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As the Obama Administration failed to meet a self-imposed deadline for diplomatic progress with Iran, foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki demanded that the United Nations renegotiate the terms of a nuclear fuel deal by the end of the month lest his country begin producing and enriching its own uranium. An Iranian general announced plans for a “large-scale military exercise” to correspond with the deadline.New York TimesWall Street JournalCNNA group purported to be Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and headed by two former Guantanamo detainees, claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day.BBCThreats from Al Qaeda shut down the U.S. and U.K. embassies in Yemen. General David Petraeus said the United States would in 2010 nearly double the amount of aid to Yemen, where, according to Yemen’s foreign minister, as many as 300 Al Qaeda members currently operate.CNNReutersNew York TimesThe Transportation Security Administration announced that it would add 150 full-body scanners to U.S. airports, and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff went on television to tout the importance of equipping airports with the scanners, which can see through people’s clothing; the Christmas Day attack was a “vivid lesson in the value of that machinery,” he told CNN, without revealing that he is paid by the machine’s manufacturers.Christian Science MonitorWashington Post
Suicide bombers killed seven people at a CIA base in Afghanistan, 88 people at a volleyball tournament in Pakistan, and 25 people in Iraq’s Anbar province.Washington PostMexico announced that 7,600 people died last year in the country’s “war” on the drug cartels,New York TimesLos Angeles TimesCNNChina executed a British man for smuggling 8.8 pounds of heroin into the country, CNNIsraeli courts moved to desegregate a major road into the West Bank,Jerusalem Postand Ireland enacted a law banning blasphemy.CNNMalaysia’s high court ruled that Catholics in the country should be allowed to refer to “God” as “Allah,”Wall Street Journaland the Turkish government was considering asking Italy to return the bones of Santa Claus, stolen by Italian sailors in the eleventh century. BBCThe British government’s Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills recommended that parents show their adult children who live at home “tough love” by refusing to do their washing and ironing. BBCRussia set a minimum price for vodka,Rianand in a poll Hillary Clinton narrowly beat out Sarah Palin as the most admired woman of the year. Christian Science MonitorItalian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced that “Thank God that Silvio exists” would no longer be the anthem of his People of Freedom Party.Christian Science MonitorIn Malawi, two men were arrested for getting engaged,BBCand in Argentina, Alejandro Freyre and Jose Maria Di Bello became the continent’s first gay married couple.BBCNew Hampshire legalized same-sex marriage,Reutersand the Senate confirmed its first openly gay U.S. marshal. Los Angeles Times
New Yorkers celebrated the third annual Good Riddance Day by shredding letters, photos, and other documents in Times Square,BBCand President Obama signed an executive order declaring that “no information may remain classified indefinitely.”New York TimesScientists reported that less damage was caused by nature in 2009 than in 2008, and that only 10,000 people were killed by natural disasters in 2009 compared with 75,000 the year before.BBCAn earthquake in Tajikistan left 20,000 people homeless.CNNWildfires and floods ravaged parts of Australia.BBCA New Year’s Day mudslide at a resort in Brazil killed at least 26 people, and at least 60 died in mudslides across the southeast of the country. BBCAvalanches in the Scottish mountains of Ben Nevis killed three climbers,BBCand the oldest survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Jeanette Trapani, died at the age of 107.San Francisco ChronicleA hiker in Snowdonia in Wales was airlifted to safety after he attempted to slide down the mountain because it seemed “easier than walking.”BBCA team of scientists discovered a “lava tube” on the moon that could support a lunar colony by offering protection against the harsh conditions on the surface,CNNand Russia announced plans to divert the asteroid Apophis, which has a one in 250,000 chance of striking Earth in 2036. “We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow us to prevent a collision,” said Anatoly Perminov, head of Russia’s federal space program. “People’s lives are at stake.” BBC
More from Genevieve Smith:
From the May 2014 issue
Years ago, I lived in Montana, a land of purple sunsets, clear streams, and snowflakes the size of silver dollars drifting through the cold air. There were no speed limits and you could legally drive drunk. My small apartment in Missoula had little privacy. In order to write, I rented an off-season fishing cabin on Rock Creek, a one-room place with a bed and a bureau. I lacked the budget for a desk. My idea was to remove a sliding door from a closet in my apartment and place it over a couple of hastily cobbled-together sawhorses.
Amount by which a typical good-looking U.S. worker will out-earn a typical ugly one over a lifetime:
A Japanese inventor unveiled a new invisibility cloak that uses a material made of thousands of tiny beads called “retro-reflectum.”
A couple at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina, left their waitress a note telling her “the woman’s place is in the home,” in lieu of a tip.
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"She never thanked me, never looked at me—melted away into the miserable night, in the strangest manner I ever saw. I have seen many strange things, but not one that has left a deeper impression on my memory than the dull impassive way in which that worn-out heap of misery took that piece of money, and was lost."