Weekly Review — March 5, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Sequestration remonstration, shticklomacy in North Korea, and the menagerie of Nutzu the Pawnbroker

"What Though I Am Obligated to Dance a Bear"

“What Though I Am Obligated to Dance a Bear”

The United States Congress failed to reach a deal that would avert automatic budget cuts to federal departments and programs before a March 1 deadline established by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The $42 billion in cuts scheduled for the current fiscal year includes an estimated 8 percent cut to defense spending and an estimated 2 percent cut to Medicare-provider payments, and may also affect such programs as air-traffic control, border control, scientific research, environmental inspection, offshore oil exploration, and FBI wiretap translation. President Barack Obama blamed the sequestration on the intransigence of House Republicans; House Republicans blamed Obama’s desire for new tax revenues in addition to budget cuts and Senate Democrats’ failure to pass a replacement bill; House Democrats blamed House Republicans for spitefulness and Obama for underestimating House Republicans’ spitefulness; Mitt Romney blamed Obama for poor leadership; and lexicographers blamed the prevalence in the media of the noun “sequester” on the complexity of the more proper “sequestration.” “I don’t think anyone quite understands how it gets resolved,” said House Majority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio). “I should somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks,” said Obama.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] Neuroscientists infused the brain of a rat in North Carolina with the thoughts of a rat in Brazil, and a Florida man fell through the floor of his house into a sinkhole from which his body could not be recovered.[8][9] Static electricity was found to have caused the explosion of the Hindenburg airship in 1937, and the maiden voyage of the replica ship Titanic II was scheduled for 2016. “Anything will sink,” said Blue Star Line owner Clive Palmer, “if you put a hole in it.”[10][11]

Kenyan officials reported turnout of over 70 percent for the initial round of voting in the country’s first presidential election since the 2007 ballot that led to weeks of ethnic violence and resulted in the deaths of more than a thousand people.[12][13] Chad’s army claimed to have killed Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, a commander of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Zeid’s rival and former fellow commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who planned the January attack on the Amenas gas plant in Algeria that killed 60 people.[14][15] The United Nations ended its sanctions against Osama bin Laden, and Al Qaeda’s English-language magazine published tips for “open source” jihadis on how to burn parked cars and cause accidents with strategically placed oil slicks. “The sliding will surprise the [nonbelievers],” wrote AQ Chef. “Maybe even causing a down the mountain Chitti Chitti Bang Bang flying special.”[16][17][18] The United States began providing aid to groups fighting to depose Syrian leader Bassar al-Assad; a hot-air-balloon crash over Luxor, Egypt, killed 19 tourists; and 30 million locusts swarmed Giza. “I ask the families living in the locust-plagued areas not to burn tires,” said Egyptian agriculture minister Salah Abd Al Mamon. “This does not chase away the locusts.”[19][20][21] The Vatican opened a vacant see. “The Lord has given us many days of sunshine and light breezes,” said Pope Benedict XVI in his final address before retiring, “but also times . . . when the Lord seemed to be sleeping.”[22][23][24] Pessimistic German seniors were found to live longer, and historians cataloguing Nazi internment and execution facilities reported that the Holocaust was more widespread than previously believed, encompassing some 42,500 sites and the imprisonment or death of between 15 million and 20 million people.[25][26] In North Korea, where gulags were expanding and old men were granted permission to wear their hair as long as 2.75 inches, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un hosted three Harlem Globetrotters, NBA Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman, and a film crew from Vice magazine. “Everybody’s so concerned with geopolitics that we forget just to be human beings,” said Vice co-founder Shane Smith. “I am sitting in a hotel room,” tweeted Vice producer Jason Mojica, “watching the end of Rocky IV . . . crying.”[27][28][29][30]

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An eight-year-old Siberian girl died in the belly of an ice turtle.[31] Doctors declared cured a Mississippi baby born with HIV.[32] Former U.S. surgeon-general C. Everett Koop died at 96, and former Temptations singer Richard Street died at 70.[33][34] An Englishman calling himself Moody Blues was reported to have advised former New York City policeman Gilbert Valle, who is on trial for conspiring to kill and eat women, that face meat is “great for sandwiches.”[35] Food inspectors discovered that South African burgers and sausages are adulterated with soy, and that some Icelandic beef pies are meatless.[36][37] The heart of Richard the Lionhearted was found to have been embalmed in daisy, mint, and myrtle.[38] The English town of Bognor Regis held its final clown parade, and Romanian authorities seized the bears and lions of Nutzu the Pawnbroker.[39][40] The ear of a teenager in Banbury, England, was bitten off at the Sound Exchange dance club, and a riot broke out at a Chicago shopping mall during an autograph signing by the band Mindless Behavior.[41][42] Citing health concerns, the School of Visual Arts in New York City temporarily confiscated a thesis project consisting of 68 vials of semen by student Marc Bradley Johnson. “I’ve been working on this,” said Johnson, “for months.”[43]


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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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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.

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Reflections on harm in language and the trouble with Whitman

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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.

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For time ylost, this know ye,
By no way may recovered be.
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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.

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