Weekly Review — December 27, 2005, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

The Senate, with Dick Cheney casting the deciding vote, cut $40 billion in funding for foster care, child support, and student loans.Democracy Now!U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked Congress for $50 million to support African troops in Darfur, but her request was rejected.Herald News DailyAmericans had spent $18.48 billion on gift cards this holiday season.USA TodayThe House voted to extend the Patriot Act by five weeks.APPresident George W. Bush called nine U.S. servicemen and servicewomen and wished them a Merry Christmas,APwhile British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Iraq.BBC NewsIt was revealed that undercover police in New York City had infiltrated anti-war protests, street vigils, and pro-bicycling rallies. At one march, police provoked protesters–some of whom they later arrested–by staging a fake arrest.New York TimesThe FBI was spying on Greenpeace, Catholic Worker, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and PETA.Democracy Now!It was reported that the United States had, without warrants or court orders, been monitoring radiation levels at over 100 Muslim mosques, homes, businesses, and other sites in the Washington, D.C., area.U.S. News and World ReportIt was also reported that the NSA had, with Presidential approval but without warrants, spied on much more Internet and phone traffic than was previously acknowledged. The New York TimesFormer Secretary of State Colin Powell said that there was “absolutely nothing wrong” with President Bush authorizing the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans.AP

A judge in Pennsylvania ruled that teaching Intelligent Design in schools violated the constitutional separation of church and state,BBC Newswhile an appeals panel in Kentucky ruled that a courthouse there could continue to display the ten commandments because they are of “historical” significance. “The First Amendment,” wrote Circuit Judge Richard Suhrheinrich, “does not demand a wall of separation between church and state.”APThe Supreme Court of Canada ruled that swingers clubs do not harm society.CBC NewsMontgomery County, Maryland, bought the original Uncle Tom’s cabin.Lexington Herald-LeaderWorkers for the New York CityMass Transit Authority went on strike for three days,BBC Newsand 4,000 LondonTube workers voted to hold a 24-hour walkout on December 31.BBC NewsInvestigators in New York City were trying to find out who stole Alistair Cooke’s bones.BBC NewsAuthorities in Vienna, Austria, determined that people dressed as devils can legally smack the rear ends of strangers on Christmas,Local Government International Bureauand Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered that all western music be banned from state-controlled radio and TV stations.APIn South Africa a mugger running from security guards fled into a tiger enclosure, where he was mauled to death.SFGate.comThe United States denied Saddam Hussein’s claim that he had been tortured while imprisoned. “I have been beaten on every place of my body,” said Hussein, “and the signs are all over my body.”BBC NewsIt was discovered that bad hay had led to the deaths of 900 goats in Saskatchewan.CBC.ca

A senior member of the International Olympic Committee revealed that London probably only won the right to host the Olympics in 2012 because of a voting error.BBC NewsPrebiotic organic molecules–which are found in DNA–were discovered in constellation Ophiuchus, 375 light-years from earth.MSNBCThe Pope was worried that “intellectual and technical achievements” were leading to “spiritual barrenness and emptiness of heart.”BBC NewsA study found that good dancers are sexually attractive because they are more symmetrical.BBC NewsIn Hubbard, Ohio, a Santa clutched his chest and collapsed as he appeared before 750 elementary schoolchildren,Cleveland.comand in Warren, Michigan, a 14-year-old boy allegedly raped a 12-year-old girl in a church bathroom during a Christmas play.WXYZ.comIn Lawrence, Kansas, three women quit their gym because there was a Christmas tree decorated with plastic fetuses in its lobby.WPXI.comA Missouri woman swallowed a cell phone to keep it away from her boyfriend.APNew rings were found around Uranus,CNN.comand gay marriage became legal in the U.K. Elton John married his partner David Furnish in Windsor, and two gay druids who perform in amateur pantomime productions were registered as legal partners in Wrexham.The Jerusalem PostBBC NewsScientists in Switzerland found that taking didgeridoo lessons cuts down on snoring,Reuterswhile scientists in Mauritius discovered the bones of 20 dodos.BBC NewsIn the Isle of Wight, England, authorities were looking for Toga, a three-month-old Jackass penguin that they believe was stolen so that it could be given as a Christmas present. “Toga,” said a zoo manager, “is very, very vulnerable.”CNN.com

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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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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:

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