Weekly Review — October 23, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Saluting the Town, March 1854]

Michael Mukasey, President George W. Bush‘s nominee for attorney general, received a warm reception on his first day before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he decried torture and promised a nonpartisan Justice Department. On his second day, however, he hedged on whether waterboarding is torture and argued that the president could disregard laws passed by Congress. “I don’t know,” said Senator Patrick Leahy, “whether you received some criticism from anybody in the administration last night after your testimony, but I [sense] a difference.”New York TimesNew York TimesThe Senate Intelligence Committee agreed to grant retroactive immunity to phone companies that provided the government with subscribers’ phone and e-mail records,Washington Postand the House failed to override President Bush‘s veto of the SCHIP health care plan, which was intended to provide health insurance to 10 million children. New York TimesArkansas lawmakers were unable to muster enough votes to ban tobacco-chewing in the state’s legislative chambers.New York TimesVladimir Putin traveled to Iran and cautioned the United States against a military strike; President Bush responded by saying that democracy might not be in the “Russian DNA” and threatened World War III if Iran acquired nuclear weapons.The GuardianWashington PostIranian and Chinese companies won contracts worth $1.1 billion to build power plants in Sadr City, Iraq,. New York Timesand the Turkish parliament authorized attacks on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq by a vote of 507 to 19. New York TimesSecretary of State Condoleezza Rice painted an upcoming U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference as a “moment of opportunity” for Israelis and Palestinians, while film director David Lynch claimed that 250 experts in Transcendental Meditation could end that conflict by dissolving “the suffocating rubber clown suit” of hatred.The Boston HeraldCheckpoint Jerusalem

The Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal. “We are furious,” said Zhang Qingli, secretary of China’s Party Committee of Tibet Autonomous Region. “If the Dalai Lama can receive such an award, there must be no justice or good people in the world.”Washington PostNew York TimesPakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto returned from self-imposed exile to Karachi, where bombs struck her welcome parade, killing 134 and wounding 450; police believed they had found the bomber’s head.New York TimesCNNState inspectors visited a Texas youth jail to find spoiled food, overflowing toilets, walls smeared with feces, and a curriculum reliant on crossword puzzles.New York Times It was reported that students at 31 New York City high schools will now receive thousand-dollar prizes for a top score on any advanced placement examNew York Timesand that middle schoolers in Portland, Maine, can obtain birth control pills from their schools without notifying parents.New York TimesIn England, cooks at a Suffolk middle school discovered maggots in a rice dish,BBC and a government study found that 50 percent of Britons will be clinically obese by 2050.Daily MailA British restaurant began serving gray squirrel pancakes.Daily MailA poll revealed that a quarter of Germans think National Socialism had “good sides,” including low crime, low unemployment, and “the encouragement of the family.”New York TimesFrench president Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife divorced.New York Times

James Watson, who won the Nobel Prize for his role in the discovery of DNA, said that while he wishes everyone were equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true.” CNNLynn Cheney announced that her husband and Barack Obama are eighth cousins. “Every family,” said the Obama campaign, “has a black sheep.”BBCA New York man was arrested after wearing a stolen Rolex watch to his parole meeting, New York Timesan Ohio woman stood accused of digging up her ex-boyfriend’s grave and stealing his ashes,CNNand a Virginia woman was fined for attacking a Comcast store with a hammer after the company cut off her phone and Internet connections. ”I smashed a keyboard, knocked over a monitor and I went to hit the telephone,” she said. ”I figured, ‘Hey, my telephone is screwed up, so is yours.”’ New York TimesA New Jersey woman sent 80,000 cans of Silly String, which can locate trip wires, to U.S. troops in Iraq; a military spokesperson thanked her but admitted that soldiers don’t use as much Silly String today as they did at the beginning of the war.CNN Forty-nine percent of New Jersey residents admitted they’d rather live somewhere else.Fox NewsTaku the killer whale died unexpectedly at the San Antonio SeaWorld,New York Times5 of the world’s 350 remaining Asiatic Lions were found dead next to an electric fence in India,New York Timesand the curator of the Rotterdam Natural History Museum asked the public to donate pubic crabs, claiming that their population was dwindling as a result of Brazilian waxes. ”When the bamboo forests that the Giant Panda lives in were cut down, the bear became threatened with extinction. Pubic lice,” he explained, “can’t live without pubic hair.”New York Times

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Weekly Review September 23, 2007, 12:00 am

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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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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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