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At the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, President George W. Bush gave a speech on the Iraq war. “As Iraqi forces grow more capable,” he said, “they’re increasingly taking the lead in the fight against the terrorists.”CNN.comOperation Steel Hammer, intended to end Al Qaeda operations in Hit, west of Baghdad, was launched with a force of 1,500 U.S. Marines, 500 U.S. Army soldiers, and 500 Iraqi soldiers.ABC NewsNineteen Iraqi soldiers were killed in an attack north of Baghdad,Turkish Press/AFPand ten U.S. Marines were killed by a roadside bomb in Fallujah.BBC NewsIn New York City, a defense contractor named David H. Brooks rented out two floors of the Rainbow Room for his daughter Elizabeth’s bat mitzvah. Tom Petty, Kenny G, and members of Aerosmith performed, as did 50 Cent. The total cost of the party was reported as $10 million. “Go shorty,” rapped 50 Cent, “it’s your bat mitzvah, we gonna party like it’s your bat mitzvah.”New York Daily NewsTwo women told a reporter that Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the CaliforniaCongressman who resigned after he was found to have accepted bribes from defense contractors, once changed into pajama bottoms and a turtleneck sweater and offered the women champagne by the light of a lava lamp.NewsweekKTLAThe House Ethics Committee had not opened a new case in the last 12 months. “I would say by the early part of January, we will be fully organized,” said Representative Alan Mollohan (D., W. Va.). “Or should be really close to that.”The Washington PostSenator John McCain said that he didn’t think “the ethics committees are working very well.”Bloomberg.comIn Tennessee a man was arrested for firing a gun at traffic while wearing only a pair of socks.AP
In North Carolina Kenneth Boyd became the 1,000th prisoner executed since the United States reintroduced the death penalty in 1976. “It’s a milestone we should all be ashamed of,” said Boyd’s lawyer.BBC NewsFacing criticism over the United States’ network of secret prisons in Europe, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pointed out that intelligence gathered from terrorism suspects has helped prevent attacks in not only the United States but Europe as well. Rice also asserted that the United States does not transport detainees from one country to another for the purpose of torture.APThe U.S. Transportation Safety Administration decided that screwdrivers under seven inches long and scissors with blades under four inches long will again be permitted on airplanes.ReutersRussia confirmed plans to sell $1 billion worth of surface-to-air missiles and other weapons hardware to Iran,The Sydney Morning Heraldand it was reported that Iraqi militants, before they carried out raids or suicide bombings, were taking a methamphetamine-based drug called “pinky” that made them feel superhuman.The Daily MirrorA U.S. federal judge determined that it is constitutional for the New York CityPolice to randomly search passengers’ bags on the subway,Reutersand a Jasper County, Georgia, eighth-grader was dismissed from school after he took down a video camera installed in the school’s boys’ bathroom; it turned out that the camera had been placed there by the school principal so that he could observe the boys.WMAZ.comA theological commission planned to ask Pope Benedict XVI to eliminate limboâ??where unbaptized infants are thought to go after deathâ??from the catechism,Reutersand an atheist student group at the University of Texas was handing out pornography to anyone who gave them a Bible as part of a “Smut for Smut” program. “We consider the Bible to be a very negative force in the history of the world,” said a student.XBiz [NSFW]In Fremont, California, Iron Crotch Grandmaster Tu Jin-Sheng pulled a rental truck several yards with his penis. “He’s very special,” said student Shawnee Wang.Tri-Valley HeraldAn Indiana man was found guilty of murder for shooting a 15-year-old boy who threw eggs at him.Local6.comPresident Bush was called for jury duty but asked to delay his service until he was out of office,BBC Newsand a Wausau, Wisconsin, hunter shot and killed a buck that lacked testicles.Wausau Daily HeraldIn Russia a pack of squirrels attacked and, according to an eyewitness, “literally gutted” a large dog that was barking at them. When humans approached the squirrels ran away, some carrying flesh.BBC News
The National Security Agency released papers related to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident; one previously secret history, written in 2001, argued that intelligence regarding the incident was “deliberately skewed” to cover up 90 percent of intercepted North Vietnamese communications, so that President Lyndon Johnson and Congress could be more easily pushed into the Vietnam War.SFGateIt was revealed that the U.S. Army was writing positive news stories about the Iraq war, and was then paying to have the articles translated into Arabic and published in Iraqi newspapers. Abdul Zahra Zaki, editor of the newspaper Al Mada, said that if he had known the storiesâ??with titles like “Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism” and “More Money Goes to Iraq’s Development”â??were written by the Army he would have “charged much, much more.”LA TimesPresident Omar Bongo of Gabon won another term in office,Reutersand a South African court ruled that same-sex marriage was constitutional.APIn Phoenix, Arizona, a 14-year-old freshman at Barry Goldwater High School was arrested for raping a 75-year-old woman,AZCentral.comand in Manchester, New Hampshire, a man named Ronald MacDonald was arrested for stealing $133 from a safe at a Wendy’s restaurant.The Union leaderScientists in London were planning to insert nose cells into damaged human spines in the hope that the cells will stimulate the growth of nerve fibers,The Guardianand surgeons in France performed a partial face transplant, taking the nose and lips of a brain-dead donor and grafting them onto the face of a woman who had been severely disfigured by a dog.BBC NewsIn Gabon and Congo, scientists traced the origin of the Ebola virus to three different species of fruit bat; by stopping people from eating the bats, a scientist suggested, the spread of the virus could be slowed.LA TimesThere was a shortage of Santas in Perth, Australia; current Santas said that the risk of litigation was too great. “Once upon a time you’d walk through the mall saying â??Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmasâ??,” said Santa John Gomez, “but now you say nothing.”The Daily TelegraphIn Gavle, Sweden, vandals burned a huge straw Christmasgoat.BBC NewsThe White House put up nearly 600 feet of garland and erected an 18-and-a-half-foot fir tree decorated with tulips and azaleas in honor of this year’s Christmas theme, “All Things Bright and Beautiful.”The New York TimesAn Amtrak train struck a bald eagle in Fredericksburg, Virginia.Fredericksburg.com
More from Paul Ford:
Percentage of African countries in which it is illegal to practice homosexuality:
Scientists in Taiwan created transgenic pigs that glow in the dark.
In Norfolk six black-tipped reef sharks, a bonnethead shark, a bowmouth guitar shark, six penguins, and a green sea turtle were evacuated from the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary because of flooding.
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Notes on South Africaâ€™s failed revolution
â€śI will never know what goes on in your mind, or what that shield of a smile behind which we try to advance should tell us.â€ť