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Predictions, 2004 

The second-season sequel to "The Simple Life" features Paris Hilton returning to Altus to showcase her best-known on-camera talent - perhaps her only one - by having sex with every one of the town's residents. Fox Network spokesmen refuse to confirm or deny rumors concerning farm animals in the third season. All the Jack Russells certified by the Pulaski County clerk's office as eligible voters in 2004 elections turn out to be terriers. The Hot Springs chapter of the Confederate veterans organization that last year denounced Abraham Lincoln as a "depraved thug," and has already this year promised to reveal damning secret evidence proving the martyred president was a war criminal, calls for a reintroduction of slavery, which it describes as "a part of our birthright that Dishonest Abe and his minions stole from us." The same outfit demands that Sen. Blanche Lincoln "tell the truth about her depraved thug ancestor, Dishonest Abe." Governor asks that home-schooling be limited to families with no fewer than 1,500 children. Team goal for the Razorbacks football team this year is to have more touchdowns than arrests. Survivors say killer tornado in March "sounded just like a freight train." State Rep. Herschel Cleveland says he's not disappointed to learn he won't be a finalist in People magazine's annual Sexiest Man Alive competition. The legislature gives up on education reform, declaring it to be "just too hard of an issue" and urges in a joint resolution " that we just give the money to football." The last ivory-bill woodpecker in the world is spotted, shot, and eaten by a squirrel hunter in Dallas County, who explains, "I got so hungry out there I couldn't stand it. I'm sorry he was the last one and all, but he sure made some mighty fine eatin'." A being of some sort looks into that camera on Mars and holds up a sign that says either "John 3:16" or "Your Team Sucks." A study by the national Nutrition Goals Panel concludes that all those fat schoolchildren could lose weight and "be strong to the finish" if they ate more spinach. It's the worst year in memory for chiggers. Gov. Huckabee goes berserk at the HopeWatermelon Festival and starts throwing large chilled chunks and slices at two of his aides, Rex Nelson and Jim Harris, who make light of the incident and say that they deserved the pelting. Deadly water moccasins slithering up from nearby Arkansas River undergrowth disrupt grand opening of Clinton Presidential Library in November; Falwell says God sent them; Sen. Clinton says it's just one more dirty trick by the vast, right-wing conspiracy. This message mysteriously appears on all of those God-quoting billboards across the country: "I don't really talk to Pat Robertson. He's a charlatan who makes that stuff up. - God" After another disappointing season, Houston Nutt says he'll stay on for only a modest raise, signing bonus, and sole ownership of Wal-Mart Corp. and Tyson Foods. It is inconspicuously disclosed by the daily newspaper that the money saved by firing all those columnists will be used to double the number of overnight stays (from three months to exactly half a year's worth) by the paper's main travel writer at fancy-schmancy hotels the world over. In a show of solidarity, all the anti-consolidation legislators in both houses of the Arkansas General Assembly (the women too) adopt mullet-style haircuts. 100 degrees or hotter every day from the Fourth of July to Labor Day; Southern Baptist Convention votes that wives should be submissive and allow only husbands to control thermostats. U.S. Rep. Marion Berry declines to run for re-election as First District Arkansas congressman in order to return to his old job as mayor of Washington D.C. Bill Bennett, the morals and slot-machines specialist, first denies then later acknowledges that at one time he was Pete Rose's bookie. This turns out to be the year of the long-awaited big one on the New Madrid fault; FEMA director says "with a lot of these little bootheel towns that were devastated, it's hard to tell the difference." When the cost of losing foul balls into the stands becomes greater than income from admissions, the Arkansas Travelers announce that for the rest of the season they will use only pretend baseballs. The U.S. Forest Service develops a logging plan that calls for cutting all the trees in the Ouachita National Forest and using the wood to build lavish new homes for leading Republican campaign contributors. Looking on the bright side, the state industrial development agency announces that there's been no decline whatsoever in the number of major auto manufacturing plants relocating to Arkansas A state Health Department study shows that the Arkansas community with the highest rate of depression among its residents is Crumrod. President proposes oil-drilling exploration in Buffalo National River as "another way of fighting terrorism"; governor says "only wacko environmentalists use it anyway." The cumulus is named the official state cloud of Arkansas, with the cirrus and nimbus as first and second runners-up, and "old buttermilk skies" receiving special mention. Laws against deceptive advertising require Bradley County to change the name of its annual Pink Tomato celebration to the Orange Tomatoes That Taste Like Styrofoam Festival. Seven on Your Side establishes a new yearly record - "our best year since Dwayne left" -- for helping swindled oldtimers get their money back. Pine Bluff, trying to regain its distinction as the most unliveable city in the country, launches a new promotional campaign with such slogans as, "It really hasn't got any better!" and "Just as bad as ever!" Your prime-time programing in April and May is chopped to insensibility by near constant weather bulletins warning residents of Ulm, Bodcaw and Wampoo to take cover.
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