Weekly Review — September 16, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Stocks on Wall Street and other exchanges throughout the world dropped as brokerage Merrill Lynch was bought by Bank of America, insurance giant AIG sought tens of billions of dollars in government loans, and investment bank Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy.The New York TimesJohn McCain and Barack Obama suspended political advertising and appeared together at the World Trade Center site to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks,The New York Timesand former Massachusetts governor Jane Swift, chair of the Palin Truth Squad, demanded that Obama apologize for saying that McCain’s promise to change Washington amounted to putting “lipstick on a pig” and insisted that the pig was Sarah Palin. “As far as I know,” said Swift, “she’s the only one of the four… who wears lipstick.”Washington PostJoe Biden made public the last ten years of his tax returns, showing that his average annual income was $244,000, of which less than half of one percent went to charity, and suggested to a group in New Hampshire that Hillary Clinton “might have been a better pick” to run with Obama.Tax Prof BlogThe TelegraphReporters discovered that the Alaskan governor’s official jet, which Palin claimed to have sold on eBay, was in fact removed from the site and sold, at a loss, to one of Palin’s campaign contributors;The IndependentMcCain announced that “Innovators” who raised more than $250,000 during the primary season were eligible to become “Super Innovators” if they raised an additional $250,000 for the general election;The New York Timesand Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was forced to apologize after his Conservative party posted a video on its website showing an animated puffin defecating on Liberal leader Stephane Dion. The Canadian Press

Thousands of people remained trapped without food, water, or electricity on Texas’s Galveston Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike,The New York Timesand at least 25 people were killed and another 140 injured when a Metrolink commuter train crashed head-on into a freight train in the San Fernando Valley.Los Angeles TimesNinety-one-year-old Morton Sobell, who served almost two decades in Alcatraz and other federal prisons on espionage charges, publicly admitted for the first time that he had spied for the Soviets. He implicated his codefendant Julius Rosenberg but insisted that Ethel Rosenberg, who was executed along with her husband, was never actively involved in espionage. “She knew what he was doing,” Sobell said, “but what was she guilty of? Of being Julius’s wife.”The New York TimesAn Italian prosecutor sought to charge actress Sabrina Guzzanti with “offending the honor of the sacred and inviolable person” of Pope Benedict XVI; Guzzanti had suggested that “within 20 years the Pope will be where he ought to be–in Hell, tormented by great big gaydevils, and very active ones, not passive ones.”The Times of LondonKim Jong-Il’s absence from a ceremony celebrating the 60th anniversary of North Korean independence intensified speculation that the leader may have suffered a serious stroke in recent weeks.The New York TimesAustralian authorities were in search of a boy filmed punching and kicking a stunned kangaroo.BBC

American officials confirmed that in July President Bush gave secret permission to American Special Operations forces to perform ground attacks against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan without the approval of the Pakistani government. “Orders,” said one official, “have been issued.”The New York TimesThe Interior Department’s inspector general released multiple reports describing a “culture of ethical failure” at the Department’s Minerals Management Service, which collects about $10 billion each year in royalties from offshore drilling in government waters; a program director at the Department admitted to having sex with and buying cocaine from subordinates.The New York TimesAuthor David Foster Wallace committed suicide,.Los Angeles Timesand the Large Hadron Collider commenced operations, firing a beam of protons through a 17-mile-long tunnel that runs under the FrancoSwiss border. “I thought, ‘Oh, wow,'” said an engineer. “‘It actually worked!'” National Geographic NewsCharles Darwin received a formal apology from the Church of England for its initial rejection of his theory of evolution 150 years after the publication of “On the Origin of Species.”The TelegraphPolice in Fresno apprehended a man for breaking into a house, rubbing cooking spices on the body of one sleeping resident, and assaulting another resident with a sausage. The Fresno BeeResearchers in England determined that women are up to 50 percent more likely than men to experience nightmares,BBCand scientists at the Norwegian Polar Institute were surprised to find the partial remains of a polar bear in the stomach of a Greenland shark. “There is,” said a researcher, “far easier prey to be found.”The Scotsman

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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?

This spring, Harper’s Magazine invited five lawmakers and scholars to New York University’s law school to consider the constitutional crisis of the twenty-­first century. The event was moderated by Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown and the author of How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon.

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.

Power of Attorney·

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In a Walmart parking lot in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 2015, a white police officer named Stephen Rankin shot and killed an unarmed, eighteen-­year-­old black man named William Chapman. “This is my second one,” he told a bystander seconds after firing the fatal shots, seemingly in reference to an incident four years earlier, when he had shot and killed another unarmed man, an immigrant from Kazakhstan. Rankin, a Navy veteran, had been arresting Chapman for shoplifting when, he claimed, Chapman charged him in a manner so threatening that he feared for his life, leaving him no option but to shoot to kill—­the standard and almost invariably successful defense for officers when called to account for shooting civilians. Rankin had faced no charges for his earlier killing, but this time, something unexpected happened: Rankin was indicted on a charge of first-­degree murder by Portsmouth’s newly elected chief prosecutor, thirty-­one-year-­old Stephanie Morales. Furthermore, she announced that she would try the case herself, the first time she had ever prosecuted a homicide. “No one could remember us having an actual prosecution for the killing of an unarmed person by the police,” Morales told me. “I got a lot of feedback, a lot of people saying, ‘You shouldn’t try this case. If you don’t win, it may affect your reelection. Let someone else do it.’ ”

Carlitos in Charge·

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I was in Midtown, sitting by a dry fountain, making a list of all the men I’d slept with since my last checkup—doctor’s orders. Afterward, I would head downtown and wait for Quimby at the bar, where there were only alcoholics and the graveyard shift this early. I’d just left the United Nations after a Friday morning session—likely my last. The agenda had included resolutions about a worldwide ban on plastic bags, condemnation of a Slobodan Miloševic statue, sanctions on Israel, and a truth and reconciliation commission in El Salvador. Except for the proclamation opposing the war criminal’s marble replica, everything was thwarted by the United States and a small contingent of its allies. None of this should have surprised me. Some version of these outcomes had been repeating weekly since World War II.

Life after Life·

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

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:


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 group of researchers studying the Loch Ness Monster did not rule out the possibility of its existence, but speculated that it is possibly a giant eel.

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Happiness Is a Worn Gun


“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

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