Weekly Review — January 4, 2005, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Martyrs.]

The World Health Organization warned that outbreaks of cholera and dysentery resulting from a lack of clean drinking water could easily double the number of people killed by the Indian Ocean tsunami.ReutersNearly 150,000 people were confirmed dead in the disaster and far more were badly injured. Estimates of the homeless ran to five million.Associated PressUnited Nations secretary general Kofi Annan cut his Christmas holiday short to meet with world leaders about providing relief and announced that he would fly to affected countries to help organize the effort from the ground.Agence France-PressePresident George W. Bush stayed on vacation down at the ranch in Crawford, Texas, and complained about the U.S. being called stingy. He then doubled his initial aid offer to $35 million. Senator Patrick Leahy noted that “we spend $35 million before breakfast in Iraq.”New York TimesTwo days later the amount rose to $350 million.New York TimesOfficials at Sri Lanka’s largest national park were wondering how all the wild animals had survived,Reutersand Norodom Sihanouk, the retired king of Cambodia, said his country had been spared thanks to the warnings of his astrologer.ReutersWater saved from a cup Elvis sipped from sold for $455 on eBay,Reutersand a bad batch of homemade alcohol killed 37 people in India.New York TimesA new law took effect that bars immigrants from claiming refugee status in Canada if they have to travel through the U.S. to get there,New York Timesand the Department of Agriculture said it would allow Canadianbeef back into the country.Washington PostScientists were concerned about rats overrunning Alaska.New York TimesAstronauts aboard the international space station reported they’d had little to eat except candy for the last five weeks,Reutersand studies showed that obesity increases a woman’s risk of getting pregnant while on the pill.HealthDayMissouri legalized bare-handed catfishing.Associated Press

The Department of Justice revised its definition of torture and asserted that it is, in fact, illegal.Washington PostSix Navy Seals and two of their wives sued the Associated Press for publishing photographs of the men posing and grinning amid hooded prisoners; a reporter found the photos after one of the wives posted them on smugmug.com, a website she had thought was secure.New York TimesIn Dubai, an Italian man was fined for hugging and kissing a woman in public.Agence France-PresseThe Ugandan government entered peace talks with the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group led by a self-proclaimed messiah, whose ranks consist largely of kidnapped children. “We could kill you all now for nothing,” said a rebel spokesman, “but that’s not our aim.” New York TimesFighting resumed the next day.BBC NewsThe imprisoned founder of Russia’s largest oil producer accused the government of stealing his empire.New York TimesPresident Vladimir Putin made the first ten days of the New Year a national holidayNew York Timesand awarded the Hero of Russia medal to Ramzan Kadyrov, a Chechen leader widely accused of kidnapping and torture.New York TiesItalian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi explained his numerous plastic surgeries to reporters, saying “I need to feel that my external appearance reflects my inner youth.”New York TimesA bomb knocked the head off a statue of Marshal Josip Tito in his home town in Croatia.New York Times In Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf announced that he would hold on to his dual post as president and army chief, reneging on his promise to relinquish authority over the country’s military by the end of 2004. “The spirit of democracy has been restored in the country,” he said.New York TimesPeace talks between India and Pakistan went nowhere.New York TimesOne hundred seventy-five people died in a Buenos Aires nightclub that burned down after fireworks were lit inside,New York Timesand tourist muggings were up in Rio de Janeiro.New York TimesSnow fell in the United Arab Emirates.New York Times

Viktor Yanukovich resigned as prime minister of Ukraine, though he continued to insist that the presidential runoff election, which he lost, had been fraudulent. The Central Election Commission disagreed, as did international observers,New York Timesand Viktor Yushchenko was preparing to take office.Associated PressThe eastern tiger salamander was selected by voters in Illinois as the official “State Amphibian.”Associated PressOsama bin Laden named the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as Al Qaeda’s “emir,” or prince, in Iraq, and the largest Sunni party in the country withdrew from the election.New York TimesMurder rates were down in Colombia, and The Wall Street JournalIsrael freed 159 Palestinian prisoners and briefly detained presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouti for campaigning in Jerusalem without a permit.New York TimesMahmoud Abbas, the frontrunner, was thinking about visiting the Temple Mount.The Jerusalem PostSuicide bombers attacked Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry.New York TimesA 67-year-old Romanian woman who had undergone ten years of treatment in fertility clinics announced that she was pregnant with twins.Agence France-PresseA study found that American preschoolers are more obese than ever,New York Timesand tourism was up in Cuba.New York TimesThe Pentagon was considering cutting back on new weapons programs,New York Timesthe FBI named its sixth counterterrorism chief in three years,The Washington Journaland Jami Miscik became the CIA’s sixth high-level official to resign since Porter Goss took over the agency in September.ABC NewsThe stock market finished 2004 in the black.New York TimesSusan Sontag died,New York Timesthirty-six children in North Dakota were injured in a New Year’s Eve sledding accident,Associated Pressand Liza Minnelli was hospitalized after falling out of bed.New York Times

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Secrets and Lies·

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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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Out of sight on Leros, the island of the damned

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Reflections on harm in language and the trouble with Whitman

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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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Life after Life·

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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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