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Syria’s government reported that nearly 90 percent of voters had approved a draft constitution introducing democratic reforms, including a multiparty system. The referendum was boycotted by opposition groups and condemned by international leaders. “To open polling stations but continue to open fire on the civilians of the country,” said British foreign secretary William Hague, “has no credibility in the eyes of the world.” Activists reported that at least 140 Syrians had been killed in recent days in Homs, where government shelling also killed two Western journalists. In her final dispatch, one of the journalists, Marie Colvin, wrote, “I was met by a welcoming party keen for foreign journalists to reveal the city’s plight to the world. So desperate were they that they bundled me into an open truck and drove at speed with the headlights on, everyone standing in the back shouting ‘Allahu akbar’—God is the greatest. Inevitably, the Syrian army opened fire.” Sergeant Frank Wuterich, the only U.S. Marine to be found guilty of any charge related to the 2005 killing of 24 Iraqis in Haditha, was honorably discharged. In Afghanistan, about 40 people were killed, including two American military advisers, amid protests over the burning of Korans by NATO personnel at a Bagram Air Field garbage pit. President Barack Obama apologized to Afghans for the error, prompting Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum to say, “I think it shows weakness.” Mitt Romney praised Michigan’s automakers during a campaign stop in the state, saying, “I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually. And I used to have a Dodge truck. So, I used to have all three covered.” Asked later in the week whether he follows NASCAR, Romney responded, “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans. But I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners.”
The German Bundestag voted in favor of a $170 billion bailout for Greece, the largest share of which will be funded by Germany. “Greece needs a Marshall Plan,” said Left Party leader Gregor Gysi, who opposed the plan, “not a Versailles Treaty.” The Royal Bank of Scotland announced it would pay out about $630 million in bonuses despite an expected $3.5 billion in losses this year, the fourth in a row it has failed to post a profit, and British Labour MP Eric Joyce was arrested after he became enraged in a House of Commons bar, hit several fellow MPs, and headbutted the MP from Pudsey. “There are too many fucking Tories in here,” said Joyce.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn was held overnight in Lille to be questioned about possible connections between a prostitution ring and orgies he attended in Paris and Washington. “I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other woman,” a lawyer for Strauss-Kahn said on French radio in December. Bribery charges against former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi were thrown out of court in Rome, the sixth time a trial involving Berlusconi has ended because the statute of limitations had expired. Police in the Indian state of Kerala continued their murder investigation into two Italian marines accused of shooting two Indian fisherman from the deck of the oil tanker Enrica Lexie; more than 1,000 passengers on the Italian cruise ship Costa Allegra were adrift following a fire off the coast of Seychelles; and Italy began selling off a group of Sardinian lighthouses in response to its debt crisis.
The OPERA group at Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory acknowledged that readings it reported showing neutrinos to have surpassed the speed of light may have been caused by a faulty connector. “This connector was not perfectly plugged,” said Gran Sasso director Lucia Votano. “Okay?” A Naples, Florida, man was charged with aggravated assault after brandishing a weapon outside a bank and telling deputies he was the director of the CIA, Elvis Presley’s brother, and half orangutan, and that he needed to call the “fusion center” to ask about his monkey blood. Clouds were found to have been getting lower for the past decade, and Sifrhippus, a species of tiny horse that lived 56 million years ago, was found to have shrunk over thousands of years as the earth’s climate got hotter. Astronomers confirmed the existence of a “waterworld” exoplanet 40 light-years from Earth; NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovered solid buckyballs (buckminsterfullerene) in outer space, and Kellogg’s produced a box of chocolate, marshmallow, shortbread, and raisin Totes Amazeballs cereal for Charlatans U.K. singer Tim Burgess after he tweeted the name as a joke. Whitney Houston was found to have been the subject of 10 percent of all U.S. media coverage during the week after she died, and a Michigan man whose son died in Iraq, angry that Houston’s home state of New Jersey was flying its flags at half-staff in her honor, burned a New Jersey state flag on his backyard grill. “It was $12.95,” said the man of the flag, “and it was the best money I ever spent.”
More from J Gabriel Boylan:
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
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 naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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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.”