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The Supreme Court overturned the 32-year ban on handguns in Washington, D.C., ruling 5-4 that there is a Second Amendment right to own a gun for personal use. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his dissent that the court’s ruling, its first on the Second Amendment in 70 years, showed a lack of “respect for the well-settled views of all of our predecessors on the court, and for the rule of law itself.” The National Rifle Association promptly brought lawsuits against five other cities with handgun bans, including San Francisco, Chicago, and Oak Park, Illinois. “It’s just completely befuddling,” said the Oak Park village manager, “that our Supreme Court would be in alliance with the gangbangers.”The New York TimesNPRThe court also determined that Exxon need pay only $507.5 million (about four days’ worth of recent profits) of the $5 billion in punitive damages initially awarded to victims of the 1989 “Valdez” oil spill,CNN MoneyAP via Yahoo! Newsand that child rapists should not be sentenced to death if their crime “did not result, and was not intended to result, in the victim’s death.” John McCain disagreed with that ruling and suggested that by executing those found guilty of “the most heinous of crimes” the United States could protect the innocence of its children, while Barack Obama suggested that the rape of a small child, “six or eight years old,” could be punished by death without violating the Constitution.AFPSome Obama supporters were taking his middle name, Hussein, as their own; “My name is such a vanilla, white-girl American name,” said Ashley Hussein Holmes.The New York TimesIreland was expecting its first recession since 1983.RTE News
The North Pole was melting faster.National GeographicRobert Mugabe, ruler of Zimbabwe since 1980, was sworn in as president after he ran unopposed and won more than 85 percent of the popular vote, a percentage roughly equal to the national unemployment rate. He called for “unity” and invited former candidate and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to attend his inauguration. “This,” said a spokesman for Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), “is an unbelievable joke.” Mugabe supporters entered the house of an MDC councillor and shouted “Let’s kill the baby” as they shattered the legs of his 11-month-old son, Blessing; a plan was discovered that called for 2 million MDC members to be “internally displaced”; and 3 million Zimbabweans were living in South Africa, where 62 people were killed in recent anti-immigration rioting.Times OnlineAFPCBS NewsThe CIA expanded its covert operations in Iran,Reutersand Italy planned to fingerprint all Gypsy children.Guardian.co.ukPresident George W. Bush announced that North Korea was off the “state sponsors of terrorism” list. North Korea then blew up the obsolete nuclear cooling tower at Yongbyon and took delivery of a U.S. ship carrying 38,000 tons of food; the nuclear and food deals, said officials, were unrelated.The New York TimesPolice in South Korea fired water cannons at protesters as Condoleezza Rice visited Seoul. “We don’t need U.S. troops,” read a protest slogan, “we don’t need U.S. mad cows.”BBC News
Farmers in Britain, under attack by fuel-poachinggangs, were creating secure collective fuel-storage compounds for their red diesel, which is used to power tractors. In West Sussex a man named Jon Ward put dogs in his garden and razor wire on his fences to keep thieves away from his heating oil. “Let the bastards try it now,” he said. “Shotgun is also at the ready.”The GuardianGardeners across Britain were reporting a harvest of deformed, dangerous vegetables, traced back to the Dow AgroSciences herbicide aminopyralid, which can wind up in manure. It was “scandalous,” said a woman with a patch near Bushy Park in London, “that a weedkiller sprayed more than one year ago, that has passed through an animal’s gut, was kicked around on a stable floor, stored in a muck heap in a field, then on an allotment site and was finally dug into or mulched on to beds last winter is still killing ‘sensitive’ crops and will continue to do so for the next year.”The GuardianSaudi Arabia announced that it had detained 520 people suspected of links to Al Qaeda,BBC Newsand 20-year-old Kazakh supermodel Ruslana Korshunova jumped to her death from a Manhattan apartment building. “My dream,” she once wrote on a website, “is to fly.”Daily NewsScientists found that humans laugh because they are surprised by new patterns, that they grow happier as they grow older, and that their sense of adventure is located within the ventral striatum; they also found that they can easily remember happiness and sadness, but, with the exception of some groups of Asian Americans, often have trouble recalling mixed emotions. People also sleep poorly when they eat at night, and tend to overeat as they contemplate their own deaths.Science DailyScience DailyScience DailyScience DailyScience DailyScience Daily
More from Paul Ford:
Chances that a Soviet woman’s first pregnancy will end in abortion:
Peaceful fungus-farming ants are sometimes protected against nomadic raider ants by sedentary invader ants.
In San Antonio, a 150-pound pet tortoise knocked over a lamp, igniting a mattress fire that spread to a neighborâ€™s home.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of oneâ€™s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many timesâ€”in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."