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The 110th Congress convened on Capitol Hill, and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California kicked off her tenure as America’s first female speaker of the House with four days of parties dubbed “Pelosi-Palooza.” The festivities included a performance by singer Tony Bennett and an honorary street-naming in Pelosi’s hometown of Baltimore. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia disrupted the Congress’s opening prayer with shouts of “Yes, Lord!” and “Mmmhmmm!” and Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts mimed tipping a bottle to his mouth. Congress’s first Muslim member took his oath on a Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson, and a Buddhist representative swore in on no book at all.Washington PostWashington PostCBS NewsAZ CentralThe inauguration of Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York was celebrated with a twelve-liter bottle of Veuve Clicquot that required a wrench to uncork and bloodied the hand of its opener,New York Timesand concerns about terrorism prompted Governor Jim Gibbons of Nevada to take his oath shortly after midnight on New Year’s despite the admitted absence of any known threat. AP via San Diego Union-TribuneFormer President George Herbert Walker Bush imitated the comedian Dana Carvey imitating himself at a service for the late President Gerald Ford. New York TimesNewly released FBI files revealed that the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist checked into a hospital for sedative dependency in 1981. During his rehabilitation, Rehnquist spoke of “a CIA plot against him” and tried to escape from the hospital clad in his pajamas. Washington PostAfter two centuries without Congressional representation, it appeared that residents of Washington, D.C. might get a vote.AP via Boston Globe
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced that he would not be seeking a second term. “I didn’t want to take this position,” said al-Maliki. “I wish it could be done with even before the end of this term.” InTheNewsGrandmothers gathered in Times Square to hold a vigil for the 3,000 U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq,.AP via International Herald Tribuneand the Army apologized for sending letters to officers killed in action urging them to reenlist.CNNIraqi security guards were arrested for taking illegal cell phone footage of Shiite officials taunting Saddam Hussein before he was hanged. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt called images of the execution “revolting and barbaric,” and Libya announced its intention to erect a statue of Hussein on the gallows. Master Sgt. Robert Ellis, a senior medical adviser responsible for Hussein’s care in Baghdad, praised the stoicism displayed by Hussein. “Saddam,” he said, “was gangsta.” A Texas 10-year-old who had seen video footage of the execution died after hanging himself from his bunk bed.ABC NewsDer Spiegel STL TodayReuters via MSNBC
Armenian politicians were accused of buying votes with potatoes,Telegraphand King Abdullah II of Jordan complained that odors from an Israeli livestock facility were wafting into his palace on the Red Sea.AP via HaaretzScientists were performing experiments to turn gaysheep straight.Daily TelegraphA two-faced calf was born on a farm in Virginia. “Genetically, this is one of my better calves,” said its owner.AP via Yahoo! NewsThe FDA approved Slentrol, a weight loss drug for dogs.USA TodayLocal police claimed ownership of a rare meteorite that crashed through the roof of a New Jersey family’s house, and United Airlines employees claimed to have seen a saucer-like object hovering over O’Hare Airport last fall.AP via Yahoo! NewsA woman watching New Year’s fireworks in Florida avoided serious injury when a shot fired into the air glanced off the golden strap of her “very cheap” brassiere.AP via Yahoo! NewsIn Jonesboro, Arkansas, a kindergartener brought a gun to school;KAITin Sydney, Australia, feuding families armed with knives, baseball bats, metal poles, planks, branches, cricket bats, pick handles, screwdrivers, golf clubs, curtain rods and glass bottles rumbled;Daily Telegraphand in Houston, Texas, the lawyer for a teenager whose forehead contains a subpoenaed 9mm bullet said that his client would allow the bullet to be removed as long as he is not charged with capital murder.AP via Star TelegramShooting threatened to replace golf as U.K. executives’ social networking sport of choice.The TimesA study found that American workers were receiving the “silent treatment” from angry bosses, AP via Yahoo! Newsand the nation of Qatar appeared to have been blocked from editing Wikipedia.The Lede (New York Times)A British man died of a heart attack when ambulance crews could not be dispatched because they were on an E.U.-mandated lunch break,The Sunand a lawyer representing a French prisoner who ripped out and ate the lung of a fellow inmate said his client had been denied a request for isolation.Daily TelegraphIn New York City, a veteran saved a teenager from an oncoming subway train by throwing himself over the boy’s body and keeping still as two cars passed inches above their heads. Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented the vet with a medal for civic achievement and one year of free bus and subway rides.Reuters via Yahoo! NewsSeattle parents defended their decision to stunt the growth of their brain-impaired 9-year-old daughter,LA Timesa man shot a thousand-pound wild hog in suburban Atlanta,AP via Yahoo! Newsand it was reported that an 80-year-old great-grandmother in Kentucky had killed her first deer on a hunt in November. “Ka-powie!” said the woman. “Don’t stop doing things ’til you’re in the grave!”AP via Yahoo! News
More from Miriam Markowitz:
Discussed in this essay:
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Henry Holt. 352 pages. $28.
The extinction symbol is a spare graphic that began to appear on London walls and sidewalks a couple of years ago. It has since become popular enough as an emblem of protest that people display it at environmental rallies. Others tattoo it on their arms. The symbol consists of two triangles inscribed within a circle, like so:
â€śThe triangles represent an hourglass; the circle represents Earth; the symbol as a whole represents, according to a popular Twitter feed devoted to its dissemination (@extinctsymbol, 19.2K followers), â€śthe rapidly accelerating collapse of global biodiversityâ€ťÂ â€” what scientists refer to alternately as the Holocene extinction, the Anthropocene extinction, and (with somewhat more circumspection) the sixth mass extinction.
Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:
Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.
Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.
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Scienceâ€™s crisis of faith