Weekly Review — November 25, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Christian martyr, 1855]

A Christian martyr.

After a trial based predominantly on classified evidence, much of which could not be discussed with the defendants, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ordered the release of five Algerian prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, where they have been held without charge for seven years based on a single, unidentified source. “To allow enemy combatancy to rest on so thin a reed,” said Leon, “would be inconsistent with this court’s obligation.” The judge called upon the Justice Department to accept his ruling, saying that the Algerians deserve to go home and that an appeal would keep the prisoners at Guantanamo for two additional years; more than 100 cases related to the prison camp, which President-elect Barack Obama has promised to close, were under review by federal judges.APAPRetail prices fell to their lowest point since 1989, oil fell below $50 a barrel, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the Consumer Price Index fell by 1 percent in October–the sharpest drop in the 61 years the index has been tracked.Washington PostUPIFederal regulators planned to bail out Citigroup with $20 billion in direct investment as well as over $300 billion in loan and securities guarantees,NYTimesCongress voted to extend unemployment benefits by at least seven weeks, CNNand Focus on the Family announced that it would fire 149 people.UPIAlaska Governor Sarah Palin pardoned a turkey, then gave a televised interview as other turkeys were slaughtered in the background. “It’s nice to get out,” she said as an upended turkey was killed, “and participate in something that isn’t so heavy-handed politics that it invites criticism.”BBCSenator Ted Stevens, a felon, lost his seat to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, for whom he promised to pray,LA Timesand Minnesota continued to examine ballots cast in the Senate race between Al Franken and incumbent Norm Coleman; both parties challenged the legitimacy of some ballots, including one in which a voter chose both Franken and the “Lizard People.”Minnesota Public RadioBarack Obama’s transition team continued to name cabinet members, including former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as the new secretary of health and human services, chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Tim Geithner as the secretary of treasury, and New York Senator Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.Roll CallTelegraphBoston HeraldThe word “meh,” defined as “an expression of indifference or boredom” was added to the Collins English Dictionary.AP

Pirates stole a Saudi oil supertanker off the coast of Somalia and demanded a $25 million ransom,The Guardianand gorillas were dying in the crossfire after Congolese rebel fighters took over a gorilla sanctuary.CNNNew evidence suggested that Adolf Hitler was monorchic, or single-testicled, having lost the other in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.Fox NewsThe senior police officer in Tokyo responsible for catching drunk drivers was caught driving drunk,Reutersand men in Japan were wearing bras.The GuardianGlobal atomic inspectors suggested that Iran has enough nuclear material to make one atomic bomb,International Herald Tribuneand a congressional advisory panel found that China has stolen “vast amounts of sensitive information from U.S. computer networks,” including government networks.CBSA Chinese-born scientist working in Virginia pleaded guilty to selling military secrets to the Chinese for their space program,Information Weekand an astronaut working to clean and lube the International Space Station’s deteriorating exterior lost a $100,000 tool bag. “We’re jacking up the International Space Station, taking the wheels off,” said NASA Commander Christopher Ferguson, “and we’re bound to get a little dirty, a little dusty, and meet a few surprises along the way.”APNYTimes

The U.S. National Intelligence Council released a report to U.S. policymakers intended to prepare them for a future of waning U.S. influence as countries including China, India, and Russia grow in standing. The report suggests the dollar may be replaced as the world’s major currency, and that demand for oil, food, and water “will outstrip easily available supplies” and lead to global conflicts. “Conditions will be ripe for disaffection, growing radicalism… youths into terrorist groups… all current technologies are inadequate. This,” it concluded, “is a story with no clear outcome.” BBCCNNThe Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that Burlington, Vermont, is the healthiest city in America,LiveScienceand scientists at the University of Georgia discovered that, like humans, rats can think about thinking.Shortlist.comRadek Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister, denied saying that Barack Obama’s relatives were cannibals who ate Polish missionaries. “Mr. Sikorski did not tell a racist joke,” said a spokesman. “He was only giving an example of unpalatable and racist jokes.”TelegraphAl Qaeda released an English-subtitled video in which commander Ayman al-Zawahri refers to Barack Obama and Condoleezza Rice as “house Negroes,” APand Muhammad Sven Kalisch, Germany’s first professor of Islamic theology, declared that the Prophet Muhammad likely never existed, and also expressed doubts about the origin of the Koran. “God,” explained Kalisch, “doesn’t write books.”WSJPrince, who wrote and performed the songs “International Lover,” “Cream,” and “Jack U Off,” spoke out against gay marriage. “God came to earth,” said Prince, “and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’ ” The New Yorker

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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.

Seeking Asylum·

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Out of sight on Leros, the island of the damned

Poem for Harm·

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Reflections on harm in language and the trouble with Whitman

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.

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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