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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
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
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 tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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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.”