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That Blasted Year
But the month's big story occurs in the Middle East, where violence flares along the Israel-Lebanon border in response to the fact that, because of terrible planning, the two countries are located right next to each other. In another troubling international development, rogue state North Korea test-fires seven ballistic missiles, including two believed to be potentially capable of reaching U.S. soil. World tension goes back down when the missiles, upon reaching an altitude of 200 feet, explode and spell "HAPPY BIRTHDAY." American military analysts caution that these missiles "could easily be modified to spell something more threatening."
In other rocket news, the troubled U.S. space program suffers yet another setback when the launch of the shuttle Discovery is delayed for several days by Transportation Security Administration screeners, who insist that the astronauts remove their shoes before they go through the metal detector. Finally, however, Discovery blasts off and flies a flawless mission, highlighted by scientific experiments proving that when you let go of things in space, they float around, same as last year.
. . . when the International Astronomical Union rules that Pluto will no longer be classified as a major planet, on the grounds that it is "less than half the size of James Gandolfini." A top U.S. law firm immediately files a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Pluto, as well as "anybody else who has been hurt by this ruling or has ever experienced neck pain."
In sports, a French medical laboratory burns to the ground after the catastrophic explosion of Floyd Landis's urine sample.
Fidel Castro is rumored to be seriously ill after publication of photographs showing worms crawling out of his eye sockets. Cuban authorities insist that the aging leader is merely recovering from surgery and that, for the time being, government operations are in the capable hands of Nancy Pelosi.
As the situation in Lebanon deteriorates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warns that, if violence continues, the United States will have no choice but to dispatch Vice President Cheney to the region to hunt doves. Within minutes, a cease-fire breaks out, with both sides agreeing to resume fire at a mutually convenient future date.
Meanwhile, commercial air travel turns into a total nightmare. No, wait, it was already a total nightmare. But it turns into an even worse total nightmare after Britain uncovers a terrorist plot targeting international flights, which results in a whole new set of security rules, including a total ban on all gels and liquids, including spit, urine, heavy perspirers and lactating women. After days of chaos at the airports, the TSA issues a new directive stating that "passengers may carry small quantities of liquids on board, but only if they are inside clear, one-quart, sealable plastic bags." This leads to still more chaos, as many TSA employees interpret this to mean that the passengers must be inside the bags. Eventually the TSA issues a clarification stating that "if necessary, the bags can have air holes."
Elsewhere in the War on Terror, the Bush administration suffers a setback when a federal judge in Michigan rules that U.S. authorities cannot call up suspected terrorists and try to get them to switch long-distance carriers.
In crime news, a man in Thailand claims that he had something to do with the 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey. It quickly becomes clear that the man is an unstable creep whose story is totally unbelievable, so the cable TV shows drop it.
Ha-ha! Just kidding! The cable TV shows go into days of round-the-clock, All-JonBenet-All-the-Time Wallow Mode. Battalions of legal experts are called in, some of them so excited about the opportunity to revisit the JonBenet tragedy that additional janitors have to be brought to the studios to mop up puddles of expert weewee.
On the weather front, the until-now quiet hurricane season erupts in fearsome fury in the form of Tropical Storm Ernesto, which hurricane experts, using scientific computer models, predict could become a major storm and inflict devastation upon Texas, or possibly Florida or Connecticut. A state of near-panic sets in as millions of coastal residents jam gas stations, hardware stores and supermarkets, while many schools and businesses close. Tension mounts for days, until finally Ernesto slams into Florida with all the fury of a diseased fruit fly. Life slowly returns to normal for everyone except the ever-vigilant hurricane experts, who immediately begin scanning their scientific computer simulations for the next potentially deadly threat.
. . . Steve Irwin, of "Crocodile Hunter" fame, is fatally wounded while filming a new TV series-- in what biologists describe as a freak accident -- he collides with Bode Miller. Meanwhile, Americans -- already on edge because of concern over terrorism, avian flu, AIDS, nuclear escalation and global warming -- find themselves facing a deadly new menace: killer spinach. The lethal vegetable is removed from supermarket shelves by police SWAT teams; many units of innocent produce are harmed. Paris shuts down completely.