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President Barack Obama, after a meal of Chesapeake striped bass and mango sorbet, visited West Point and announced his plan to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan in order to “deny Al Qaeda a safe haven,” “reverse the Taliban’s momentum,” and “strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government”; and then, after eighteen months (more than a year before the 2012 election), to start withdrawing troops. Republicans in Congress worried that the announcement of a withdrawal date would allow the Taliban and Al Qaeda to plan for the American military’s departure, while Democrats questioned whether a significant drawdown in U.S. forces would actually occur. “Can any of you tell me, after July 2011, that we won’t have tens of thousands of troops years beyond that date?” asked Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey. “We will have 100,000 forces, troops there,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates explained later in the week. “And they are not leaving in July of 2011. Some handful, or some small number, or whatever the conditions permit, will begin to withdraw at that time.” Representative Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, suggested that the combined escalation and exit strategy was engineered to please critics. “There’s an old adage that a camel is a horse designed by committee,” Flake said. “This looks to be a policy designed by committee, a little something for everyone.” Hillary Clinton pointed out that camels are sturdy, ancient, and, though plodding, will get you where you need to go.The AtlanticNYTNYTNYTPolitico
The New York State Senate voted 38-24 to reject a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage. “Certainly this is an emotional issue and an important issue for many New Yorkers,” Republican Tom Libous said. “I just don’t think the majority care too much about it.”NYTUganda prepared to pass a bill that would make life imprisonment the minimum sentence for gay sex. Under the proposed law, which gained support after prominent U.S. Christian evangelists held an anti-gay seminar in Kampala, repeat offenders can be sentenced to death and civilians who witness homosexual acts and fail to report them can be jailed for three years. “We believe there are limits to human rights,” said James Nsaba Buturo, state minister for ethics and integrity. “We are talking about anal sex. Not even animals do that.”GuardianThe AtlanticConservative commentators criticized a videogame that contains gay human/elf sex,YouTubeand “Anderson Cooper 360″‘s ratings had dropped more than 60 percent from a year ago.Business InsiderThe Israel Defense Forces created a unit to promote Israeli military objectives through Twitter,Haaretzand New York gangs were planning attacks on one another via tweets. “I knoe bitches from oyg [the Original Young Gangsters] that would dead mob ya shit in Harlem,” read one tweeted threat.NY Daily NewsGlobal Language Monitor pronounced “Twitter” the top word of 2009,Guardianand psychologists determined that social networking profiles capture people’s true personalities. “Social networking profiles convey rather accurate images of the profile owners,” a researcher said, “either because people aren’t trying to look good or because they are trying and failing to pull it off.”Science Daily.com
President Obama invited labor leaders, corporate executives, and high-profile economists to the White House for a jobs summit to address the high unemployment rate. He warned that the government wouldn’t pursue another large stimulus plan. “Frankly,” he explained, “we just don’t have the money.” Instead, he touted a $23 billion “cash for caulkers” program that would provide cash rebates for weatherization projects that reduce energy consumption.NYTUSA TodayNYTNYTUnemployment dropped from 10.2 to 10 percent, with only 11,000 Americans losing their jobs last month. “This is good news just in time for the season of hope,” said Obama.NYTAustrian anti-Santa Claus activists revived their nine-year campaign to replace Santa with a blond-haired, blue-eyed Christ-child;Fox NewsTelegraphJesus Christ was dismissed from jury duty in Alabama for being disruptive;APand Maryland police tasered, shot, and killed Jesus, a rottweiler/pit-bull mix who attacked his owner.MSNBCA Georgia man dressed as an elf was arrested for threatening a mall Santa with dynamite,APand an Ohio man was arrested for snatching a kettle full of cash from a Salvation Army volunteer. “I can’t stand you and your bell-ringing,” he told her. “I hate Christmas.”Toledo Blade
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Average speed of Heinz ketchup, from the mouth of an upended bottle, in miles per year:
After studying the fall of 64,000 individual raindrops, scientists found that some small raindrops fall faster than they ought to.
The Playboy mansion in California was bought by the heir to the Twinkie fortune, and a New Mexico man set fire to his apartment to protest his neighbors’ loud lovemaking.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”