Weekly Review — June 7, 2005, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

President George W. Bush said that allegations made by Amnesty International, claiming that the prison at Guantánamo Bay is a “gulag,” were absurd. Bush accused Amnesty of listening to “people that have been trained in some instances to disassemble–that means not tell the truth.” Whitehouse.govU.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said that HIV and AIDS were spreading at an accelerating rate around the world,ReutersNew Jersey was planning to try six animal-rights activists on “animal enterprise terrorism” charges,Reutersand an Australian woman was arrested for attempting to bring fifty-one tropical fish into the country hidden in her skirt.APSeveral prisoners at Guantánamo Bay said they were sold to the United States by Pakistani tribesmen who wanted a bounty. APThe Maldives decided to become a democracy,BBC Newsand Donald Rumsfeld said that he did not know how foreign suicide bombers were getting into Iraq.New York Daily NewsIt was revealed that the aviator Charles Lindbergh had seven illegitimate German children by three German mistresses.CNNSeven hundred thousand chickens expired during a power blackout in Moscow that cut off their ventilation; not long afterward the dead chickens started exploding.PravdaThousands of hungry people demonstrated in Niger.ReutersThe CIA was running its own fleet of twenty-six airplanes, owned by seven shell companies,The New York Timesand Deep Throat turned out to be a ninety-one-year-old former FBI official named W. Mark Felt.Washington Post

A fire in Watertown, South Dakota, killed thirteen thousand turkeys.Argus LeaderBerlin police, acting on a kidnapping tip, stopped a car and pulled a man from the car’s trunk; it turned out the man, wearing only a thong and collar, was a voluntary sex slave.ReutersZoo officials in Japan were worried that Futa, the red panda that became famous when it stood up on two legs, would be worn out by all of the attention. “His primary purpose here,” said an official, “is to mate.”Canada.comSaudi Arabia was considering whether women should be allowed to drive.ABC NewsIn New York City, a nine-year-old girlstabbed an eleven-year-old girl named Queen Washington to death. The girls were fighting over a pink rubber ball.New York Daily NewsA jet-skiing man was decapitated off Long Island when he ran through a boat’s anchor line,Daily Newsand a man in Narrogin, Australia, died when he fell into a meat grinder.The AgeSwitzerland gave gay couples tax and inheritance rights, but will not allow them to adopt children,BBC Newsand the American Family Association called on its members to boycott Ford, saying that the auto-maker promotes the homosexual lifestyle. They suspended the boycott a few days later.Detroit Free PressScientists found that a single “switch gene” determined whether a fruit fly turned out gay or not.The IndependentAn Illinois man burned down his house in order to clear it of crackheads,Chicago Sun-Timesand a woman in Pennsylvania offered her newborn baby’s clothes as a billboard for advertising. “Everyone looks at babies,” she said.CNNRalph Nader called for the impeachment of George W. Bush based on reports of the Bush Administration “fixing” the intelligence over Iraq. John Kerry wondered why the intelligence-fixing, which came to light in a leaked British memo, has received so little attention in the United States. “Is there a way for this to break through,” he asked, “ever?”Boston.comAl Jazeera A young colobus monkey escaped from the Belfast Zoo after having an an argument with his dad. ReutersFive Buddhist monks in Nong Khai, Thailand, were defrocked for brawling with other monks from a rival temple. “When an ordinary person is given a middle-finger sign he will be mad; so am I,” said monk Boonlert Boonpan.Reuters

In Spain, a quarter of a million people protested against the government’s plan to negotiate with Basque separatists,Reutersand in Beirut, a bomb killed Samir Kassir, a Lebanese journalist who opposed the Syrian occupation. Hundreds of people attended his funeral.ReutersA bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan, killed twenty people,The New Zealand Heraldand unidentified men attacked two villages in Ivory Coast, killing at least forty-one people.ReutersA group of men in the Philippines, naked save for head scarves and caps, protested cuts in education funding.ABS-CBNLatvia ratified the European Union Constitution.China DailyA grizzly bear killed a woman near a golf course in Canada.CBC NewsStanislaw Dziwisz, the longtime aide and confidant of Pope John Paul II, revealed that he had refused to obey the dead pope’s request that all his papers be burned.The IndependentHaim Yavin, one of the founders of Israel’s state television channel and the country’s most respected news presenter, broadcast a documentary showing Israel’s occupation of Palestine as brutal. “I cannot really do anything to relieve this misery,” he said, “other than document it.”BBC NewsTwo Israeli soldiers said that they were ordered to take part in revenge killings of Palestinians. “It doesn’t matter,” one of the soldiers said he was told. “They took six of ours, and we are going to take six of theirs.” His unit went on to kill three Palestinians in an ambush. “And we acted flawlessly,” said the soldier. “We performed superbly.”BBC NewsIsrael released three hundred ninety-eight Palestinian prisoners,Haaretz.comand announced that it would build twenty-two more homes in the West Bank.BBC NewsMahmoud Abbas postponed Palestinian elections until an unspecified date.Haaretz.comThe Supreme Court made it impossible to obtain medical marijuana.Bloomberg.comA care worker at a Japanese mental home was arrested for unleashing feral dogs to keep patients in their rooms,Mainichi Daily Newsand the British children’s home Strawberry Field, which inspired the Beatles song “Strawberry Fields Forever,” closed.ReutersA British man, happily married for eighty years, was asked for the secret to marital bliss. “‘Yes, dear’,” he explained.Mail & GuardianSeventy-four false killer whales (which are less aggressive than true killer whales, but, like true killer whales, are not whales but dolphins) beached themselves in Australia. One thousand five hundred volunteers worked to return seventy-three of the whales to the sea; one whale died. A volunteer described the whales as “very heavy.”BBC NewsNews.com.auScientists began work on a complete, molecule-level computer simulation of the human brain. The project will take at least ten years.New Scientist

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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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Good Bad Bad Good·

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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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Constitution in Crisis·

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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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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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