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I suffer from a motor neuron disorder, in my case a variant of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS): Lou Gehrig’s disease. Motor neuron disorders are far from rare: Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and a variety of lesser diseases all come under that heading. What is distinctive about ALS—the least common of this family of neuro-muscular illnesses—is firstly that there is no loss of sensation (a mixed blessing) and secondly that there is no pain. In contrast to almost every other serious or deadly disease, one is thus left free to contemplate at leisure and in minimal discomfort the catastrophic progress of one’s own deterioration. –Tony Judt, “Night,” The New York Review of Books
In my boyhood, there were signs on English buses that declared, in bold letters, “No Spitting.” At a tender age, I was able to work out that most people don’t need to be told this, while those who do feel a desire to expectorate on public transport will require more discouragement than a mere sign. But I’d be wasting my time pointing this out to our majestic and sleepless protectors, who now boldly propose to prevent airline passengers from getting out of their seats for the last hour of any flight. Abdulmutallab made his bid in the last hour of his flight, after all. Yes, that ought to do it. It’s also incredibly, nay, almost diabolically clever of our guardians to let it be known what the precise time limit will be. Oh, and by the way, any passenger courageous or resourceful enough to stand up and fight back will also have broken the brave new law. –Christopher Hitchens, “Flying High,” Slate
It was Code Orange. Americans first heard of it at a Sunday press conference in Washington, D.C. Weekend assignment editors sent their crews up Nebraska Avenue to the new Homeland Security offices, where DHS secretary Tom Ridge announced the terror alert. “There’s continued discussion,” he told reporters, “these are from credible sources—about near-term attacks that could either rival or exceed what we experienced on September 11.” The New York Times reported that intelligence sources warned “about some unspecified but spectacular attack.”… But there were no real intercepts, no new informants, no increase in chatter. And the suspicious package turned out to contain a stuffed snowman. This was, instead, the beginning of a bizarre scam. Behind that terror alert, and a string of contracts and intrigue that continues to this date, there is one unlikely character. –Aram Roston, “The Man Who Conned the Pentagon,” Playboy
Trudy Lieberman reports on the failed promise of the Affordable Care Act, Sarah A. Topol explores Ukraine’s struggle for a national identity, Dave Madden spends a week in Hollywood’s toughest comedy club, and more
Number of insect fragments allowed by the FDA in a standard jar of peanut butter:
It emerged that, in trying to count her rings, marine geologists had accidentally killed a 507-year-old clam named Ming.
A resident of Chalk Level Township in Missouri discovered the bodies of three dogs packed inside dog-food bags.
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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.”