Thousands of people died in the Iraqi civil war, which was costing the United States $100,000 a minute. U.S. forces began to negotiate with Sunni insurgents, and the Pentagon, short of buglers who can play taps at military funerals, ordered 700 automated digital bugles. Oil companies announced record profits; President George W. Bush said that America is “addicted to oil” and also asked Congress to pass laws outlawing human/animal hybrids. Scientists in Taiwan bred three glowing pigs. Samuel Alito was confirmed to the Supreme Court, and a study found that Antonin Scalia is the funniest of the Supreme Court justices. Robert Grenier, director of the CIA counter-terrorism center, was fired for opposing “excessive” interrogation techniques like waterboarding, and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney shot and severely injured a fellow hunter while aiming at quail. Osama bin Laden released a tape in which he warned of new attacks on the United States; he also called on his followers to travel to Sudan and fight against the U.N. forces in Darfur. Al Qaeda members were communicating via social networking website MySpace.com, and the Taliban established a “mini-state” in Peshawar. Iran announced that it had successfully produced low-grade enriched uranium; to celebrate, men in traditional dress danced with uranium samples. U.S. senators insisted that attacking Iran must remain an option. “I can drink beer out of my leg,” said Matthew Braddock, a 25-year-old National Guardsman who lost his left foot and nine inches of his left leg to a mine in northern Iraq. “How many people can do that?”
Ariel Sharon was still alive, and war erupted between Hezbollah and Israel. Authorities in the United Kingdom announced the discovery of a terrorist plot to blow up as many as ten passenger planes in the air. Riots over blasphemous cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad broke out in India, Indonesia, Kashmir, Palestine, Thailand, the autonomous Somali region of Puntland, and Afghanistan. Yanni was arrested for allegedly hitting his girlfriend, and Keith Richards fell out of a coconut tree. Coretta Scott King, Gordon Parks, Octavia Butler, Stanislaw Lem, James Brown, Don Knotts, Syd Barrett, Betty Friedan, Milton Friedman, John Kenneth Galbraith, Slobodan Milosevic, Abu Mussab Al Zarqawi, Kenneth Lay, Gerald Ford, and “Grandpa” Al Lewis died. The Massachusetts legislature voted to make health insurance mandatory for all state residents by July 2007, and a whistleblower accused AT&T of providing the National Security Agency with full access to customer phone calls and Internet usage records. Polls found that while only 36 percent of Americans worry a great deal about global warming, 90 percent were prepared to fight its effects by caulking. Twenty percent of U.S. teenagers admitted to huffing household products in order to get high. SAT scores in the United States showed the largest decline in 31 years, and after 15,000 tries a California scientist was able to teach starlings some grammar. At least 2.5 million American children were taking antipsychotic drugs; the same number of Kenyans were close to starvation. The United Nations said that 1,200 people were dying in Congo each day, and Zimbabwe faced an acute tampon shortage. At a zoo in the Netherlands three bears ate a monkey.
Even though Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death two days before the U.S. midterm elections, the Republican Party lost its majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Hussein was later hanged. The Pentagon classified homosexuality as a mental defect akin to retardation, and Russian President Vladimir Putin kissed a young boy on the stomach. Kansas raised its minimum marriage age to 15. NASA said that there might be water on Saturn's moon Enceladus, as well as on Mars, and researchers discovered that the buried lakes of Antarctica are connected to one another by secret rivers. Dick Cheney was retaining fluids. Starbucks announced plans to add 28,000 new locations to its extant 12,000, and Chinese Wal-Mart workers unionized. Americans had nearly $800 billion in credit-card debt. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld resigned. Researchers in Chicago verified that a quantum computer does not have to perform any calculations in order to arrive at results. In New York City a corpse flower bloomed, and construction began at Ground Zero. The human population reached 6.5 billion, and scientists found that new infectious diseases were emerging at a faster rate than they had in the past. “These are good times,” said a scientist, “for pathogens.”