Weekly Review — December 9, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

The Labor Department reported that 533,000 people lost their jobs in November, a further 621,000 people were forced into part-time employment, and 422,000 more simply dropped out of the labor force. The report, describing a situation far worse than economists expected, also recorded 24,000 layoffs by auto dealers.MarketwatchRepresentatives of the Big Three car companies, facing their lowest sales in decades and, in the case of Chrysler and General Motors, imminent collapse, again appeared before Congress (traveling by car and commercial flights this time, rather than on private jets) to ask for $34 billion in aid, a few billion less than the value of Harvard University’s endowment four months ago, before it lost $8 billion.KansasCity.comThe GuardianThe Wall Street JournalThe Financial TimesThe Government Accountability Office released a 66-page audit critical of oversight of the bailout. “The interests of the government and taxpayers may not be adequately protected,” said the report. “Program objectives may not be achieved in an efficient and effective manner.”The Washington Post“This is a big problem,” said President-elect Barack Obama of the economy, “and it??s going to get worse.”The New York TimesLaid-off employees of Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago staged a sit-in, and Jesse Jackson brought them bags of food.The New York TimesZimbabwe, with unemployment at 90 percent and inflation at 23 million percent, said it would issue new $200 million notes. Police in Harare clashed with marching doctors and nurses who were protesting the 10,000 cases of cholera in the country; the Limpopo River was declared infected. “Defecating everywhere,” said one victim.CNNBBC NewsIreland recalled its pork.RTE News

Birmingham, Alabama, mayor Larry P. Langford was arrested for corruption and charged with taking bribes.The New York TimesFour men, two dressed as women, robbed a Harry Winston boutique in Paris, taking $100 million in jewels and other merchandise,The Los Angeles TimesThe New York Timesand O. J. Simpson was sentenced to up to 33 years in jail for stealing some football memorabilia last September. “It’s kind of a bittersweet moment,” said Fred Goldman, who believes Simpson murdered Goldman’s son Ron in 1994, “knowing that that S.O.B. is going to be in jail for a very long time.”BloombergSky NewsThe real estate boom in Dubai was slowing,The Guardianand the exhumed body of Mohammad Daud Khan, first president of Afghanistan, who was executed in a coup in 1978 and buried in a mass grave in Pul-e-Charkhi, was identified by a small golden Koran.BBC NewsIn the Nigerian state of Akwa Ibom, police arrested a man who claimed to have killed 110 witch-children, although the man later insisted that he had only exorcised the children of their witchiness.BBC NewsScientists found that smaller spiders make better lovers and that dogs get jealous.Science DailyNew ScientistAggressive super-ants were taking over Europe and displacing other ants;Live ScienceHitler’s maid said that he had always been charming. “We could hear him crying,” she said.Mail OnlineVenice flooded,CNNand scientists in Wisconsin studying a stalagmite from Jerusalem noted that the climate became increasingly dry from 100 A.D. to 700 A.D., corresponding to the declining influence of the Roman and Byzantine empires.Science DailyPresident George W. Bush unveiled his portrait at the Union League of Philadelphia. “Welcome to my hanging,” he said.The New York Daily NewsThe Los Angeles Times

It was reported that Barack Obama’s grandfather was imprisoned and tortured by the British in 1949 during the Mau Mau uprising. “They would sometimes squeeze his testicles with parallel metallic rods,” said Sarah Onyango, 87, called “Granny Sarah” by the president-elect. “That was the time we realized that the British were actually not friends.”The TimesTony Blair praised Obama’s choice of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.The Associated PressAleksy II, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, died at 79,The New York Timesand after nearly 28 years in a coma Sunny von Bulow died at 76.CNNPsychiatrist Robert Zajonc–who correlated birth order with I.Q.–died at 85, and Oliver Selfridge, a student of Norbert Wiener and an artificial-intelligence researcher who invented “intelligent agents,” which he called “demons,” died at 82.The New York TimesThe New York TimesScientists at Berkeley found that as compared to rich-child brains, the brains of poor children are often more like those of stroke victims, with less response in the prefrontal cortex. “This is a wake-up call,” said a neuroscientist.Science DailyResearchers studying Canadians found that older brains are less efficient at filtering out distractions,Science Dailywhile researchers in Brazil found that medical students are often depressed.Science DailyA statistician in California said that humans would soon reach their maximum running speed. “Men are still on the upward trend,” said Mark Denny of Stanford University, but “they are getting near that plateau.” Horses and dogs are already running as fast as they can.Mercury News

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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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