gonzalez turned 12.CNN.com
Police in Guangdong, China, fired into a crowd of demonstrators who were protesting the sale of government land for a wind-power plant; villagers said that at least ten people had been killed.SFGate.comNinety-two members of the U.S. House of Representatives were planning to challenge the provision of the 14th amendment that provides those born in the United States with citizenship. “Addressing this problem,” said Representative Lamar Smith (R., Tex.), “is needed if we’re going to try to combat illegal immigration on all fronts.”Former Senator Eugene McCarthy,The New York Timescomedian Richard Pryor,The New York Timesand science-fiction author Robert Sheckley died.UPIIn San Francisco a group of lesbian motorcyclists successfully trademarked the name “Dykes on Bikes,”Reutersand Ford began to cut back its advertising in gay publications.Breitbart.comThe supreme court of Italy ruled that it is not necessarily racist to call someone a “dirty negro.”ReutersA police officer in Hamtramck, Michigan, tasered his partner during an argument over whether to stop their car to buy a soda.MSNBCIn Miami an air marshal shot and killed an American Airlines passenger, Rigoberto Alpizar, who, according to the air marshal, claimed to have a bomb in his backpack. Before the shooting, Alpizar’s wife attempted to explain that her husband was bipolar and off his medication. No bomb was found.Detroit NewsA Memphis, Tennessee, woman was arrested after she hired a hit man to kill four other men and take their cocaine; the hit man turned out to be an undercover police officer, and the cocaine turned out to be queso fresco cheese.The Washington PostIn Boston a man named Jason Strickland asked a court to recognize him as the father of 11-year-old Haleigh Poutre after Strickland’s wife, who was the aunt and legal guardian of Poutre, shot herself and the girl’s grandmother in a murder-suicide. If Strickland, who is accused of beating Poutre into a permanent vegetative state, is recognized as the girl’s father, he can order that she be kept on life support and thus avoid a murder charge. ReutersIn the rainforests of Borneo, scientists were attempting to trap a newly discovered carnivorous cat-fox creature; the creature appears to have a muscular tail.CNN.comIt was announced that the Dutchsparrow that was shot and killed after it knocked down 23,000 dominoes will be preserved and displayed at Rotterdam’s Natural History museum, perched atop a box of dominoes.BBC NewsIn West Virginia five deer leaped to their deaths from the top of a five-story garage,The Mercury Newsand veterinarians in Rome inserted 50 24-karat gold pellets into a lion named Bellamy to treat his arthritis. “The lion,” explained a veterinarian, “is getting old.”AP
More from Paul Ford:
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
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 naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby 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.”