Thursday, July 10, 2008

Worth Reading

Sometimes I think the Harper's Weekly Review is worth reading in its entirety.


Colombian military commandos infiltrated a settlement
operated by the guerilla group FARC and freed 15 hostages,
among them three U.S. contractors and the Colombian-French
politician Ingrid Betancourt. President George W. Bush
called Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to congratulate
him. "What a joyous occasion it must be to know that the
plan had worked," said Bush. "That people who were
unjustly held were now free to be with their families." A
federal appeals court ruled that evidence against Hozaifa
Parhat, a Chinese Muslim held at Guantanamo Bay for six
years, consisted of nothing more than the reassertion of
his guilt in three top-secret documents. "Lewis Carroll
notwithstanding," wrote one judge, quoting "The Hunting of
the Snark," "the fact the government has 'said it thrice'
does not make the allegation true." Former inmates of
Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison were suing contractors in four
American states for subjecting them to electrical shocks,
mock executions, and forced nudity, and the Iraqi
government announced that the United States had agreed to
strip private security contractors of their legal
immunity, though the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad refused to
confirm the statement. A survey found that Americans
feared terrorist attacks less than at any point since
September 11, 2001, and President Bush removed Nelson
Mandela from the terrorism watchlist. A poll revealed that
a third of Welsh college students believe that a
flirtatious or drunk woman is to blame for being raped,
and a survey of the National Assembly for Wales found that
3 of the 8 legislators who responded had been raped but
had not reported the crime. In Australia, where inflation
is at a 16-year-high, Treasury Secretary Ken Henry left
his post to look after 115 endangered hairy-nosed wombats
for five weeks. "I think," said an opposition politician,
"we all love the hairy-nosed wombat."

Bozo the Clown and Jesse Helms died, and the new waxwork
Hitler at the Berlin Madame Tussauds museum was
beheaded. Fifteen boys were killed and 90 hospitalized in
Eastern Cape, South Africa, due to botched circumcisions,
Ottawa firefighters sprayed children with
E. coli-contaminated water to celebrate Canada Day, and a
Dublin, Ohio, man was arrested again for using Saran Wrap
to collect and drink little boys' urine. Google co-founder
Sergey Brin explained that he had decided to raise his
company's on-site daycare fee to $57,000 a year because he
was tired of employees who felt entitled to free "bottled
water and M&Ms" (although a spokesman denied that he had
said this), and a judge ruled that Google subsidiary
YouTube must provide Viacom, which is suing over copyright
claims, with details of the viewing habits of everyone who
has logged in and watched a video. Psychologist Himanshu
Tyagi claimed that children raised to use online social
networking sites will "put less value on their real world
identities" and may be in danger of "impulsive behavior
or even suicide." British studies warned that eating junk
food during pregnancy might cause lasting damage to the
child, and that eating too much tofu could lead to
dementia. Researchers at Texas A&M's Fruit and Vegetable
Improvement Center found that watermelons have a
"Viagra-like effect," but a researcher in Oklahama pointed
out that this benefit may be offset by the melon's
diuretic properties.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average officially entered a bear
market. The cost of oil surged, and shares of General
Motors fell to their lowest price since 1954. Speeding
drivers in Holly Springs, Georgia, were paying police a
fuel surcharge to cover the price of their pursuit, a
Kentucky woman was arrested after trading sex for a $100
Speedway gas card, and Nevada brothels were offering
customers "double your stimulus" incentives that included
$100 gas cards. The United Nations brought female
excrement carriers from India to New York City to appear
on the catwalk alongside top models at a fashion show,
crowning one woman the princess of sanitation
workers. "This is the dream coming true of Indian
independence hero Gandhi-ji," said an organizer. An
unemployed former trucking company owner posing as a
federal agent was under investigation after he worked with
local police to search homes and make methamphetamine
arrests in a Missouri town, and a fake priest was caught
trying to take confessions in St. Peter's Basilica. It was
reported that a stone tablet inscribed decades before the
birth of Jesus described a messiah who would come back to
life after three days. "What happens in the New
Testament," said Bible scholar Israel Knohl, "was adopted
by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah
story." The George Washington Foundation unearthed the
founding father's childhood home in Fredericksburg,
Virginia, uncovering slave quarters and a Civil War trench
but no cherry tree. "I don't think we'll ever find the
cherry tree," an archaeologist said. Mercury was
shrinking, and Earth, said scientists who study radio
waves, is shrieking.

-- Chantal Clarke

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