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President Barack Obama skipped jury duty to deliver his first State of the Union address. In the 70-minute speech, Obama blamed Republicans for “saying no to everything,” Democratic leaders in Congress for “horse-trading,” and the Supreme Court for a recent decision that will allow elections to be “bankrolled by special interests.” Justice Samuel Alito shook his head and mouthed the words “not true.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dozed. Obama also criticized banks, lobbyists, his own political strategy, and, indirectly, root canals; an objection from the American Society of Endodontists was duly noted. The president announced that leftover stimulus money would generate 1.5 million new jobs for the 15 million out-of-work Americans and called for a new bill to create jobs by giving tax credits to small businesses that hire new workers. He planned to cut the federal deficit with a freeze on domestic spending that, if successful, would reduce the United States’ expected shortfall by less than 3 percent over the next ten years. Thirty-two minutes into the address, Obama reiterated his commitment to health-care reform. He also said he wanted to end the Iraq war. “Make no mistake,” he said. “All of our troops are coming home.” He also committed 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan for December. MSNBC host Chris Matthews was impressed: “I forgot he was black tonight,” he said.New York TimesNew York TimesWashington PostUPIBureau of Labor StatisticsNew York TimesNew York TimesNew York TimesNew York TimesMSNBCEarlier in the week, Obama met with Magic Johnson. “He was the only man on earth that ever trash-talked me and I [didnâ??t] say anything,” said Johnson. “It was a great moment.”ESPN
The Justice Department dropped plans to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other accused September 11 plotters in downtown New York after a security plan was released that put the cost of the trial at hundreds of millions of dollars and predicted that lower Manhattan would need to be shut down with checkpoints and car searches.New York TimesMayor Nicholas Valentine of Newburgh, New York, offered to host the trial in his upstate town of 40,000 residents. “I look at it almost as a tourist attraction,” Valentine said. “The international attention would put Newburgh on the map.”NY PostMemos written by the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan questioned President Hamid Karzaiâ??s “willingness to address governance and corruption,”New York Timesand Karzai planned to hold a tribal conference with his “disenchanted brothers” in the Taliban, whereby he would convince them to lay down their arms and support the government in exchange for money and jobs. New York TimesGeneral Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, planned to end the war by fighting more: “What we need to do–all of us–is to do the fighting necessary to shape conditions where people can… make a decision where fightingâ??s not the direction that it needs to go in.”New York TimesThe United States and Pakistan announced that U.S. drone attacks had killed Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, and a spokesman for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari admitted that Zardari has hundreds of black goats sacrificed each year to protect him from “black magic” and “evil eyes.”New York TimesDAWNA Canadian lawmaker suggested that an animal-rights activist who pushed a tofu cream pie in the face of the Canadian minister of fisheries was a terrorist,.Toronto Starand PETA proposed replacing Punxsutawney Phil with a robotic stand-in to celebrate Groundhog Day.AP
It was announced that the U.S. economy grew 5.7 percent in the last three months of 2009, the largest expansion in six years, and that the Italian mafia’s profits grew an estimated 8 percent last year.New York TimesreutersBritish crime boss Colin Gunn threatened to give his enemies a “good slagging” via Facebook,Times of Londonand sexting led to a tribal war in Papua New Guinea. Australian Broadcasting CorpAn Italian 16-year-old stabbed his father in the neck with a 15-inch knife over PlayStation etiquette,reutersand Electronic Arts prepared to unveil a video-game version of Dante Alighieriâ??s Inferno. In the game, Dante is not a poet but a knight who descends into Hell to save Beatriceâ??s soul from the Devil. “If you know the poem, the game has a lot to offer,” said executive producer Jonathan Knight. “If you just want to mash buttons and kill demons, thatâ??s all it has to be for you.”New York TimesLeftist historian Howard Zinn died, as did reclusive writer J.D. Salinger, and Bonanza actor Pernell Roberts.New York TimesNew York TimesNew York TimesAustralian scientists warned that the universe will end sooner than we previously thought. “The question is, when will it end,” Dr. Charley Lineweaver said. “And all you can say is we are closer to the heat death than we anticipated.”News.co.au
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
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 Californiaâs 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 âinvasive,â âexotic,â âalienâ â 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 âindigenously Californianâ elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a âhome without its mother.â 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 âworldâs biggest selfies,â and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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âShelby 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.â