Weekly Review — June 1, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Runaway Raft on the Tigris, March 1875]

Runaway Raft on the Tigris.

President Bush unveiled his new “five-point plan” for Iraq during a speech at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and offered to destroy the Abu Ghraib prison if Iraqis want him to; the president also promised to give Iraq a modern prison system.New York TimesThe Bureau of Justice Statistics announced that 1 in 75 American men were in prison or jail last year, and itAssociated Presswas reported that interrogators from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, went to Iraq last fall and trained military intelligence teams at Abu Ghraib prison.New York TimesIyad Alawi, a doctor who has long been on the CIA payroll, was chosen to be the new Iraqi prime minister when “limited sovereignty” is handed over to an interim “caretaker” government on June 30, thoughNew York TimesAmerican officials and the Iraqi Governing Council were still fighting over who would be the interim president.ReutersRichard Perle, James Woolsey, and other right-wing American allies of Ahmad Chalabi met with Condoleezza Rice to announce their displeasure at what they called the recent smear campaign against the Bush Administration’s former favorite Iraqi.New York TimesA Chilean court stripped former dictator Augusto Pinochet of his immunity from prosecution.New York TimesThe International Atomic Energy Agency said that looters have carried off whole buildings from Iraqi military and industrial sites,New York Timesand police in Philadelphia found some children playing with a bazooka.WPVI TV Philadelphia

Attorney General John Ashcroft asked the American public for help finding terrorists who he said are planning to “to hit the United States hard”; a number of officials criticized the announcement and said that the government had no new information about terror threats.Sacramento Bee, New York TimesThe FBI sent out a warning of an “imminent” terrorist attack but then retracted the warning within a few hours.New York TimesA report by the General Accounting Office found that government agencies are engaged in at least 199 data-mining projects, 36 of which involve personal information taken from private sources.Computer WorldThe governor of Georgia declared a state of emergency in six counties because of the “potential danger” posed by demonstrators at the Group of 8 meeting.New York TimesRussia ordered its border guards to be nice.AnanovaPrime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel was still trying to convince his coalition to go along with plans to withdraw from part of the Gaza Strip, and he threatened to fire cabinet members, such as Benjamin Netanyahu, who oppose him.Financial TimesA British journalist who was arrested in Israel for talking to Mordechai Vanunu, the scientist who exposed Israel’s nuclear weapons program, was released from custody and complained that he had been stuck in a dungeon with excrement-covered walls; Vanunu was released last month after 18 years in prison and has been ordered not to talk with foreigners.GuardianAs part of a land-claim settlement with the Canadian government, the Inuit people of northern Labrador agreed to form a 28,000-square-mile autonomous territory called Nunatsiavut.New York TimesSuspected Al Qaeda militants killed 22 people and took many hostages in an attack on the oil industry town of Khobar, in eastern Saudi Arabia.ReutersAn Army Corps of Engineers email revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office “coordinated” Halliburton’s multi-billion-dollar Iraq contract; Cheney has said that he had nothing to do with the contract, which was awarded without competing bids.Agence France-PresseA performer with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus fell to her death in front of an audience.Associated PressThe New York Times published an extraordinary editors’ note admitting that the newspaper had been manipulated by members of the Bush Administration and by Iraqi exiles such as Ahmad Chalabi into running false stories (especially on the subject of Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction) that advanced the administration’s war agenda and had failed to follow up aggressively on many of those stories, and had failed, in those instances when it did follow up, to make prominent note of the fact that the stories were false. The retraction was published on page A10, where many readers would fail to notice it.New York Times

A researcher at the University of Michigan found evidence that the large increase in asthma and allergies over the last twenty years has been caused by antibiotics.New ScientistA Russian scientist died of Ebola fever, and authoritiesNew York Timesin Texas killed 24,000 chickens after avian flu was found on a farm near Sulphur Springs.New York TimesThe first U.S. case of West Nile virus in 2004 was reported in New Mexico.New ScientistKirin Brewery Co. announced that it had geneticallyengineered a cow, which has not yet been born, that will be immune to mad cow disease.ReutersThirteen million pounds of raw almonds were recalled because of salmonella contamination.New York TimesMTV declined to air advertisements for Super Size Me, a documentary about a man who eats nothing but McDonald’s food for a month, because it was determined that the ads unjustly disparage fast food.ReutersMalibu banned smoking on the beach.New York TimesIt was reported that Las Vegas is still growing.New York TimesScientists discovered in a seven-year study that mice with the highest metabolic rates lived 35 percent longer, a finding that challenges the usual understanding of the relationship of metabolism and life span.Eureka AlertChina sent one of the Buddha’s fingers to Hong Kong.New York TimesArmin Meiwes, the famous German cannibal, was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.GuardianDoctors in Kentucky, who have been practicing face transplants on dead bodies, asked for permission to give a living person a new face.BBC

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In 1973, when Barry Singer was a fifteen-year-old student at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the vice principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, stopped him in a stairwell. Claiming he wanted to check his tzitzit—the strings attached to Singer’s prayer shawl—Finkelstein, Singer says, pushed the boy over the third-floor banister, in full view of his classmates, and reached down his pants. “If he’s not wearing tzitzit,” Finkelstein told the surrounding children, “he’s going over the stairs!”

“He played it as a joke, but I was completely at his mercy,” Singer recalled. For the rest of his time at Yeshiva, Singer would often wear his tzitzit on the outside of his shirt—though this was regarded as rebellious—for fear that Finkelstein might find an excuse to assault him again.

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About fifteen years ago, my roommate and I developed a classification system for TV and movies. Each title was slotted into one of four categories: Good-Good; Bad-Good; Good-Bad; Bad-Bad. The first qualifier was qualitative, while the second represented a high-low binary, the title’s aspiration toward capital-A Art or lack thereof.

Some taxonomies were inarguable. The O.C., a Fox series about California rich kids and their beautiful swimming pools, was delightfully Good-Bad. Paul Haggis’s heavy-handed morality play, Crash, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, was gallingly Bad-Good. The films of Francois Truffaut, Good-Good; the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, Bad-Bad.

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Reflections on harm in language and the trouble with Whitman

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America’s Constitution was once celebrated as a radical and successful blueprint for democratic governance, a model for fledgling republics across the world. But decades of political gridlock, electoral corruption, and dysfunction in our system of government have forced scholars, activists, and citizens to question the document’s ability to address the thorniest issues of modern ­political life.

Does the path out of our current era of stalemate, minority rule, and executive abuse require amending the Constitution? Do we need a new constitutional convention to rewrite the document and update it for the twenty-­first century? Should we abolish it entirely?

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For time ylost, this know ye,
By no way may recovered be.
—Chaucer

I spent thirty-eight years in prison and have been a free man for just under two. After killing a man named Thomas Allen Fellowes in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight in 1980, when I was nineteen years old, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Former California governor Jerry Brown commuted my sentence and I was released in 2017, five days before Christmas. The law in California, like in most states, grants the governor the right to alter sentences. After many years of advocating for the reformation of the prison system into one that encourages rehabilitation, I had my life restored to me.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

A solid-gold toilet named “America” was stolen from Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, in Oxfordshire, England.

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