Weekly Review — September 27, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

Mahmoud Abbas went before the United Nations General Assembly in support of Palestine’s bid for UN membership, saying his was a “defenseless people, armed only with their dreams, courage, hope, and slogans.” “Yeah,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his UN address. “Hopes, dreams, and 10,000 missiles.” Abbas returned to cheering crowds in Ramallah, though some Palestinians were skeptical of his quest. “We are not against a peaceful solution, but we don’t believe it,” said one West Bank resident.BBCUnited NationsUnited NationsNY Times

In what it called an expression of Islamic mercy, Iran released a pair of American hikers detained in the country for two years. In exchange, it received $1 million in bail money, posted by Oman.LA Times

After decades of contentious litigation that saw seven of nine eyewitnesses recant their testimony, Troy Davis was executed in Georgia. “The question is not whether you can avoid errors,” said a former prosecutor about Davis’s case. “The only realistic question in an adult mind is which set of errors you’re going to accept.”NY TimesTimeNY Times

As the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York’s Zuccotti Park entered its second week, police used Tasers and pepper spray to control the crowd, corralling some activists behind orange netting and taking others away in handcuffs. Brookfield Office Properties, which owns the park, sent men in suits to pass out fliers laying out rules against tarps and sleeping bags, prompting the protesters to chant “Don’t take the papers” then accuse the men of littering when they left the leaflets on park benches and tables.ABC NewsNew York Magazine Daily IntelWSJThe Nation

Neutrinos blasted from Switzerland arrived in Italy sixty billionths of a second earlier than expected, apparently outpacing the speed of photons and threatening to upend Einstein’s theory of relativity. Physicists advised caution. “The constancy of the speed of light essentially underpins our understanding of space and time and causality,” said Oxford University’s head of particle theory. “If we do not have causality, we are buggered.”ScienceGuardianBBC

At a Republican presidential debate on Thursday, Michele Bachmann pledged to sign the “mother of all repeal bills” to abolish the Department of Education, and Rick Santorum called President Barack Obama “the new King George III.”NY Times

In honor of Pope Benedict XVI’s controversial visit to Germany, a Berlin beermaker brewed an organic pilsner and “ensouled” it by playing Gregorian chants from a boom box on the eve of the new moon.Spiegel OnlineSpiegel Online

Government officials announced the seizure in New York’s Chinatown of 6,000 units of illegally imported pesticides, including vials of a Chinese rat poison, labeled “The cat be unemployed,” that contained the powerful anticoagulant brodifacoum in concentrations sixty times the legal limit. Some of the chemicals, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, smelled “like cookies or other objects that would attract the human touch.”NY Times

The Department of Justice admitted it had paid too much for muffins, the Pentagon struggled to meet the “huge gaseous helium requirements” of its blimps, an Arkansan archivist discovered a moon rock among Bill Clinton’s gubernatorial papers, and Chinese panda breeders noticed that Atlanta-born Mei Lan, previously thought to be a female, had testes. “If it wasn’t a giant panda,” said Zoo Atlanta’s mammal curator, “this just would have been a paperwork change.”ReutersWiredReutersAtlanta Journal-Constitution

In Fife, Scotland, the presence of a single red squirrel threatened to scuttle a new housing development. “One red squirrel should not stand in the way of mankind’s march of progress,” said a councillor.Scotsman

Authorities in Edinburgh revealed that a violin case, a potato peeler, and a quill pen had been used this year as weapons on city streets, and in Somalia, the Islamist militant group al-Shabab handed out grenades and Kalashnikovs as prizes in a children’s trivia game.ScotsmanNY Times

An American car club broke a world record by parading fifty-one hearses in Hell, Michigan.Detroit Free Press

Citing evidence of a “live fast and die young” mentality among cephalopods, marine biologists reported that deep-sea squid shoot packets of sperm indiscriminately at members of both sexes. “In the deep, dark habitat where O. deletron lives,” wrote the scientists, “potential mates are few and far between.”GuardianBiology Letters

In California, researchers implicated bottlenose dolphins in a recent rash of porpoise killings, but couldn’t determine whether the mammals were venting sexual frustration or merely practicing infanticide. “We call them ‘porpitrators,'” said cetologist Thomas Jefferson.San Francisco Chronicle

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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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Reflections on harm in language and the trouble with Whitman

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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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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.

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

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