Weekly Review — March 31, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Babylonian lion, 1875]

President Barack Obama announced new military policies for Pakistan and Afghanistan, reserving, as had George W. Bush, the right to attack the tribal areas of Pakistan, but adding that the United States would create “opportunity zones” for investment in the areas of Pakistan most likely to be shelled. Obama also ordered that 4,000 U.S. military trainers be used to develop a 134,000-man national army in Afghanistan to combat the “uncompromising core of the Taliban.”New York TimesThe Defense Department announced that the phrase “Global War on Terror” had been changed to “Overseas Contingency Operation,”Washington Postand Obama held his second prime-time press conference as president. Reporters covering the event for the major national newspapers noted that, as at the first conference, he declined to take questions from reporters for the major national newspapers. Washington Post and NY TimesIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his far-right coalition government a “partnership of peace,”New York Timesand European Union President Mirek Topolanek said the American international stimulus plan was “a way to hell.”New York TimesThe bishop of South Bend, Indiana, announced he would boycott Notre Dame University’s graduation ceremony to protest President Obama’s “unwillingness to hold human life as sacred,”CNNand the postmaster general of the United States predicted financial losses of “historic proportions” for the mail service.USA TodayMassachusetts Representative Barney Frank called Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia a homophobe,CNNand Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blamed an “insatiable demand for illegal drugs” in the United States for the surge in narcotics-trafficking-related violence in Mexico.New York TimesFBI Director Robert Mueller testified before Congress that the Patriot Act helped to eliminate “an awful lot of paperwork.” Washington PostA “competent organ” in North Korea was investigating whether or not two detained female American journalists were spies,Washington Postthe Senate Judiciary Committee deliberated on the process used to select a collegiate national football champion,AP via drudgeand President Obama apparently took no steps to prevent his aunt from being deported to Kenya.Boston Herald via Drudge

The White House issued a “do-or-die ultimatum” to the U.S. auto industry, offering American carmakers “a limited period of time to work with creditors, unions and other stakeholders to fundamentally restructure…[and to] produce plans that would give the American people confidence in their long-term prospects for success.” New York TimesFourteen thousand retirement-age General Motors workers rejected buyout packages worth as much as $45,000 from the corporation. More than 7,000 employees accepted the offers. “At this point, the people who are accepting buyouts have turned them down before,” said Gary Chiason, an industrial-relations professor at Clark University. “So something has shaken them loose. These are really the saddest decisions of all because they know they could have taken a buyout before on better terms.”New York TimesSeven U.S. states were found to have unemployment rates above ten percent.New York TimesState prison systems were releasing convicted criminals to offset budget shortfalls,New York Times and Hoovervilles were rising in Fresno.New York TimesFinancially strapped American families were going camping,CNN while American men, troubled by the economic crisis, were undergoing vasectomies.CNN A sperm bank in California was running a sale on “select” sperm of which they have a “huge inventory,”Breitbart.com via Drudgeand George Soros said that he was “having a very good crisis.” daily mail via drudge Researchers at Johns Hopkins University concluded that male circumcisions help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases,BBC Newsand the U.S. Centers for Disease Control released a report on the safety hazards posed to American households by recumbent pets. Epidemiologist Judy Stevens, one of the authors of the report, stated that “while pets have many benefits, health-wise and emotionally, they can also be a fall hazard.”New York Times

British scientists delivered electric shocks to hermit crabs to see if they were able to feel and remember pain, and determined that they could.CNN Federal officials blamed American spelunkers for the spread of “white nose syndrome,” a disease that has killed as many as 500,000 bats,New York Timesand German researchers found that head lice are easier to locate in wet hair than dry.New York TimesBrazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva claimed that he did not know of any “black or indigenous bankers,”Financial Times via Drudgeand reality-show star Kim Kardashian confirmed the presence of cellulite deposits in her thighs. “I have cellulite,” she admitted. “What curvy girl doesn’t?”People via CNNIllinois governor Pat Quinn said that Rod Blagojevich was “yesterday’s tomatoes.”Washington PostEarthquake swarms rumbled beneath the Salton Sea,Los Angeles Timesand Malawian welfare officials confirmed that Madonna would be allowed to remove another child from their country.Los Angeles TimesOn the Indonesian island of Loh Sriaya, Komodo dragons attacked and killed Muhamad Anwar, a 32-year-old fisherman who had come to steal their sugar apples.CNN

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I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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