Weekly Review — June 26, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Governor Rick Perry of Texas vetoed legislation banning the execution of retarded people just a few days after President Bush declared that retards should never be put to death; Bush and Perry both have claimed that Texas has never done so, though six inmates with IQs below 70 have been put down since 1980. Minneapolis, hoping to boost tourism, was preparing to install a bronze statue of Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat in the air at the corner of Seventh Street and Nicollet Avenue, just like on TV. “Tossing the hat inspired so many women,” Mayor Sharon Sayles-Belton told a reporter. “It showed us we’re capable. We’re bold. And we’re cute.” Cookie Monster was beaten up at a theme park in Pennsylvania after he refused to pose for a photograph with a three-year-old girl. Fidel Castro fainted while delivering a speech but was back on stage about ten minutes later. Researchers in Calcutta, India, found that squatting while defecating can increase the risk of stroke. Doctors in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, removed 26 ounces of material, including 222 rusty nails, from the stomach of a crazy man. Iain Duncan Smith, who hopes to become the leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, has written a novel that includes descriptions of gay sex; according to his agent the book is “quite fruity, although not pornographic.” Mayor Lito Atienza of Manila caught fire during a public burning of pornography and gambling machines. Ireland banned the use of Viagra to enhance the performance of greyhounds.

A Chilean boy was found living with a pack of wild dogs in Talcahuano; the boy, who had lived with the dogs for two years, described nursing from a pregnant bitch when he was unable to find water. A 16-month-old toddler was found dead in an apartment in Switzerland three weeks after her mother was taken into custody by police; authorities believe the child survived for about ten days, perhaps by drinking water from the toilet. A Houston woman drowned her five children in a bathtub; the seven-year-old tried to run away, but she caught him. Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, the ten-year-old English boys who kidnapped, tortured, and murdered two-year-old James Bulger eight years ago, were released on parole with new identities to protect them from the public. A 62-year-old French mother who gave birth last month announced that the child’s father was her brother, who in 1992 blinded himself with a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the face. Mountain villagers in Cambodia were said to be praying to the soul of Pol Pot for help in winning the lottery. Yugoslavia’s federal cabinet adopted a decree permitting the extradition of Slobodan Milosevic and others to the war-crimes tribunal at The Hague. Killings continued in Israel and Palestine despite the cease-fire; among those murdered were two Israeli soldiers, who were lured into a trap by a suicide bomber, and a Palestinian man who was thought to be “moving suspiciously” and ran when challenged by soldiers, who shot him in the back. Ruud Lubbers, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, criticized wealthy countries for closing their borders to people fleeing persecution and violence.

Thirty-two hippies were injured in Barcelona during an anti-globalization protest; the Spanish police, unlike their Swedish brethren, failed to shoot the protesters with live ammunition. Communists in the Italiansenate protested the upcoming Group of 8 summit, which will be held in Genoa next month, by holding up little signs that read, “Let’s throw the G-8 into the sea.” Afghanistan’s Taliban agreed to let the World Food Program employ local women to survey food needs there even though this would seem to violate God’sLaw. Coca-Cola announced that it would put its African distribution network to use in the dissemination of AIDSdrugs, condoms, and such. Some California counties were paying poor people to move away. Much of Siren, Wisconsin, was destroyed in a tornado. There were more riots in Indonesia, this time over rising fuel costs, and in Northern Ireland, for the usual reasons. British restaurants, hotels, and clubs were banning “hen nights” because gangs of drunken women (a.k.a. “ladettes”) were proving to be even more difficult to handle than the traditional male yob. Male birds in Australia were observed mimicking the sound of a cell phone during courtship. Tasmania refused to allow a Britishscientist to take home samples of prehistoric excrement attributed to the extinct marsupial carnivore known as the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus). Carroll O’Connor and John Lee Hooker died. A new study claimed that one fifth of all children who use the Internet are solicited for sex at one time or another. Farmers in Oregon were upset about suckerfish. Pearl Harbor opened in Tokyo. A plague of Mormon crickets was eating the crops of Utah.

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I first heard the name Barack Obama in the spring of 2004, while visiting my mother in Chicago. As we sat around the kitchen table early one spring morning, I noticed a handsome studio portrait among the pictures, lists, cards, and other totems of family life fastened to the refrigerator door. “Who’s the guy with the ears?” I asked, assuming he was some distant relative or family friend I didn’t know or else had forgotten. “Barack Obama,” she answered with a broad smile. “He’s running for Senate, but he’s going to be the first black president.”

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Ratio of the average cost of a gallon of gas in Britain last September to that of a gallon of Starbucks coffee:

1:4

The faculty of embarrassment was located in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex by neurologists who made brain-damaged subjects sing along to “My Girl” and then listen to their own singing played back without musical accompaniment.

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