Weekly Review — November 24, 2015, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Gunmen kill 22 people at a hotel in Mali, a poet in Saudi Arabia is sentenced to death, and a Florida mayor tries to pay an ethics fine with 360,000 pennies and nickels 


French police carried out 793 raids across the country, arresting 90 people, seizing illegal drugs and weapons, and killing Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian member of the Islamic State suspected of organizing the recent attacks in Paris.[1][2] French legislators extended a nationwide state of emergency for three months, enabling the government to conduct warrantless searches, prohibit assembly and protest, and restrict press freedoms.[3][4] Thirty-one U.S. governors said they would block the White House’s efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in their states, despite having no authority to do so.[5] Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush called for the United States to prioritize refugee status for Syrian Christians, provoking questions about how applicants would be vetted. “You can prove you’re a Christian,” said Bush.[6] Islamist fighters stormed a Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali, taking more than 170 hostages and killing 22 people.[7] Suicide bombers attacked open-air markets in the Nigerian cities of Yola and Kano, killing 47 people and injuring at least 130 others.[8][9] It was reported that 2,043 people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list have legally purchased a gun in the United States within the past 11 years.[10] A mosque in Ontario was set ablaze, a Toronto woman wearing hijab was punched and harassed while picking up her children from school, and a shop in Colorado called Isis Books & Gifts was vandalized for the fifth time. Those responsible, said the owner, are “people believing that somehow the terrorists have a store, a gift store, in the middle of Denver.”[11][12][13]

In Antalya, Turkey, the Group of 20 nations agreed not to engage in cyber espionage for commercial purposes.[14] President Obama called for a halt to China’s island construction in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, and China began shutting down mobile service for Xinjiang residents who evaded government firewalls.[15] Explosives detonated at two electricity pylons on the Crimean peninsula caused an outage that affected almost 2 million people.[16] Russia resumed nuclear trade with Iran.[17] A poet in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to death for apostasy.[18] Vatican prosecutors indicted five people in connection with a leak of confidential papal documents, and the pastor of a Singaporean megachurch was convicted of fraud for diverting $36 million in church funds to advance his wife’s singing career.[19][20] Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced a deal to acquire the Irish drug manufacturer Allergan for $160 billion and move from the United States to Dublin.[21] The Food and Drug Administration approved genetically engineered salmon for human consumption.[22] Ethiopian Airlines operated its first flight staffed entirely by women, Salt Lake City elected its first openly gay mayor, and two 35-year-old men became the first gay couple to wed in Ireland.[23][24] The National Institutes of Health announced that it would end its use of chimpanzees in biomedical experiments, and an animal-rights group sued a Louisiana amusement park for allowing a chimpanzee named Candy to smoke cigarettes and drink Coca-Cola.[25][26]

A 1,111-carat diamond was unearthed in central Botswana, and a landslide near a jade mine in Myanmar buried 100 workers.[27][28] A Japanese man broke the world record for the fastest 100 meters running on all fours, and participants in Bangkok’s half-marathon were promised free T-shirts after a route error caused them to run an extra four miles.[29][30] In Philadelphia, a pair of zebras escaped from a circus.[31] A Massachusetts woman won the lottery for a second time, and a Florida mayor tried to pay an ethics fine with 360,000 pennies and nickels.[32][33] A man sued Pennsylvania state police who detained him for 29 days when they mistook his homemade soap for cocaine, and a Florida police officer was fired for singing with a death-metal band while on duty.[34][35] Audience members at Zimbabwe’s fourth annual Mister Ugly competition protested after the reigning champion was dethroned by a 42-year-old man with several missing teeth. “He is ugly,” said a rival, “only when he opens his mouth.”[36]

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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.

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.

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.

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.’ ”

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.

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 federal judge authored a 69-page ruling preventing New York City from enforcing zoning laws pertaining to adult bookstores and strip clubs.

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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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