Weekly Review — October 12, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Christian martyr, 1855]

A Christian martyr.

The United Nations hosted a six-day climate-change conference in China with the aim of accelerating “the search for common ground” among developed and developing nations on preventing global warming. “As governments, you can continue to stand still or move forward,” said the UNâ??s climate-change chief at the start of the conference. “Now is the time to make that choice.” The conference ended in a deadlock. BBCAn investigation by the German government found that rich countries are not honoring their $30 billion pledge from Copenhagen to help poor countries adapt to climate change; rich countries are instead repackaging previously committed aid. “Treasuries don’t allow ministers to make spending pledges,” explained one former diplomat. “They go into a side room and warn there is no new money availableâ??then they get creative as to how to present a package that will look good on paper.” GuardianBBCA study of a major period of global warming 125,000 years ago led scientists to conclude that current emission-reduction targets are not ambitious enough to prevent catastrophic effects. Scientists also reported that the glaciers of Glacier National Park were disappearing. Science DailyCNNFloods ravaged central Vietnam, killing fifteen people and forcing thousands to flee, and researchers warned of “evapotranspiration,” which has been drying up soil in the Southern Hemisphere.BBCScience DailyA 600-foot-long crevice appeared in the Michigan woods. Upper MichiganThe White House got solar panels.Washington Post

Jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year sentence on charges of inciting subversion of state power after he called for political reforms and human rights, won the Nobel Peace Prize, a recognition that the Chinese government labelled “blasphemy.” Chinese officials blocked news agencies from reporting on the award and put Liu’s wife under house arrest. Globe and MailNew York TimesAfter the wall of an aluminum-plant reservoir in Hungary burst, 24 million cubic feet of toxic red sludge flooded nearby villages, killing seven people. “I hung in the sludge for forty-five minutes,” said resident Etelka Stump. “It had a strong current that almost swept me away but I managed to hang on to a strong piece of wood from the pigsty.” CNNNew York TimesBBCJPMorgan Chase and Bank of America suspended their foreclosure proceedings amid challenges to the legality of some foreclosures and concerns of flawed paperwork.New York TimesThe father of Christine O’Donnell, the U.S. Senate candidate in Delaware who has been accused of padding her online resume, admitted that he was not an official Bozo the Clown but only a part-time Bozo. “To be an official Bozo, you had to go to a special school in Texas,” he said.New York TimesPhotos emerged of Democratic Virginia congressional candidate Krystal Ball at a Christmas party wearing a leotard and a Santa hat and holding a leash attached to the neck of her then husband, and The HillOhioRepublican congressional candidate Rich Iott was found to be an avid Nazi reenactor. “It’s purely historical interest in World War II,” said Iott.The AtlanticBolivian President Evo Morales apologized for kneeing an opponent in the groin during a friendly soccer match between members of Morales’s Movement Toward Socialism party and the opposition party, Movement Without Fear.BBCThe Cuban government made the two-pocket guayabera the official uniform of Cuba.BBC

Soul singer Solomon Burke died, as did the South African chimpanzee Charlie, who was an avid smoker until his death at 52. BBCNew York TimesThe Times Square bomber was sentenced to life in prison; a 20-year-old Arab American in California found an FBI bug on the underside of his car; and a man in London tried unsuccessfully to hold Jonathan Franzen’s glasses for ransom.BBCCNNBBCAn English couple was sold a bag of potatoes they believed to be a laptop.BBCResearchers discovered a new language, Koro, spoken by 1,000 people in the Indian Himalayas, and at Delhi’s Commonwealth Games the drains of the athletes’ housing were found to be blocked by thousands of condoms. “If that is happening, it shows that there is use of condoms,” said the federation’s president. “I think that is a very positive story.”Christian Science MonitorGuardianWashington D.C.’s Department of Motor Vehicles began offering HIV testing, and women at Moscow State University dressed in lingerie and posed for a calendar to celebrate Vladimir Putin’s 58th birthday. “You put out forest fires,” read the caption of one photo, “but I’m still burning.”CNNBBC

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October 2019


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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