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NEW YORK — The late Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu liked to hunt bear. With his retinue, he would retreat to a lodge in Transylvania and sally forth, locked and loaded. He was accustomed to good fortune, for his huntsmen took precautions. They would chain some poor beast to a tree, drug it to keep it still, and conceal themselves around the blind from which the Great Man would shoot.

One day, they did their job haphazardly. Ceausescu took aim, then fell backward when the bear, inadequately sedated, reared on its hind legs as if to attack. His shot flew into the treetops, even as three bullets entered the bear’s heart from the snipers who guaranteed the dictator’s marksmanship. This day, I was told by a forester who claimed to have witnessed the incident, Ceausescu did not acknowledge the applause of his retainers.

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