Weekly Review — November 11, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Barack Obama was elected the 44th president, and first African-American president, of the United States, receiving 365 electoral votes in an election that saw perhaps the highest turnout among registered voters in a century. “If there’s anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible,” Obama told supporters, “tonight is your answer.” “The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly,” said John McCain in a teary-eyed concession speech. “What an awesome night for you,” President Bush said to Obama. “His choice, basically, is whether he is going to be Uncle Sam… or Uncle Tom,” said Ralph Nader, who received roughly 1 percent of the popular vote.New York TimesNew York TimesWashington PostNew York TimesNew York TimesBreitbartDallas Morning NewsIndependent Political ReportDemocrats added to their majorities in both houses of Congress, while Senate races in Minnesota, Georgia, and Alaska remained undecided.New York TimesCalifornia,Florida, and Arizona passed propositions banning same-sex marriage,New York TimesArkansas passed a measure preventing unmarried couples from adopting children,New York Timesand San Francisco voters rejected Measure R, which called for the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant to be renamed the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.Associated PressThe Treasury Department announced plans to buy $40 billion worth of AIG stock, bringing to $150 billion the amount the government has lent to or invested in the insurance company;U.S. Provides More Aid to Big InsurerGeneral Motors warned that it would run out of cash early next year without a merger or a government bail-out;We’ll go bust without bail-out of merger, says General Motorsunemployment rates reached their highest level in 14 years;Jobless Rate at 14-year High After October Lossesand sales at major retailers declined sharply, increasing expectations of the worst holiday shopping season in decades.Retailers Report Sales CollapseFormer Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta was named the head of Obama’s transition team, former Clinton political director and House Democratic caucus chairman Rahm Emanuel accepted an offer to become Obama’s chief of staff, and it was reported that top Obama aide Robert Gibbs would be named White House Press Secretary.Washington PostWashington PostPolitico“Itâ??s important that everybody understands that this is not going to happen overnight,” said Gibbs about reversing the damage done by the Bush Administration. “There has to be a realistic expectation of what can happen and how quickly.” “We’re in deep trouble,” said Georgia Representative John Lewis.New York TimesNew York Times

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev warned Obama against continuing Bush’s plans for missile-defense systems in Eastern Europe and threatened to move short-range missiles into the Baltic near Poland and “to neutralize, when necessary” American installations there, but Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi insisted, “I don’t see problems for Medvedev to establish good relations with Obama who is also handsome, young, and suntanned.”Washington PostReutersSouth African singer and longtime anti-apartheid activist Miriam Makeba, known as “Mama Africa,” died at 76.New York TimesChina announced a $585 billion economic-stimulus plan,New York TimesAmerican officials revealed that since 2004 the U.S. military has conducted around a dozen previously undisclosed attacks in Syria, Pakistan, and other countries on the authority of a classified order signed by Donald Rumsfeld,.New York Timesand a series of blasts in northern Baghdad killed 28 people.New York TimesU.S. missiles fired into a village in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan killed at least ten people,New York Timesthe Iraqi government continued to press for a firm withdrawal date for U.S. troops before signing a status-of-forces agreement,Washington Postand Iran’s parliament voted to impeach Interior Minister Ali Kordan after it was discovered that he had lied about receiving a Ph.D. from Oxford University. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the impeachment illegal, adding, “I do not care for a torn-up piece of paper.”CNN

The Secret Service revealed that a spike in death threats against the Obama family coincided with Sarah Palin’s attacks against Obama’s patriotism in the final weeks of the campaign, and McCain campaign insiders suggested that Palin lacked rudimentary understanding of civics and geography. “Those guys,” Palin said, “are jerks.”The TelegraphA study found that men who read “lad magazines” like Maxim and FHM are more likely than their peers to have body-image problems,Live ScienceDemocratic New Jersey councilman Steven Lipski was charged with assault after urinating off a balcony onto a crowd at a Grateful Dead tribute show in Washington, D.C.,New York Daily Newsand the United States attorney in Manhattan declined to press criminal charges against former New York governor Eliot Spitzer despite finding that “on multiple occasions, Mr. Spitzer arranged for women to travel from one state to another state to engage in prostitution.”New York TimesBritish researchers found that obesity may be socially contagious,The Guardiana council in London banned the placing of foster children in households with smokers,Reutersand 700 couples were married in a mass wedding in the Eurasian separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.EurasiaNetScientists in Japan produced clones of dead mice, a feat they say brings them closer to resurrecting extinct species,CNNand author Michael Crichton died.New York TimesSpanish authorities deported one of Osama bin Laden’s sons after denying his asylum application,New York Timesmonks brawled at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Christ was crucified and buried,CNNand Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the destruction of parts of an ancient Muslim cemetery, where some of Saladin’s warriors are buried, to make way for a new Frank Gehry-designed $250 million Museum of Tolerance.BBC

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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.

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.

Poem for Harm·

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Reflections on harm in language and the trouble with Whitman

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.

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 solid-gold toilet named “America” was stolen from Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, in Oxfordshire, England.

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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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