There’s no grand theme at work here. Rather, it’s the weekly column as slap-dash tour of interesting flashpoints, a circumspect approach sacrificing unity for interest and cohesion for sheer effect. Unless you’re Gabriel Garcia-Marquez or Kafka, there are no special effects when it comes to writing, just one or two white flags waving in the face of brutal reality.
& ull; Saddam learned a lesson or two. Utah’s Desert Test Center hosted apparently secret biological and chemical tests on thousands of U.S. military personnel during the 1960s and 1970s. Be all you can be, indeed. Give the Deseret News credit for helping break the story. They cover other topics besides DUI deaths, you know.
& ull; Chew, don’t stew. Abstinence is no panacea for couples struggling to conceive. A fertility expert at Israel’s Soroka University Medical Center found that one third of men who forgo sex for more than two weeks have lower sperm counts. On the plus side, Chicago’s Wrigley company will soon market a chewing gum dosed with sildenafil citrate, the generic form of Viagra. It works faster than the pill form.
& ull; Things to do in Denver when you’re a dead cat. If you think cat slashings in the Avenues are bad, Denver has logged at least 40 mutilated cats, four times Salt Lake City’s count.
& ull; Hi, FIDELity! Posing as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a radio disc jockey for Miami’s Spanish-language station El Zol 95.7 got the best of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro during a prank phone call. According to Reuters, the DJ posing as Chavez asked Castro if he could help hunt down a lost suitcase. Both parties ended up calling each other “shits,” but Castro apparently got the last word, calling the jockey a “bastard.”
& ull; The beginning of the end of the drug war? The United States never liked the United Nation’s International Criminal Court. Taking responsibility for the actions of our elite fighting forces was simply too much. We wanted immunity from possible prosecution. The U.N. said no, so we told them to take a hike. That’s hardly unusual. In America, the U.N. garners enmity for such nefarious deeds as dispersing birth control to the Third World. Now President Bush has withheld military assistance to 50 countries who’ve failed to grant us exemption from prosecution. Bad boys the likes of Estonia, Slovakia and Slovenia made the list along with Colombia, one of our biggest partners in the war on drugs and, therefore, one of the biggest recipients of Yankee ammo.
& ull; Books Not Bombs. So John Bolton, Bush’s kitty-hawk undersecretary of state, recently said we shouldn’t rule out bombing Iran. You want to liberate people from oppressive regimes? That’s easy. The afterward is a bitch. Perhaps this time around we should listen first and shoot later. The deputy speaker of Iran’s Parliament, Behazad Nabavi, has told the press umpteen times that Bush’s rhetoric only reinforces the power of Iran’s clerics. In the meantime, here are three good books to read before the next war or tax cut: Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran, by Elaine Sciolino; The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran, by Robin Wright; and Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. The last recommendation is a comic book, but don’t let that put you off.