Weekly Review — February 2, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Tempest, December 1878]

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

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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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