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Naturally, the article that broke the Kundera story–a weird collage of historical reconstruction and literary innuendo–became a story in its own right, and the outcry about Kundera became a meta-outcry: how could allegations touching a nerve so central to Czech history be slapped together for the delectation of a tabloid readership? Serious writers and historians were aghast, and many wrote pieces trying to show why, if Kundera had betrayed someone to the police, the political climate of the 1950s might mitigate his guilt. The story’s relative longevity was sustained by Kundera’s refusal to offer more than a summary denial, one that unfortunately tended to raise more questions than it answered. It’s impossible to reach a final conclusion about the episode without a more forthcoming statement from him, because the degree of blame he might bear is so deeply tied to his motives at the time and how much he knew about the Western agent–when, and if, he may have given his name to the police. At the same time, the best intentions of journalists trying to give Kundera the benefit of the doubt by cleaving to the subjunctive in writing about the allegations have usually collapsed beyond the first wordy sentences: among the many Czech articles that I read on this subject, including those defending Kundera, only a handful stubbornly avoided the conclusiveness of the past tense. Ironically, as more writers joined the scrum of Kundera’s defense, the more tightly his name became associated with the episode and the less credible his denial appeared. — “The Kundera Conundrum: Kundera, Respekt and Contempt,” Jana Prikryl, The Nation
China destroys a city in order to save it; the Abu Ghraib rape photos; the “Year of the Bible” will backfire; leg shackle with deadline timer; CIA looking to hire “recruit investment bankers, top analysts and hedge fund honchos”; an interactive map of John Murtha’s lobbyist connections
In this case, Japanese researchers added genes that caused the animals to glow green under an ultraviolet light– and beget offspring with the same spooky trait– to test a technique they hope to use to produce animals with Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other diseases…. “It’s hard to put your finger on what is it about this research that is likely to stimulate ethical debate besides the sort of gut feeling that this is not the right thing to do,” said Mark A. Rothstein, a bioethicist at the University of Louisville. — “Glowing Green Monkeys Illustrate Important but Controversial Advance,” Rob Stein, The Washington Post
Parents, who grew up in a generation more likely to use the handshake, the low-five or the high-five, are often baffled by the close physical contact. “It’s a wordless custom, from what I’ve observed,” wrote Beth J. Harpaz, the mother of two boys, 11 and 16, and a parenting columnist for The Associated Press, in a new book, “13 Is the New 18.”“And there doesn’t seem to be any other overt way in which they acknowledge knowing each other,” she continued, describing the scene at her older son’s school in Manhattan. “No hi, no smile, no wave, no high-five — just the hug. Witnessing this interaction always makes me feel like I am a tourist in a country where I do not know the customs and cannot speak the language.”For teenagers, though, hugging is hip. And not hugging? “If somebody were to not hug someone, to never hug anybody, people might be just a little wary of them and think they are weird or peculiar,” said Gabrielle Brown, a freshman at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in Manhattan. –[“For Teenagers, Hello Means ‘How About a Hug?’” by Sarah Kershaw, The New York Times]
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”