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Two days after three candidates and two campaign workers were kidnapped and murdered, Iraqis voted in the first national elections since 2005, choosing between 14,000 candidates running for 440 provincial offices. Two men were shot and wounded at a polling place in Sadr City, and some voters were turned away when their names could not be found on voting rolls dating from food ration lists held over from Saddam Hussein’s reign. CNN“This day is a victory for all Iraqis,” said an Iraqi general in Kirkuk. “I don’t know whom to vote for,” said an inmate at Basra’s Ma’qal prison, “but a sheikh wrote this number on my hand, and I will vote for this number.”NYTimesReutersThe Republican National Committee elected its first black chairman, Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, after six rounds of voting. “Obviously the winds of change are blowing,” said a rival candidate. “For those who wish to obstruct,” said Steele, “get ready to get knocked over.”Associated PressOne day before the 360th anniversary of the execution of Charles I, the Illinois State Senate voted 59 to zero to impeach Governor Rod Blagojevich. “I thought about Mandela, Dr. King, and Gandhi,” said Blagojevich prior to the impeachment, “and tried to put some perspective to all this, and that is what I am doing now.” Lieutenant Governor Patrick J. Quinn succeeded Blagojevich as governor of Illinois. “You want to know my philosophy?” said Quinn. “One day a peacock. The next day a feather duster.”The Edge of the American WestWashington PostChicago Sun TimesNYTimes
A report found that shoddy electrical work by former Halliburton subsidiary KBR led to the electrocution and death of at least one soldier,CNNand the State Department decided not to renew Blackwater’s contract in Iraq after the Iraqi government refused the security firm, whose employees shot 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007, a license to operate. “It would not be a mortal blow,” said company founder Erik Prince of his firm’s imminent dismissal. “But it would hurt us.”Associated PressThe Israel Defense Forces deployed eight antelope to eat vegetation that might be hiding Hezbollah guerrillas,Haaretzand army worms stormed villages across Liberia. Scientific AmericanA New Zealand man named Chris Ogle bought a used MP3 player from a thrift shop in Oklahoma that contained U.S. Army files, including mission details and the personal information of soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. “The more I look at it,” said Ogle, “the more I see.” TVNZIn cities across Russia, anti-government protesters rallied, chanting such slogans as “The crisis is in the heads of the authorities, not in the economy.”BBCExxonMobil reported $45 billion in earnings in 2008, the largest annual profit in U.S. history;CNNWall Street was found to have distributed $18.4 billion in bonuses, its sixth largest payout ever;NYTimesand international leaders gathered in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the economic crisis. “Let’s be careful,” said Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley, “that we don’t let this blame game get out of hand.”The Associated PressThe International Monetary Fund predicted that world economic growth in 2009 would be the worst since World War II. “We now expect the global economy to come to a virtual halt,” said the IMF’s chief economist. BBCThe U.S. Postal Service considered cutting back deliveries to five days a week,Washington Postand the Navy announced that President Barack Obama’s new presidential helicopter was $5.1 billion over budget.The HillA disgruntled former Fannie Mae computer engineer was indicted for allegedly attempting to plant a “logic bomb” in the corporation’s computer code,Channel Weband Coca-Cola announced plans to remove the word “classic” from its packaging. Reuters
Thirty-four years after first reporting on the medical condition termed “cello scrotum,” an irritation caused by playing the cello, the British Medical Journal was forced to acknowledge that the ailment does not exist. “Anyone who has ever watched a cello being played would realize the physical impossibility of our claim,” said Baroness Elaine Murphy, who, with her husband, created the hoax. BBCJohn Updike died,NYTimesand just after the Arizona Cardinals scored their last touchdown of Superbowl XLIII (which they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers), a cable channel in Tuscon, Arizona, interrupted the broadcast with pornography. “I just figured it was another commercial until I looked up,” said one viewer. “Then he did his little dance with everything hanging out.”BBCA Wisconsin judge ruled that cheerleading is a contact sport. ESPNWeusi McGowan, who was standing trial for robbery in a San Diego court, smeared his feces on the face of his lawyer and threw the rest at the jury box, where it hit the briefcase of juror No. 9. “That juror didn’t even see it coming,” said the prosecutor. San Diego News 10A homeless Louisiana man, who robbed a bank of $100 and then voluntarily turned himself in the next day and apologized, was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.Digital JournalA man in Somerset, England, spent two days trapped beneath his sofa, subsisting on whiskey from a bottle that had rolled within reach. “I thought, Well this isn’t too bad,” he said.BBCA 93-year-old man in Michigan died of hypothermia after Bay City Electric Light & Power restricted service to his home as a result of unpaid bills,Boston Heraldand in an elevator shaft in an abandoned building in Detroit a man was found frozen in a block of ice, with only his feet sticking out. “Yeah,” said one homeless man squatting nearby, “he’s been down there since last month at least.” The fire department eventually arrived with a chainsaw, and another homeless man, when asked if he knew the deceased, said, “I don’t recognize him from his shoes.”Detroit News
More from Genevieve Smith:
From the May 2014 issue
Price of ten pencils made from “recycled twigs,” from the Nature Company:
A loggerhead turtle in a Kobe aquarium at last achieved swimming success with her twenty-seventh set of prosthetic fins. “When her children hatch,” said the aquarium’s director, “well, I just feel that would make all the trauma in her life worthwhile.”
In Colombia, U.N. delegates sent to serve as impartial observers of the peace process aimed at ending the half-century-long war between the FARC and the Colombian government were chastised after they were filmed dancing and getting drunk with FARC fighters at a New Year’s Eve party.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."