Weekly Review — December 11, 2012, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Sliding Down Hill.

Typhoon Bopha struck the southern Philippines, causing flash floods and landslides that killed at least 700 people and displaced more than 5 million. Speaking at the United Nations COP18 Climate Change Conference in Doha, Filipino diplomat Naderev Saño broke down in tears as he called on delegates to extend the Kyoto Protocol and assist developing nations affected by rising greenhouse-gas emissions. “I ask of all of us here,” said Saño, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?” On Saturday, the delegates agreed to extend the protocol until 2020, but put off until next year the dispute over aid to affected nations.[1][2][3][4][5] Following protests in Cairo that left at least seven people dead and 700 injured, Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi called for “comprehensive and productive” dialogue but declined to postpone a controversial constitutional referendum scheduled for December 15; granted sweeping arrest powers to the military but stated that these powers were meant only for the protection of polling stations; and rescinded most of a recent presidential decree giving him near-unlimited power but retained the right to make decrees without oversight. “I’m really confused,” said an Egyptian doctor, “by all of the politics in the country.”[6][7][8][9][10] In Afghanistan, a member of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six was killed during the successful rescue of a kidnapped American, and a man who attempted to assassinate Afghanistan’s chief of intelligence was found to have concealed explosives in his groin. “This is not Taliban work,” said Afghan president Hamid Karzai. “There are bigger and professional hands involved.”[11][12][13] Hamas turned 25, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly crossed his legs in retaliation against the crossed legs of the Swedish ambassador, the average sperm count of Frenchmen was found to have fallen by a third between 1989 and 2005, and a man in Long Island, New York, shot his girlfriend following an argument over the likelihood of a zombie apocalypse. “He felt very adamant there could be a military mishap that would result in some sort of virus being released,” explained a detective. “She felt it was ridiculous.”[14][15][16][17]

Star Wars fans appealed to the Obama Administration to build a Death Star. “By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform,” their petition read, “the government can spur job creation.”[18] The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest mark in four years, and the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. “[I] have justifiable doubts that a foreign U.N. body operating out of Geneva, Switzerland, should decide what is in the best interest of the child,” said Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah). “It just says that you can’t discriminate against the disabled,” said Senator John Kerry (D., Mass.).[19][20][21][22] Greece was found to be the European Union’s most corrupt country, and a Greek soccer league reportedly informed owner Soula Alevridou, a former prostitute who rescued her club from bankruptcy, that her team’s equipment couldn’t bear the names of her luxury brothels, Villa Erotica and House of the Era.[23][24] A 125-mile-long traffic jam brought travel between St. Petersburg and Moscow to a three-day standstill, a Chinese construction firm announced plans to flatten 700 mountains in order to erect a new city in Gansu Province, and an eighteenth-century château in the French town of Yvrac en Gironde was found to have been razed in error.[25][26][27] Swedish artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff exhibited a painting made using ashes from a Nazi death-camp crematorium in Poland. “When von Hausswolff’s work isn’t muddied by naïveté,” an art critic wrote of the show, “he offers exciting and alternative strategies to deal with and remember the horrors of the past.”[28]

It was reported that the world’s oldest person had died at 116, and that the world’s tallest woman had died at 7'8".[29][30] A nurse at the London hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, was being treated for severe morning sickness committed suicide two days after being duped by a prank call from an Australian radio DJ who claimed to be the Queen of England.[31] The antivirus-software developer John McAfee was arrested in Guatemala, where he’d fled to avoid police questioning about a murder in Belize. “Vastly superior to Belize jails,” he wrote. “The coffee is also excellent.”[32][33][34] Vatican officials created a Twitter account for Pope Benedict XVI with the handle @Pontifex. “He won’t follow anyone for now,” said an adviser. “He will be followed.”[35][36] New Zealand dogs were being taught to drive; Darwin, a rhesus macaque wearing a diaper and a shearling coat, was apprehended at a Toronto Ikea; 832F, a female wolf known as the “rock star” of Yellowstone National Park, was shot and killed by hunters; and Bowland Betty, a rare hen harrier, was shot and killed on Thorny Grain Moor in Yorkshire, England.[37][38][39][40] Google gave the World Wildlife Fund $5 million to expand a “drone conservation” program aimed at tracking elephant, rhinoceros, and tiger poachers, and the wives of Thai mahouts were picking coffee cherries from the dung of their husbands’ elephants, to be processed into beans and sold for $500 a pound. “There’s definitely something wild about it,” said one man after trying a cup, “that I can’t put a name on.”[41][42]

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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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