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It was revealed that the National Security Agency, with the assistance of AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth, has secretly stored the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. “It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world” said an anonymous whistleblower. A poll found that 63 percent of Americans feel that it is acceptable for the NSA to build such a database.USA TodayMedia Matters for AmericaABC NewsIt was reported that the United States was analyzing phone call records of reporters from ABC News, the New York Times, and the Washington Post to determine the identities of CIA employees who leak information to the press. “It’s time,” a federal law enforcement official told a reporter for ABC News, “for you to get some new cell phones, quick.”ABC NewsThe FBI searched the home of former number-three CIA official Kyle “Dusty” Foggo; Foggo is under investigation for his relationship with defense contractors linked to the Randy “Duke” Cunningham bribery scandal.Bloomberg.comIn Virginia a federal judge was considering whether the case brought by Khaled el-Masri against former CIA director George Tenet could proceed; el-Masri says he was abducted and beaten by the CIA, while the United States claims that allowing the case to move forward would expose state secrets and endanger the war on terrorism.The Washington PostA fight broke out in the lobby of Iraq’s parliament building after a cell phone played a Shiite ringtone,Reutersand more than 30 people died in a series of bombings in Basra and around Baghdad.AFPA car bomb killed 17 people in Talafar,BBC Newsand it was announced that five journalists had been killed so far this month in Iraq.BBC NewsThe Red Cross criticized the United States for refusing access to prisoners in secret detention. “We know that some people, we don’t know how many and we don’t know where,” said a Red Cross spokeswoman, “are held in places where we don’t have access.”ABC News OnlinePresident George W. Bush proposed sending in the National Guard to patrol the Mexican border,ChinaView.cnand the United States announced that it would renew full diplomatic relations with Libya.BBC NewsZimbabwe was facing an acute tampon shortage.Times Online
In South Koreastem-cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk was indicted for fraud, embezzlement, and violation of bioethics laws,CNN.comand in Canadascientists confirmed that an odd-looking bear shot and killed in April was a “grolar” bear (half polar bear, half grizzly), thus exempting the hunter who shot the bear from paying a grizzly-killing fine.MSNBCScientists announced that the recently discovered species of Tanzanian monkey which utters distinctive honk barks is different enough from a mangabey to merit inclusion in its own, new genus, Rungwecebus.The Chicago TribuneAt a zoo in the Netherlands three bears ate a monkey. “The macaque,” said an eyewitness, “was shrieking and resisting.”Breitbart.comMany species of bananas, said the United Nations, were in danger of extinction.New ScientistIn California a 1,500-pound sea lion was biting people,SFGate.comand authorities in gas masks entered a residence to remove 98 guinea pigs, 84 cats, 27 dogs, 14 rabbits, three potbellied pigs, and one bird.AP via Breitbart.comSnoop Dogg was banned for life from the United Kingdom.FemaleFirst.co.ukA Baptist church in Britain was planning to wash cars with baptismal-font water.BBC NewsThe Air Force, under orders from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was researching alternative fuels for its jets. “Energy,” said an Air Force representative, “is a national security issue.”The New York TimesScientists in Illinois said that they had refined a process that transforms pig manure into crude oil, and suggested that up to 3.6 gallons of crude oil could be generated daily per pig.Belleville News DemocratGas in Venezuela was selling for $0.12 per gallon,Reuters via Yahoo! Newsand a Britishinventor claimed to have created a car that gets 8,000 miles per gallon, improving on his previous record of 6,603 miles per gallon.AFP via Yahoo! NewsIn Nigeria more than 150 people, some of them stealing fuel from a pipeline, died when the pipeline exploded. “By tomorrow,” said a health commissioner, “we will dig a bigger ditch and bury them all.”Reuters
In Lynchburg, Virginia, at Liberty University (which fines its students $500 if they engage in witchcraft), Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) stood next to Jerry Falwell and spoke in support of the Iraq war.The New York TimesLiberty UniversityArmy recruiters in Portland, Oregon, were under investigation for recruiting an autistic boy for a dangerous position in the cavalry scouts.TwinCities.comThe Israeli army announced that female soldiers must not lower the waistline of their pants or take in their shirts.Toronto StarA small plane carrying Senator Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.) landed safely after being struck by lightning,AP via Yahoo! Newsand a model airplane crash in Hungary killed two people.Toronto StarBird flu appeared to have been eradicated in Thailand and Vietnam.The New York TimesIn south Texas 100 people had been diagnosed with Morgellons disease. “These people,” said a nurse practitioner, “will have like beads of sweat but it’s black, black and tarry.” “It looked,” said the mother of a Morgellons patient, “like a piece of spaghetti was sticking out about a quarter to an eighth of an inch long, and it was sticking out of his chest.”MYSA.comIn Kenya, Thomas Cholmondeley, a British aristocrat, was arrested for shooting and killing a man who he believed was poaching on his 100,000-acre farm,BBC Newsand in Florida an alligator that recently killed a jogger was caught with the jogger’s arms in its stomach.BBC NewsFEMA announced that it was ready for the Atlantic hurricane season, which starts June 1,Reuters via Yahoo! Newsand a tornado struck Wizard of Oz Drive in Hillsboro, Ohio.MSNBCThe International Atomic Energy Agency found evidence that Iran possesses highly enriched uranium,AP via Yahoo! NewsSaddam Hussein said that he was ready to die,Times Onlineand a woman in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, found a potato shaped like a heart. AP via Yahoo! NewsThe United Nations said that 1,200 people were dying in Congo each day.The New York TimesIn Kenya pilgrims were traveling to Mombasa to see a miraculous tuna with a Koranic verse inscribed into its scales. “God,” reads the tuna, “is the greatest of all providers.”AFP via Yahoo! News
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.”