Monday, January 28, 2008

Let the Debate Continue

The Lede has a really great post up about a topic we don't hear enough about, torture. Apparently there's an intense rivalry between the CIA, who love torture, and the FBI, who hate it. However much I want to find a 'good guy' in this story, it's hard for me to feel anything but contempt for both agencies. While the FBI is apparently hoping that the CIA will have its dirty laundry aired before the world with the (cross your fingers) emergence of CIA interrogation tapes, even the more humane interrogation techniques of the FBI operate in undisclosed sites and in the absence of international law. But it's fun to see them squabble.

In the days after Saddam Hussein’s capture, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was tossing wisecracks on subjects serious and trivial. The cab that the former Iraqi leader hid inside? “He didn’t have the meter running.” Who’s going to be responsible for interrogation? “It was a three-minute decision, and the first two were for coffee.”

The job went to the Central Intelligence Agency, and Mr. Hussein was added to the network of secret detention facilities that stretched from Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay.

But Mr. Hussein’s fate would be much different than Abu Zubaydeh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, two members of Al Qaeda who endured harsh interrogation techniques while in C.I.A. custody.

Mr. Rumsfeld and other senior officials quickly pledged that he would be treated as a prisoner of war, although it took a month to make it official. And the three-minute decision was reassessed within weeks as the Federal Bureau of Investigation took the interrogation reins for the reason described in a January 2004 article:

The F.B.I. involvement reflects C.I.A. reluctance to allow covert officers to take part in interrogations that could force them to appear as court witnesses. In contrast, F.B.I. agents are trained to interview suspects in preparation for prosecutions.

In 2008, the two themes expressed in those sentences — C.I.A. aversion to public spectacle and F.B.I. experience on interrogation matters — are still being reinforced as a long-running rivalry continues to play out.


While our fearless leaders stands in front of Congress to give his last State of the Union speech (thank god!), remember the human cost of war. From The Herald, via Cynical-C.

72,000 American casualties: toll of war on terror

The US has suffered more than 72,000 battlefield casualties since the start of the war on terror in 2001, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

The query by the campaigning Veterans for Common Sense organisation shows that 4372 American soldiers have died and another 67,671 have been wounded in action, injured in accidents or succumbed to illness in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The veterans' group had to force the US Defence Department to release the figures by persuading judges to uphold their FoI rights.

A second request to the Veterans' Administration, the government-funded body responsible for taking care of ex-servicemen and women, showed 263,909 soldiers with experience of the two 21st-century wars have so far received treatment for everything from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the aftermath of amputated limbs.

Friday, January 25, 2008


News regarding veterans keeps pouring in:

"He liked a cigarette, he liked a bottle of beer - he drank a bottle of beer like any man."

This from the BBC, in its report about Voytek, the "Soldier Bear" that fought with Polish troops during WWII.

Honour sought for 'Soldier Bear'

A campaign has been launched to build a permanent memorial to a bear which spent much of its life in Scotland - after fighting in World War II.

The bear - named Voytek - was adopted in the Middle East by Polish troops in 1943, becoming much more than a mascot.

The large animal even helped their armed forces to carry ammunition at the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Voytek - known as the Soldier Bear - later lived near Hutton in the Borders and ended his days at Edinburgh Zoo.

He was found wandering in the hills of Iran by Polish soldiers in 1943.

They adopted him and as he grew he was trained to carry heavy mortar rounds.

When Polish forces were deployed to Europe the only way to take the bear with them was to "enlist" him.

So he was given a name, rank and number and took part in the Italian campaign.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Archival Joyce

BoingBoing links today to the Atlantic Monthly, who has entered the 21st century by making its digital archive available for free.

Here's Harry Levin's 1946 review of Joyce's collected works:

"Joyce renews our apprehension of reality, strengthens our sympathy with our fellow creatures, and leaves us in awe before the mystery of created things."
I had initially thought that I would be able to find HG Well's famous review of Portrait in the archives, but it turns out that that was in the New Republic, not The Atlantic Monthly. That review is now also available on line here. The Wells review is a much more interesting document because it captures the tides of modernism in the moment rather than upon its demise. Wells' comment that "Mr. Joyce has a cloacal obsession," is no doubt one of the pithiest lines in the critical literature on Joyce (as well as somehow prescient of the new academic interest in "excremental postcolonialism" [I swear I didn't make up that tag]). But the most famous part of this review is Wells' characterization of the Irish hatred of the British:
And a second thing of immense significance is the fact that everyone in this Dublin story, every human being, accepts as a matter of course, as a thing in nature like the sky and the sea, that the English are to be hated. There is no discrimination in that hatred, there is no gleam of recognition that a considerable number of Englishmen have displayed a very earnest disposition to put matters right with Ireland, there is an absolute absence of any idea of a discussed settlement, any notion of helping the slow-witted Englishman in his three-cornered puzzle between North and South. It is just hate, a cant cultivated to the pitch of monomania, an ungenerous violent direction of the mind. That is the political atmosphere in which Stephen Dedalus grows up, and in which his essentially responsive mind orients itself. I am afraid it is only too true an account of the atmosphere in which a number of brilliant young Irishmen have grown up. What is the good of pretending that the extreme Irish "patriot" is an equivalent and parallel of the English or American liberal? He is narrower and intenser than any English Tory. He will be the natural ally of the Tory in delaying British social and economic reconstruction after the war. He will play into the hands of the Tories by threatening an outbreak and providing the excuse for a militarist reaction in England. It is time the American observer faced the truth of that. No reason in that why England should not do justice to Ireland, but excellent reason for bearing in mind that these bright-green young people across the Channel are something quite different form the liberal English in training and tradition, and absolutely set against helping them. No single book has ever shown how different they are, as completely as this most memorable novel.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What do you have against baboons?

Eddie Izzard does biblical history. Via Atheist Media Blog.

Today is the greatest . . .

Of course, today is MLK Day, and so it is incumbent upon conscious people to both remember the man and what he stood for. But this proves to be a tricky procedure, as it turns out, because the MLK remembered on television and in our culture at large is not the man himself, but the safe, historically triumphant saint of civil rights. We should remember, also, that he was an agitator who spent the last years of his life denouncing US foreign policy in general, and the Viet Nam war in particular. has a link up about this version of MLK that we don't tend to remember today, the one that Ronald Reagan did not want to canonize.

So, how best to remember the man? First and foremost, we have to re-remember MLK in his totality--not as a historically isolated, single-issue spokesperson whose dream was "realized," as is often said. Rather, it behooves us to honor the man by acknowledging the failures of the civil rights era, the miles we still need to traverse, and the long-enduring and still active presence of racism in our society.

My favorite commentator on this topic has got to be Tim Wise, a public speaker and civil rights activist who has dedicated his life to unveiling the prevalence of racism and white privilege that remains in our society. In addition to being the absolute best rhetorician I have ever seen (I've heard him speak on three different occasions), Wise is the authority on institutional racism and the cultural inertia that has prevented MLK's dream from being realized. Watching Wise is always a potent and enervating reminder of the failures of civil rights, and the absurdity of how this holiday has become part of a self-congratulatory ideology of arrival rather than an impetus toward systematic reform.

Wise speaking on MLK Day in 2007:

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Just the other day, my friend Mitch was telling me that by the end of the year, the United States will likely have only one living veteran of the First World War. And today I saw this on the BBC:

France's oldest WW1 veteran dies

One of the last two surviving French veterans of World War I has died at the age of 110.

Louis de Cazenave, who fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, died in his sleep at his home in Brioude, central France, his son Louis said.

Mr de Cazenave's death leaves Lazare Ponticelli, also 110, as the last "poilu", or French WWI veteran.

You probably feel the way about this that I did--surprise that there are any surviving veterans. Wikipedia has a full entry on the remaining veterans, though it should be noted that many of those who are "veterans" never saw action, or, in the case of the US soldiers, ever set foot on the continent.

Update: Mitch informs me that we just lost a WWI veteran.


Salon's got an awesome article up about lunar resources, and asks the question, "Who owns the moon?" (Hint: It's not you.)

Lunar soil is rife with platinum group metals, which are exceedingly rare on Earth and are key to helping hydrogen fuel cells operate efficiently. Then there's the real golden ticket: helium-3, deposited on the moon's surface by radioactive solar winds. When combined with deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen, helium-3 can initiate fusion reactions so potent that scientists estimate a single space-shuttle load of the stuff could power all the homes and businesses in the United States for a year.

"The moon contains 10 times more energy in the form of helium-3 than all the fossil fuels on the Earth," former Indian President Abdul Kalam told attendees at 2004's International Conference on Exploration and Utilization of the Moon. Gerald Kulcinski, director of the University of Wisconsin's Fusion Technology Institute, thinks helium-3 could potentially power future long-distance space travel, though it could take decades before a commercial helium-3 reactor becomes available.

Via Geraldo Canavan.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday links

A few nice links from BoingBoing today:

If the NC drought doesn't entirely prevent me from having a garden this summer, bee colony collapse will. At least we'll get a fine documentary film about it.

A Japanese team aboard the International Space Station is to release a paper airplane into the earth's orbit. That's called comedy.

And, the police are still taseing people. And it still manages to kill them, even though Tasers are not lethal. We swear.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Repent: The End is Near

Ut oh: This could spell the end of my goofing off (and end my reign of total lexicographical domination).

Facebook asked to pull Scrabulous

Facebook has been asked to remove the Scrabulous game from its website by the makers of Scrabble.

The Facebook add-on has proved hugely popular on the social network site and regularly racks up more than 500,000 daily users.

Lawyers for toy makers Hasbro and Mattel say Scrabulous infringes their copyright on the board-based word game.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bang of Drum

People Aged 1 to 100 Banging a Drum. Via Cynical-C.

Scar Tissue

Ryan Vu sends along a link from Dennis Cooper's blog, The Weaklings, about facial prosthesis in WWI, a topic that Bitter Laughter broached early in its life. This post has a number of nice images, but I should warn you that they are a bit gory. To the right is an Otto Dix painting showing a facial injury.

The officers had a hard time explaining the concept of a machine gun or the power of an artillery shell to young soldiers who hadn't seen them. A soldier might stick his head out quickly to peek over the trench wall and get his nose shot off, or his chin or his cheek or his eyes and so on. This was a common occurrence on the front. Doctors had no idea how to deal with this swell of facial injuries.

These soldiers were called "The Men with Broken Faces" or "gueules cassées". There were so many of them during and after the war that in some combatant countries, a number of benches were painted blue indicating that the man sitting there would be distressing to look at. They endured total social isolation and alienation. Their faces were taken away from them and transformed on the battlefield to resemble the mud-churned pits of the trenches themselves. These men were the quintessential social pariahs of the day, not only for their specific disfigurement, but because their faces directly embodied the horrors of war and quite literally bore the inescapable reality of what we are capable of doing to each other. They often only found solace in each other and gave up any hope of leading a normal life. A unique brotherhood was formed where they pressed for their right to have underground social places of their own where they could be together without frightening the general public. Some of the veterans even took their families and started their own small communities far away from general society.
Part of what fascinates me about the facial prosthesis of the "Great" War is that it is in some ways the most extreme and spectacular form of prosthesis that proliferated after the war. I think it's hard to recover just how mended the streets of Europe looked in the mid 1920s--how many people would have donned crutches, fake arms, etc. But what's really striking about the facial prosthesis is that it is a cipher of the insane distance that science created between technologies of destruction and technologies of reconstruction. WWI inaugurated the century of technology and technological warfare, and the facial prosthesis that followed the war is a sign of just how gruesome this war was. And since we tend to think of World Wars through one of two images--mushroom clouds or gas chambers--the image of the reconstructed face is a reminder of all those figures that physically survived into the century, carrying the wounds of Continent on their bodies.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Joyce Industry

Gerry Canavan has a nice post up quoting a 1946 Atlantic Monthly review of James Joyce's major works, Portrait, Ulysses, and Finnegan's Wake:

Those who confuse a writer with his material find it all too easy to make a scapegoat out of Joyce. They make Proust responsible for the collapse of France because he prophesied it so acutely; and, because Joyce felt the contemporary need to create a conscience, they accuse him of lacking any sense of values. Of course it is he who should be accusing them. His work, though far from didactic, is full of moral implications; his example of aesthetic idealism, set by abnegation and artistry is a standing rebuke to facility and venality, callousness and obtuseness. Less peculiarly Joycean, and therefore even more usable in the long run, is his masterly control of social realism, which ingeniously springs the varied traps of Dublin and patiently suffers rebuffs with Mr. Bloom. The heroine of Stephen Hero, who has almost disappeared from the Portrait, says farewell after "an instant of all but union." By dwelling upon that interrupted nuance, that unconsummated moment, that unrealized possibility, Joyce renews our apprehension of reality, strengthens our sympathy with our fellow creatures, and leaves us in awe before the mystery of created things.
It seems to me that this post contradicts Gerry's approving citation of Stanley Fish's invective against the humanizing effects of education in the humanities. I think it's odd how Joyce is always held up as a paradigm of everything beautiful and great about everyday Life (even by post-humanist-minded professor-types), and yet asked to bear the weight of contemporary theory's sharp turn away from such saccharine notions of literature's ability to ennoble the soul. My personal feeling is that Joyce does the former much better than the latter, and perhaps the best argument against Fish is that the professional critics he cites as exemplars of literature's moral inefficacy are not average readers because they read with ill intent--to gain professional knowledge, as he says. But isn't that the hubris of the academy--to presume that everybody reads like professors, thinks (or should think) like professors, and that they have a monopoly on real truth? While I acknowledge my own indebtedness to Fish (he practically made the department in which I now study), I can't help but dismiss him as a curmudgeonly old coot whose own sense of intellectual heartburn discredits any and every pronouncement he makes about literature. That's not to say that I think we should indulge the kind of idealism of the above reviewer too deeply; everything depends on how we appropriate (or fail to appropriate) literary text--on how they are taught. But giving up on Joyce's ability to teach us something about how to live, about the intricate and mundane beauties of the everyday, of what Werner Herzog would call "ecstatic truth," is to relegate Joyce to the margins of the canon. And no matter how often a Fish attempts to discredit the ability of a Joyce to do this kind of work, Joyce continues to assert itself for just that purpose. And it is in this light, I think, that the 1946 review above seems not so antiquated as it does continually relevant.

Quote of the Day

Rick Santorum gets it. And you know when an idiot like Santorum gets it, the Republicans are really in trouble:

“It comes back to, O.K., Romney can’t win, Huckabee can’t win, McCain can’t win, Giuliani can’t win — the dynamic is you have a bunch of candidates who can’t win,” Mr. Santorum said. “I don’t see how we don’t come down to a convention that is going to decide this thing.”
From yesterday's NYT.

Liberal Media

From Democracy Now!

Study: Of Over 2,000 Sunday Talk Show Questions to Candidates, Only Three On Global Warming

A new study by the League of Conservation Voters found that the five major Sunday morning political shows asked the presidental candidates well over 2,000 two thousand seventy questions in 2007. Just three of the questions mentioned global warming.

... According to the League of Conservation Voters, Tim Russert of NBC’s Meet the Press asked 755 questions to the candidates without mentioning global warming.

George Stephanopoulos of ABC’s This Week didn’t mention those two words in any of his 726 questions to the candidates. Neither did Bob Schieffer of CBS’s Face the Nation

According to the League of Conservation Voters, Wolf Blitzer of CNN and Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday were alone in mentioning global warming. Blitzer mentioned it once; Wallace, twice.

And here's a video from the group that produced the report:

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

2007 Word of the Year

I love MLA time if for no other reason than that the American Dialect Society puts a halt to the high seriousness of linguistics in order to pronounce upon the state of the language and name the "Word of the Year." Last year's winner, "to pluto" (meaning "to demote or devalue someone or something"), while somewhat tame in comparison to an otherwise saucy field of candidates, captured an interesting and fundamentally contemporary lexicographical moment. This year's winner was, again, somewhat disappointing, though there can be no doubt that "subprime" had its comeuppance this year.

From the American Dialect Society press release:

“Subprime” Voted 2007 Word of the Year
by American Dialect Society

HILTON CHICAGO—JAN. 4—In its 18th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted “subprime” as the word of the year. Subprime is an adjective used to describe a risky or less than ideal loan, mortgage, or investment. Subprime was also winner of a brand-new 2007 category for real estate words, a category which reflects the preoccupation of the press and public for the past year with a deepening mortgage crisis.
Here's a full recap of the nominees. Personally, I would have liked to have to seen "wide stance" take home the prize this year. But we surely have many Republican scandals to look forward to in 2008, and with them will naturally come the parsing of language that fuels this award. (I'd also like to give my personal thanks to whomever we have to thank for the nomination of "lolcats.")

bacn: Impersonal email such as alerts, newsletters, and
automated reminders that are nearly as annoying as
spam but which one has chosen to receive.

celebu-: prefix Indicates celebrity, as in celebutard.
connectile dysfunction Inability to gain or maintain a

green-: prefix/compounding form Designates environmental
concern, as in greenwashing.

wrap rage: Anger brought on by the frustration of trying to
open a factory-sealed purchase.

boom: An instance of a military explosion in the phrases
left of boom, which describes the US military’s efforts
to root out insurgents before they do harm, and right of
boom, which describes efforts to minimize attacks with
better equipment, systems, and medical care.

Googleganger: Person with your name who shows up when
you google yourself.

lolcat: On the Internet, an odd or funny picture of a cat
given a humorous and intentionally ungrammatical
caption in large block letters.

tapafication: The tendency of restaurants to serve food in
many small portions.

Happy Kwanhanamas!: [Kwanza + Hanukka + Christmas]
Happy holidays!

truther: Someone who espouses a conspiracy theory about
the events of 9/11.

vegansexual: A person who eats no meat, uses no animal-
derived goods, and who prefers not to have sex with

nappy-headed ho: An expression used on the Don Imus
radio show, and repeated by the host, about the
women’s basketball team at Rutgers University.
make it rain To drop paper money on a crowd of people,
especially in strip clubs, nightclubs, or casinos.

toe-tapper: A homosexual. Senator Larry Craig was
arrested in June for an encounter in a public restroom
in which toe-tapping was said to have been used as a
sexual come-on.

human terrain team: A group of social scientists employed
by the US military to serve as cultural advisers in Iraq
or Afghanistan.

shmashmortion/smushmortion: Abortion.

va-j-j Also va-jay-jay or vajayjay: The vagina.

global weirding: An increase in severe or unusual
environmental activity often attributed to global
warming. This includes freakish weather and new
animal migration patterns.

green-: prefix/compounding form Designates environmental
concern, as in greenwashing.

Super-Duper Tuesday: Feb. 5th, the day 23 US states will
hold primary elections. Also known as Tsunami

wide stance, to have a: To be hypocritical or to express two
conflicting points of view. When Senator Larry Craig
was arrested in a public restroom and accused of
making signals with his foot that police said meant he
was in search of a anonymous sex, Craig said it was a
misunderstanding and that he just had a wide stance
when using the toilet.

Billary/Hill-Bill: Bill and Hillary Clinton.

earmarxist: A congressman or senator who adds
earmarks—money designated for a particular person or
group—to legislation. Coined by the blog Redstate to
refer to Democrats.

quadriboobage: The appearance of having four breasts
caused by wearing a brassiere that is too small.

strand-in: Protest duplicating being stranded inside an
airplane on a delayed flight

strike beard: facial hair grown by talk show hosts during
the duration of the television writers’ strike.

exploding ARM: An Adjustable Rate Mortgage whose rates
soon rise beyond a borrower’s ability to pay.

liar’s loan/liar loan: Money borrowed from a financial
institution under false pretenses, especially in the form
of a “stated income” or “no-doc” loan which can
permit a borrower to exaggerate income.

NINJA No Income, No Job or Assets: A poorly
documented loan made to a high-risk borrower.
scratch and dent loan A loan or mortgage that has become
a risky debt investment, especially one secured with
minimal documentation or made by a borrower who
has missed payments.

subprime: Used to describe a risky or poorly documented
loan or mortgage.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Thinking Outside the Box

A. Mitchel Fraas passes along a link from the Washington Post which suggests, once again, that Robots spoon-feeding the elderly is the solution to all our problems. (Either that, or the xenophobic fear of immigrants is fueling a boom in Japanese science fiction.)

Demographic Crisis, Robotic Cure?

TOKYO -- With a surfeit of the old and a shortage of the young, Japan is on course for a population collapse unlike any in human history.

What ails this prosperous nation could be treated with babies and immigrants. Yet many young women here do not want children, and the Japanese will not tolerate a lot of immigrants. So government and industry are marching into the depopulated future with the help of robots -- some with wheels, some with legs, some that you can wear like an overcoat with muscles.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Depictions of Chinese punishment

The NY Public Library has scans of an 1804 book from China that shows 22 engravings of common punishment methods of the day.

This one is called "Torturing the Fingers."

I was hoping for one called "simulated drowning" or even Chinese water torture, but no such luck. One wonders how many of these tactics are still used in China today.

Via BoingBoing.

Friday, January 4, 2008


Gerry Canavan brings us back to the moment that started it all.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

"There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow"

BoingBoing has a post up today about a little gem at Disney World called the Carousel of Progress.

When I went to Disney World a few years ago with Kendra's family, the far-and-away best experience of the entire trip this odd blend of ride and show, which is the best-slash-worst-slash-best-again attraction at the Magic Kingdom. It's a little bit hard to describe (you really have to experience it), so allow me to quote wikipedia's page on it:

Steeped in nostalgia and futurism, the attraction's premise is an exploration the joys of living through the advent of electricity and other technological advances during the 20th century via a "typical" American family. [...]

The basic plot of the Carousel of Progress show has essentially remained unchanged since it debuted at the 1964 New York World's Fair. It is divided into six scenes, with the audience seats rotating between each scene around the stage mechanically within the outer part of the theater building. [...] The first and the last scenes are basically identical and involve the loading and unloading of guests. The other 4 scenes, or "acts", depict an Audio-Animatronic family, narrated by the father, interacting with the latest technology and innovations during a particular era. Not much is known about the family: we do not know their last name, where they live (aside from being somewhere in the United States), or if they ever change location. The family does not (nor are they meant to) age 100 years. They age 3-5 years as the show progresses, to demonstrate how slightly older individuals can better enjoy new technology. Also, each of the four scenes is set during a different season of the year, just for variety.

What makes the rise/show so wonderful, however, is that like a number of attractions at Disney World, it has scarcely been updated since it was unveiled. Where updates have been made, they betray a very temporally embedded flavor. So, the "future" is quite clearly the future as imagined by somebody in the 1980s--complete with Cosby sweaters and supposedly high tech video games. You can see, then, why BoingBoing, with its love of retro-futurism, would like such a ride. And as a fixture in "Tomorrowland," the absolutely ridiculous (and scary) animatronics, the dim vision of the creators, and lachrymose nostalgia of good ole America makes this an ironic anachronism in the Magic Kingdom.

I hope it never closes. The rumor is that Disney himself felt the same way.

Here are the pictures from BoingBoing, some Youtube videos, as well as Disney's official website for the ride (where you can order the DVD!).


Do not allow this man to be your next president.

December 30, 2007 on 'Meet the Press'

Via Atheist Media Blog.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Harper's Yearly

Too difficult to quote selectively, here's the Harper's Yearly Review.
Eight hundred ninety-nine U.S. troops and 18,610 Iraqi
civilians were killed in the Iraq War. Eighty percent of
Iraqis were reporting "attacks nearby" and it was
estimated that 90 percent of Iraq's artists had fled the
country or been killed. Halliburton announced that it
would add 13,000 jobs, and President George W. Bush
underwent a colonoscopy. In Venezuela, President Hugo
Chavez embraced President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of
Iran. "Welcome, fighter for just causes," said Chavez.
Senator Barack Obama was featured shirtless in People
Magazine's Beach Babes issue, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
banned smoking in the Speaker's Parlor of the Capitol, and
Senator Hillary Clinton said that "we want to be able to
continue to export democracy, but we want to deliver it in
digestible packages." Viagra turned 15. Wildfires spread
from north of Los Angeles to south of San Diego, and
scientists at New York University were deleting
frightening experiences from the memories of rats. The
first Muslim member of Congress took his oath on a Koran
once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Annual sales at Taser
International were expected to reach $90 million.

Drought was driving tens of thousands of snakes into
Australian cities, female koalas in Australia were
ignoring males in favor of five-bear lesbian orgies, and
developers were planning to open a Hooters in
Dubai. Scientists in London were working on a gum that
suppresses appetite and fights obesity. "Obese people like
chewing," reasoned a researcher. The United States
projected that it would emit 19 percent more greenhouse
gases in 2020 than it did in 2000, and U.S. pollution was
cited as the reason that the Dutch are now taller than
Americans. The United Arab Emirates beat out the United
States to become the world's most wasteful country, Ford
posted a loss of $12.7 billion for 2006 (the largest in
its 103-year history and equivalent to the GDP of Jordan),
and General Motors announced it would open a new research
center in Shanghai to develop alternative fuels and
vehicles. Geneticist Craig Venter announced that he had
constructed a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory
chemicals, creating the first artificial life form on
Earth. Britney Spears shaved her head, and an appeals
court in Washington, D.C., ruled that the writ of habeas
corpus does not apply to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba. The market price for children in India slipped below
that of buffalo, and crystal meth was now available in
candy flavors.

Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, and Boris Yeltsin
died. Osama bin Laden turned 50 and the Senate doubled the
bounty on his head to $50 million. Ariel Sharon was still
alive. New stars were hatching near the head of
Orion. Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales, and
Tony Blair resigned. "[Blair] was the worst thing that
ever happened to Africa," said Bright Matonga, the deputy
information minister of Zimbabwe. "We hope that the
children of Iraq and Afghanistan he is killing everyday
will haunt him for the rest of his life." Reverend Ted
Haggard declared himself "completely heterosexual," and
Paris Hilton went to jail. An Irish soldier who won the
Military Cross for single-handedly defeating a Baghdad
suicide bomber was facing a court-martial for auctioning
his medal on eBay. Scientists trained dogs to track polar
bear feces, produced talking construction paper, made stem
cells out of adult mice, and linked the upsurge in cat sex
to global warming. Mr. Wizard died, as did
Mr. Whipple. Pope Benedict XVI decreed that, by
definition, Protestant churches are not churches, and it
was revealed that Mother Teresa, beginning in 1948 and
continuing until the end of her life in 1997, was unable
to sense the presence of God. "Repulsed--empty--no
faith--no love--no zeal," she wrote. "Heaven means
nothing." Detainees at Guantanamo Bay complained of
"infinite tedium and loneliness," and 20,000 people
marched against the junta in Burma; about 400 monks were
pushed away from the house where pro-democracy leader Aung
San Suu Kyi was imprisoned. "Love and kindness," read the
monks' yellow banner, "must win over everything."