Weekly Review — August 31, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Two thousand seven hundred twenty-two days after U.S. troops crossed the Kuwaiti border into Iraq, U.S. combat operations there officially ended. Vice President Joseph Biden arrived to usher in ”Operation New Dawn,” during which the nearly 50,000 American troops remaining in the country will still be available for combat missions when requested by Iraqi forces. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks in 13 towns and cities that killed at least 56 people, many of them members of the Iraqi police and security forces, calling the assaults “the wings of victory sweeping again over a new day.”New York TimesSeattle TimesNew York TimesGeneral Ray Odierno, the outgoing U.S. commander in Iraq, said that the formation of a new government there could still be months away. “If we get the government formed, I think we??re okay,” Odierno said. “If we don??t, I don??t know.” New York TimesA gunman killed six people and wounded 14 in the Slovak capital of Bratislava.New York TimesFive soldiers in Afghanistan were charged with forming a “kill team” to summarily execute random Afghan civilians, a college student recently returned from a month spent filming Marines in Afghanistan slashed a Muslim cab driver in New York, and General David Petraeus revealed that he is “an Enya guy.”Raw StoryNew York Daily NewsFox News

Glenn Beck led a “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech there. The rally, Beck said, had “nothing to do with politics” but “everything to do with God.” “Something that is beyond man is happening,” he told a crowd estimated by him at 500,000 and by news sources at 87,000. “America today begins to turn back to God.” Other speakers included St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and first baseman Albert Pujols and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. “It is so humbling to get to be here with you today, patriots,” said Palin. “You who are motivated and engaged and knowing never to retreat.” A competing rally organized by Reverend Al Sharpton at nearby Dunbar High School drew several thousand people. “They may have the mall,” Sharpton said, “but we have the message.”New York TimesWashington ExaminerDemocratic congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, admitted to steering 15 CBC scholarships to her own relatives and the children of aides. Johnson said she “unknowingly” broke the CBC’s anti-nepotism rules and was working to “rectify the financial situation.” PoliticoA public middle school in Nettelton, Mississippi, ended race-based quotas that prevented black students from being elected class president.MSNBC

The victim of 13 years of repeated rape by a Belgian bishop released recordings of a meeting in which Cardinal Godfried Danneels, then the leader of the Church in Belgium, asked him to wait until the retirement of the bishop??who was also the victim’s uncle??before going public. “The bishop will resign next year, so actually it would be better for you to wait,” the cardinal says on the tapes. “I don??t think you??d do yourself or him a favor by shouting this from the rooftops.”New York TimesA North Carolina “ghost hunter” searching for a ghost train at the site of an 1891 wreck was struck and killed on the tracks, a Cincinnati woman was arrested for using a sex toy while driving, and a two-week traffic jam ended in China. At its peak, traffic stretched 60 miles and moved about a mile a day. WISTVWCPOThe Economist“Crocodile Dundee” actor Paul Hogan was detained in Australia for failure to pay taxes on $37.6 million of undeclared income, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin shot a whale with a crossbow. “I hit it at the fourth try!” said Putin.Yahoo NewsGuardian

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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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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.

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Life after Life·

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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.

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