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President George W. Bush gave the State of the Union address, in which he discussed plans to balance the budget, double the size of the Border Patrol, reduce gasoline consumption in the United States by 20 percent, and institute a tax deduction to help American workers afford private health insurance. He announced that he was sending more than 20,000 additional soldiers to Iraq, asked Congress to authorize an increase of 92,000 active soldiers over the next five years, and proposed forming a “Civilian Reserve Corps.” He complimented several guests on their heroic kindness, courage, and self-sacrifice, including NBA star Dikembe Mutombo and Julie Aigner-Clark, the founder of an independent video-production business now owned by the Walt Disney Company. The state of the union, Bush said, is strong. NYTArmy Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, an expert on counterinsurgency, replaced Army Gen. George Casey as U.S. commander of troops in Iraq, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a non-binding resolution opposing President Bush‘s plan to increase the number of troops. Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia expressed hope that “wherever possible, the Iraqis should bear the brunt of the sectarian violence.” USA TodayU.S. and Iraqi forces in the Shiite holy city of Najaf killed at least 200 members of an apocalyptic cult, Reutersand an egg crate full of pigeons exploded at a pet market in Baghdad, killing 15 people and injuring 35. “My friends and I rushed to the scene,” said a witness, “where we saw burned dead bodies, pieces of flesh, and several dead expensive puppies and birds.”BBCAt the World Economic Forum in Davos, Adel Abdul Mahdi, the Vice President of Iraq, called the occupation of Iraq an “idiot decision.”Reuters
The U.S. military gave a public demonstration of a new non-lethal heat-ray gun known as the Active Denial System,BBCand the perjury trial of former vice-presidential aide I. Scooter Libby began. Cathie Martin, former communications director for Vice President Dick Cheney, testified that the government often releases bad news late on Friday. “Fewer people pay attention to it,” she explained. CIA official Craig Schmall testified that Libby had met with Tom Cruise to discuss the treatment of Scientologists in Germany. Libby “was a little excited about it,” he recalled; Schmall said that he too had been excited.Washington PostWashington PostSix teenage girls were arrested on conspiracy charges after a list of 300 assassination targets, including Tom Cruise and the Energizer Bunny, was discovered in a trash can in a rural Tennessee high school. “I was very scared, my friends were scared,” said sophomore Lakyn Ledford, who stayed home after learning that student-athletes were also on the list. AP via SFGate.comIt was revealed that Government Elementary School Number 4, the public school in Indonesia that Barack Obama attended when he was six, had a painting of Jesus on the wall. Fox News acknowledged that they had given too much credence to a claim by Insight Magazine that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was investigating the possibility that Obama’s public school was a madrassah.ABCRepublican legislators in Georgia introduced a bill to allow a white suburb of Atlanta to secede from the city. AP via Yahoo
North Koreademanded 44 million euros fromthe insurance company Lloyd’sof London as compensation for damages inan alleged catastrophic helicopter accident in April 2005. Accordingto their filed claim, a helicopter owned by the state airline wasflying from Pyongyang to a remote island to save a woman who was inlabor with triplets when it crashed into a warehouse full ofhumanitarian-relief supplies, causing a fire. “All this businessabout spending their money ontheir nuclear program,” said a sourceclose to the North Koreans, “iscompletetosh.” LondonTimesFordposted a loss of $12.7 billion for 2006, the largest in its 103-year history, and equivalent to the GDP of Jordan. Asked about his plans for the company, CEO Alan R. Mulally said, “At the top of the list, I would put dealing with reality.”USA TodayNYTProfits at Tokyo-based Nintendo Co. were up 43 percent in the nine months ending in December, largely on sales of its new Wii video-game system,AP via LA Timesand Apple CEO Steve Jobs was questioned by federal investigators about his role in an options backdating scandal. Reuters via eweek.comScientists in Jena, Germany, who had been using spaghetti and cucumbers as bait to make a sloth climb up and down a pole, gave up after three years,APand veterinarians at Aquatopia in Antwerp announced that Mozart, an iguana that has had an erection for a week, would have to have one of his two penises amputated. Reuters via the AustralianIn Leisureville, a retirement community in Florida, a registered sex offender died of heart disease while looking at pornography on his computer while naked,Forida Sun-Sentineland a ring-neck duck named Perky, who was found alive in a hunter’s refrigerator two days after being shot, died, then came back to life in Tallahassee. BBCA molecular scientist who owns a café announced that he had found a way to put caffeine in a donut.AP via NY PostRuth Bader Ginsburg said that being the only female Supreme Court justice made her feel lonely, USA Todayand Ryszard Kapuscinski, Polish reporter and author of several acclaimed works of nonfiction, including The Soccer War, died.BBCAt the Gulf Cup tournament in Abu Dhabi, Iraqis painted their faces and cheered their national soccer team. “By God, football unites us,” said one woman in the crowd. “I wish we could be like that back home.” The team failed to make the final round. Reuters via The Australian
More from Sam Stark:
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word â€śhallwayâ€ť must have a nautical name. Why didnâ€™t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet heâ€™d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands theyâ€™d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you donâ€™t belong to, that doesnâ€™t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isnâ€™t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members â€” because ocean life pays better than money! â€” who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Rank of Detroit among major U.S. cities whose residents give the largest portion of their income to charity:
A South Dakota researcher concluded that only scant blood spatter results when chain saws are used to dismember pigs.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature