Posts Tagged ‘writing’
Coral Gables, FL (AP) – Ever since she began a restrictive diet last month, Michelle Cowan, a correspondent for the Associated Press, has been unable to complete a sentence in her article submissions without lapsing into fantasies involving luscious chocolate desserts and other decadent gustatory experiences.
The reporter, 38, finally resolved over the summer to do something about the unsightly extra adipose tissue accumulating around her midsection, resembling in texture a brioche before it has been placed in the oven and baked to fluffy, buttery perfection. So she embarked on a strict regimen limiting her caloric intake to no more than 1500 calories in any 24-hour period, hoping to shed the extra weight within a reasonable amount of time and not be constantly consumed by unfulfilled thoughts of creamy, sumptuous cheesecake with a subtle but cinnamony graham cracker crust.
Initially, Cowan’s resolve and the novelty of the effort combined to keep her appetite and imagination in check, but within three days of lower caloric intake, her cravings for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or fresh, crisp french fries became overpowering. Her editor and coworkers noticed that every statement, irrespective of its relevance to the subject at hand, included an unnecessarily lengthy exploration of a memorable baked macaroni and cheese dish or homemade schnitzel right from the skillet, for example.
Managing Editor Mark Mywords attempted to address the problem directly by sending out a group e-mail with a reminder of certain style policies, but was drowned out as reporters and interns shared recipes for teriyaki beef and gnocchi with tomato cream sauce. He followed up with a disciplinary meeting for several egregious offenders, at which Cowan and fellow correspondent Samantha Drakes continued to turn every line of conversation into a discussion of Entenmann’s crumb-topped donuts.
This is not the first time a journalism outfit has been compromised by thoughts of garlicky chicken soup with fluffy dumplings. A similar development occurred at the Washington Post in 1994, the year this reporter discovered a deli with a stacked corned-beef-on-rye to make even the most die-hard vegan salivate. The New York Times suffered the same fate in 1971 and 1973, when editor A. M. Rosenthal brought in leftovers from a family member’s Bar Mitzva celebration, and reporters were stuffing themselves on cream cheese rugelach for weeks.
At press time, this reporter was still ravenously desirous of a pastrami burger.
Washington, DC (AP) – The Associated Press has obtained an advance copy of the official positions to be endorsed in the 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections by the Democratic Party. The proposed platform includes a number of far-reaching legislative objectives:
- All firearms must be surrendered as part of voter registration.
- Social Security, Medicare, and other federal benefits will be given only to same-sex couples.
- Mandatory abortions after 22 weeks.
- The right to vote and run for office will be revoked from US citizens and granted only to illegal immigrants.
- Mandatory Spanish-language instruction for all schoolchildren to begin immediately; by 2030, all official government communication and forms must be conducted or issued in Spanish only.
- States that wish to receive federal funds as part of their budgets must agree to destroy one Christian church every week.
- Stop-and-Frisk to focus only on white people.
- Compulsory participation in Gay Pride events for everyone 18 or older.
- Elementary school curricula to include mandatory component on the benefits of Communism.
- Shariah law to be applied in all US appellate courts.
- Motion pictures and televised entertainment will be required to depict whites as evil and all other races as oppressed yet virtuous.
- All physicians required to prescribe marijuana for all patients.
- Deficit spending to be made compulsory at all levels of federal, state, and local government, and in households numbering at least one (1) person.
- Limits removed on number of residency permits issued to those arriving from Mexico.
- United Nations to be granted control of US armed forces deployed abroad.
- Schools required to distribute condoms to all students daily.
- Mandatory sex education classes to include mandatory sex.
- Tax rates to increase to 231% for anyone who ever reported capital gains.
- Daughters of the American Revolution to be declared hate group, outlawed, its members arrested and all contributors fined.
- September 11 to be declared Protect Muslims Day.
Washington, DC (AP) – In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court validated an execution sentence for a Long Island man convicted of talking loudly on his cellphone during a train commute into Manhattan two years ago.
Irving Whitaker, 42, of Lakeview, boarded the 7:40 AM train to Jamaica, Queens on a Tuesday morning in July 2011. Within minutes of displaying his ticket for the conductor, Whitaker produced a mobile phone and began conversing loudly with a succession of interlocutors, repeatedly ignoring fellow commuters’ admonitions and requests to either reduce his volume or desist from talking. While some passengers managed to move to other cars, others on the increasingly crowded train were forced to remain in the same car as Whitaker. Word of one passenger’s misbehavior reached the conductor, but the latter was unable to negotiate the tide of commuters fleeing Whitaker’s company in order to reach the offender to remedy the situation.
As the awkwardness and unpleasantness in Whitaker’s car reached its peak, dozens of passengers rushed to get out as fast as they could at Jamaica, the next stop. Two platform bystanders were killed in the stampede and another six were fatally mauled as they were forced in front of an oncoming train on the facing track. A further twenty were injured.
Whitaker pleaded not guilty to eight charges of manslaughter, contending that he was not forcing anyone to leave; they could simply ignore his conversations as they did one another every minute of every commute. The jury was unmoved, however, and found Whitaker guilty on all counts. State Supreme Court Judge Fred Bodoff cited the defendant’s unrepentant attitude in sentencing Whitaker beyond that which state law provides, which is a maximum of 20 years for manslaughter. Bodoff noted other aggravating aspects of the defendant’s behavior, such as a tendency to laugh nervously and nasally at every single one of his own statements, and handed down a sentence of death by electric chair.
Last year a federal appeals court ruled that although the judge had not adhered to the mandatory sentencing guidelines, the circumstances of the case justified this exception. The appeals court decision focused on Whitaker’s repeated, lengthy use of “Uhhhhhhhh,” before each phrase.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case several months ago, and closing arguments were delivered in August. In a rare move, each justice elected to write a separate decision. Justices Bader-Ginsburg and Scalia found the defendant’s actions unconscionable enough in themselves to validate the death penalty, while Justices Sotomayor and Alito cited Whitaker’s overuse of, “bizarre,” “whaaaaaat?” and “I’m tellin’ ya.” Justices Kennedy, Roberts, and Kagan also mentioned the content of the defendant’s discourse, which never deviated from celebrity gossip; the continuing woes of the New York Jets football franchise and how to fix them, as if he possesses some special knowledge and expertise; and the unnecessarily salacious details of the very public affair that his secretary was having with the head of some other department at work. Justice Thomas recused himself, as he owns a significant number of shares of several telecommunications companies.
New York State is expected to finally execute Whitaker in December, barring a pardon from Governor Andrew Cuomo. A spokesman for the governor was quoted today as saying Mr. Cuomo would sooner walk on his lips through a sewage treatment plant than grant such a pardon.
Cambridge, MA (AP) – Physicists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have announced the results of a multi-year effort to define the ideal hour at which children should be put to bed, including confirmation of a long-held assumption that a “golden window” exists during which children who cooperate with parental bedtime directives will enjoy happier, healthier lives.
A team consisting of thirty-five researchers across the country who are also parents of young children examined data regarding a cohort of 70 youths from the ages of six months to eleven years. They found that the best time for children to be tucked into bed was in the range of 6:45 pm and 7:30 pm, and even earlier if Mom or Dad had something special planned just for the two of them. The researchers published their findings in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
According to the article, the benefits of adhering to this bedtime scheme include, but are not limited to: more frequent and more plentiful desserts; fewer occasions for parent-administered discipline; an easier time getting ready for school in the morning; more generous allowance; and a significantly decreased likelihood of getting grounded.
“This study essentially corroborates everything we’ve been saying for a long time,” said Dr. I. Sedso, a Columbia University professor of physics and father of three who was not involved in the research. “Our experience,” she said, referring to the informal studies undertaken by colleagues with small children at home, “bears out that the household functions at peak efficiency when children have dinner at about 5:15, have a bath or shower, change into pajamas, brush teeth, and are ready for maybe a bedtime story and to be tucked in by 7 pm, 7:15 if a lice-combing is necessary,” she said in a telephone interview.
The study is the most recent in a series of MIT efforts to define and quantify various aspects of the parent-child dynamic. A report released in February noted the character-building benefits of taking out the garbage even when one has already removed one’s shoes, and the myriad positive effects on one’s long-term satisfaction inherent in keeping that racket down.
The research is not without its detractors. “We believe studies of this nature are a priori biased,” claims Houston-area ten-year-old Greg Niedermeyer. “They fail to account for the negative social impact that adhering to, for example, an early bedtime, exerts on the life of a typical schoolchild.” Niedermeyer also criticized an earlier study that found only positive outcomes for children who finished their vegetables, noting that only losers ate Brussels sprouts or beets in any form.
Niedermeyer pointed to a conflicting set of studies conducted over the last year by children at various elementary schools in Texas, Vermont, Indiana, and Florida, which found a significant correlation between later bedtimes and freer access to candy. “It’s clear that from a happiness point of view, liberal parental attitudes are key. The studies indicating otherwise suffer from a prejudiced set of assumptions, among them that whatever a parent wants is ipso facto desirable.”
Adult researchers, in turn, have assailed the schoolchildren’s research as agenda-driven, and noted that it was all underwritten by manufacturers of unnecessarily sweet breakfast cereals and of violent video games masquerading as educational tools.
Washington, DC, September 2 (AP) – President Obama took the case for a limited strike against Syrian targets to Congress this week, arguing that a contentious, politically fraught process an and uncertain outcome were the only way to ensure that no matter what the result, the US would emerge with a diminished standing.
In an address to reporters and fellow Democrats, the President gave the rationale for delaying a strike, if any, until after Congress takes up the question instead of summarily deciding against military action. As Obama sees it, simply letting Syrian leader Basher Assad off the hook for using chemical weapons would not have the same deleterious effect on American global influence as a protracted display of cowardice, backpedaling, partisan divisiveness, and lack of political will.
“Iranian ascendancy remains only one possible outcome of many if the US launches strikes against Syria,” Obama told those in attendance. “But to simultaneously guarantee decades of profound Ayatollah influence in the Middle East and a retrenchment of American power not seen since the withdrawal from Vietnam, we have to approach the very idea of military action with a manifest absence of confidence; with an unwillingness to deploy the power in which we’ve invested trillions of dollars; and with an ironic obliviousness to the effect this compromising of principles has on both our allies and enemies.”
In fact, said Secretary of State John Kerry, the ultimate foreign policy goal is not merely withdrawing from leadership on the world stage and slowly fading into history. The Obama administration aims to set in motion an accelerated American decline so irreversible that no matter who succeeds Obama in the Oval Office, by 2030 the US will wield roughly the same level of international clout as it did in 1799.
“My address last week on the urgency of American-led military intervention in Syria was simply to raise the stakes in the event of the inevitable, agonizing reversal,” explained Kerry. “In fact, since the beginning, talk of an American strike never went beyond consideration of a limited, targeted operation with no boots on the ground, meaning that neither Assad nor the mullahs of Tehran would have to seriously contend with American military might.”
That might, he added, is the only thing that might deter Syrian loyalists, Hezbollah, or other, similarly allied interests, from fully prosecuting the war against the Syrian rebels, whom Washington openly supports, at least rhetorically. The very fact that the on-again, off-again military operation was never even conceived as a campaign with actual deterrent value, and would only be a slap on the wrist for getting caught using nerve gas, has allowed Assad, his supporters, and anti-American groups the world over to claim that it was their threats of retaliation against American interests that kept the US from getting more deeply involved.
Following the meeting with reporters and supporters, Obama was to meet with representatives of the Chinese government to negotiate how and at what pace Beijing will take over as the leading industrialized nation.
Brooklyn, August 27 (AP) - The laws of physics were thought to make it impossible, but this afternoon, vehicles on a stretch of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway were clocked at a full 33 miles per hour.
At approximately 1 p.m., the westbound side of the roadway just beyond the Kosciuszco Bridge had cars and trucks moving at the highest speed ever recorded on a major Brooklyn thoroughfare, let alone the BQE, which was specifically designed by Robert Moses not to allow any vehicle to reach speeds in excess of 30 mph. Eyewitnesses alerted police cruisers, which used radar, to confirm the bystanders’ suspicions: at least one hundred vehicles attained speeds between 30 and 33 miles per hour for nearly eighty feet before again succumbing to congestion, potholes, confusing signage, worn out markings, glare from office tower windows, and a team of semi-trailers specifically tasked with taking up space in order to slow traffic.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” gushed Fishel Horowitz of nearby Boro Park, who travels along that route every weekday on the way to his jewelry store in Midtown Manhattan. “I got one look at the speedometer thingie and said to my carpool mate Moishe, ‘Moishe, you got to see this! Look at this!’ He barely had time to see the needle point past the thirty before we hit traffic again, but there it was, plain as day.”
Police spokesman Crowne Victoria told reporters that several officers had recorded radar speed readings in excess of the 30-mph plateau, indicating that the witnesses’ reports were correct. “This represents an exciting, and, at the same time, troubling development, a sign that the measures in place to keep the BQE crowded, miserable, and murderously frustrating may not be sufficient,” he said at a news conference.
Enoch Cain, a professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University, echoed police concerns, and added that according to his preliminary calculations, the odds of such an occurrence are longer than those of [New York Yankees third baseman] Alex Rodriguez becoming likable. “Really, we should see the Mets win the World Series six times in a row, starting this year, before we ever see traffic moving like that on the BQE.”
Previously, the highest speed reached by a vehicle on any of the outer borough roadways was a child’s Flexible Flyer sled coasting down an exit ramp of the Grand Central Parkway near Astoria, Queens, just after the blizzard of January 7, 1996. The sled, operated by then-ten-year-old Sumaya Khan, achieved a velocity of 27 miles per hour before encountering the powerful magnets under the road surface that keep cars from accelerating too much, lest their occupants get to their destination in a timely fashion.
Victoria noted that the NYPD has had a fleet of cruisers deployed around the clock just to prevent the expressway from becoming anything other than an unpleasant place to drive. “First of all, it was constructed in Brooklyn and Queens, which should already turn off anyone with a sense of aesthetics, or just plain sense. Add to that the fleets of vehicles specifically devoted to blocking, slowing, and endangering everyone. then you have the fact that it was built inland, not along the water, where there would have been plenty of room. And you have all the constant construction.”
Victoria did note that the continued success of the BQE interdiction policy rests on the population of Brooklyn and Queens remaining as clueless, masochistic, or some combination thereof, as it has always been. “Fortunately, we see no sign of that changing,” he said, pointing to Williamsburg residents who pay obscene amounts for coffee with pretentious names.
Washington, DC (AP) – The Department of Too Much Information has published its findings on the contents of wastebaskets in its bathroom facilities, and preliminary analysis of the data indicates an increase during the last year in the number of women menstruating at any given time.
Last year the Department counted 45 used tampons and other menstruation-related products in the wastebaskets of the women’s rooms at its headquarters during the month of July. This year, that figure increased by 12. The preliminary report does not provide a detailed treatment of the number of such products that were flushed down the toilet in violation of Department restroom policy. Flushing tampons or pads down the toilet can clog the plumbing system, which you discovered several months ago when your prim old aunt was visiting and fell victim to a sewage deluge that resulted from your disposal of those products in the toilet.
The increase in on-the-job menstruation appears unrelated to the number of women currently employed at the Department’s headquarters, says TMI spokeswoman Ima Noversharer. “Our staff has remained more or less the same since last year’s numbers were collated, and I’ve got this awful case of hemorrhoids.”
Last month’s report focused on the number of used tissues and the color of the mucus they contained, but it was the first such instance of such data collection, so there are no previous figures against which to compare them. They will, however, serve as a benchmark for future collations. The next used-tissue collection and analysis is scheduled for November, followed again by regular such analyses every five months. The report also includes a map of every booger wiped on every underside of every desk and chair in the headquarters, with charts and graphs to track color, size, moistness, adhesion, and, where possible, the identity of the provider.
Advances in DNA testing have allowed that last item to be accomplished more affordably than when such a proposal was first made eight years ago. At the time, researchers had to painstakingly gather each booger sample for time-consuming lab tests, whereas now, a simple swab of the substance in question can provide all the necessary data and does not disturb the booger’s final resting place.
The May report featured a detailed description of the benign, yet unsightly, cyst on the side of the nose of the head security guard in the East Wing of the headquarters complex. Updates on the cyst, plus additional sightings of other deviations from the normative aesthetic, will be a regular feature of reports starting in December, when Secretary of Too Much Information Don Sayett is scheduled to have an embarrassingly public bout of dysentery,
What used to be Phoenix, Arizona, August 4 (AP) – Human civilization ceased to exist this morning (Sunday) after Jon Swarz, 4, of Scottsdale, was not given what he demanded.
While Jon’s mother was preparing a wholesome lunch consisting of homemade broccoli pizza and a side of carrot sticks, the pre-K student requested a chocolate ice cream cone. His mother, Beth, gently refused, reassuring Jon that there would be plenty of time later in the day for a treat, but now was time for lunch.
Unwillling to accept this rebuff, the junior Swarz continued to agitate for the creamy frozen delicacy, proclaiming the he was uninterested in lunch and wanted a chocolate ice cream cone forthwith. His mother set down the carrots she was slicing and threatened to send the young man to his room without lunch if he continued to behave in such an unbecoming manner.
Details are still sketchy on the events that then occurred, but the available evidence indicates that as soon as Jon discovered that his wishes would go unfulfilled, massive earthquakes struck major population centers and volcanic eruptions flooded low-lying regions with deadly hot lava. In this initial apocalyptic wave, approximately 800 million people perished in fear and pain.
Almost immediately afterwards, when Jon was on his way to his room, several asteroids the size of Iowa, with one more of them at least as big as Montana, entered Earth’s atmosphere and impacted at points in the Americas, Africa, Northern Europe, Japan, and eight locations across China. While living things directly in the paths of these interstellar rocks were incinerated even before direct impact, the kinetic energy and atmospheric disturbances wrought by the asteroids resulted in conflagrations that consumed thousands of square miles of woodlands, farms, and residential areas throughout the world. This second episode of destruction claimed an additional three billion lives. Among the victims were Jon’s parents, who failed to foresee the calamity that would be the inevitable result of refusing to honor their son’s wishes.
As the earthquakes and fires continued, the entire world’s nuclear stockpile detonated simultaneously, leveling all remaining cities, melting the polar ice caps, and inundating coastal regions up to fifty miles inland. Radiation poisoning quickly set in among the few surviving humans, condemning them to a brief, miserable time until death claimed them, as well.
Although this is the first time that the human population has been completely wiped out as a result of a preschooler not getting what he wanted, there have been several close calls. In 1980, Melanie Carter, 3, of Montreal, sneaked into the living room and turned on the television set in defiance of her parents’ explicit instructions to go to bed at once. Ms. Carter’s initiative narrowly averted the sun transforming into a red giant and making life on Earth impossible.
Similarly, in approximately 2500 BCE, a deluge of Biblical proportions erased all human life except for one family. That catastrophe occurred when one of that family’s sons was ignored by a parent who was too busy building a wooden boat to properly address little Ham’s request for an extra bit of pigeon steak with olives. Only when that need was finally met did the waters begin to recede in earnest.
Only ten generations later, four cities in what is today the Dead Sea region were annihilated by fire and brimstone when a young woman was refused some salt with her flatbread.
Prospects remain unclear for a reestablishment of human life on Earth, but public opinion seems not to be in favor of such a development, as it would most likely entail another plague of people with an overgrown sense of entitlement.
Arlington, Virginia, August 2 (AP) – Federal investigators have unearthed a plot to keep internet users from visiting your blog, FBI spokesman Shelby Cummin-Rounthmountain announced at a press conference today.
In February, the FBI’s Online Investigative Division received an informant’s tip to the effect that a shadowy group of conspirators had, for at least six months, if not much longer, diverted potential visitors to your blog, and continues to do so. The investigation is still in progress, but Cummin-Rounthmountain said they were nevertheless allowed to offer certain specifics to the news media, including the fact that most of the members of this alleged cabal operate from overseas.
The Bureau was prompted to recruit an informant after you observed repeatedly that by all rights, your blog should enjoy significantly higher levels of popularity and acclaim, given the manifest quality of your work. However, despite significant time and emotion invested in this project, traffic to your blog has never exceeded 633 page views in a single day, and that figure represents an outlier. The median number of visits per day is actually 28, with only six days in the last three years in which your blog attracted more than 100 views.
FBI Director Roberst S. Mueller III immediately ordered an investigation. According to the rudimentary details offered to the press, agents have documented hundreds of cases in which your posts were removed from display on the relevant category pages within minutes. Your efforts at finding the right blend of category tags to help users navigate toward your urbane useful, and well-presented material proved for naught, as this group of online pirates forcibly pushed your posts off the front page by stuffing those sites with a barrage of inane, meandering, badly-written posts by other users.
The FBI is exploring the possibility that these blog-stuffing posts were written by bots programmed to detect when you posted. This would serve to explain why so little of the traffic your site does attract comes from the users of the same blogging platform. In addition, fellow users who have actually subscribed to your blog seldom actually see your posts unless they make an effort to do so, which deprives you of the page views you so clearly deserve, no doubt about it. One possible angle of investigation of this issue involves collusion with these criminals from within the blogging platform enterprise itself, who for some unfathomable reason will not allow you to realize your dreams of becoming a blogging superstar. Perhaps jealousy is the motive, the FBI suggests.
However, says Cummin-Rounthmountain, the activities of this conspiracy extend beyond the boundaries of WordPress or Blogger, or whatever stupid platform you use. When you – or, on those all-too-rare occasions, someone else – shares a post of yours on other social media such as Facebook or Twitter, it still goes all but ignored. This, the FBI asserts, suggests a much broader effort to silence you and frustrate your ambitions. It simply cannot be, they reason, that there is so much other compelling material on the internet that yours would go effectively ignored.
This is not the first time that the FBI has investigated crimes of this nature. The case remains open on who exactly is behind the popularity of certain TV shows with no recognizable merit whatsoever, such as The Kardashians. Similarly, several dozen soft drink industry executives face federal felony charges for defrauding the public by convincing them that there is actually an appreciable difference between Pepsi and Coca Cola.
Bonn, Germany (AP) – German health authorities are investigating allegations that, in contravention of European Union health guidelines, the witch who lures children into her candy-and-cake house in order to cook and eat them uses high-fructose corn syrup to prepare the sweets and confections. High-fructose corn syrup is banned in the EU.
Yaga, the witch, lives in the Black Forest, and has for centuries practiced cannibalism of wandering children, whom she attracts by means of the candies and cakes that compose much of her cottage. Ministry of Health inspectors made a visit to Yaga’s residence yesterday and took samples of the candy roof tiles, candy cane window frames, cookie doorknobs and swabbings of various other foodstuffs used in the construction of the house and its furnishings.
The samples have been transferred to a laboratory in Baden-Baden, and investigators expect results by the middle of next week. A portion of the samples have also been sent to the central EU Health Directorate investigative division in Maastricht, the Netherlands, where parallel analysis will take place, according to Directorate spokesman Jüve Gottebekidding.
“Technically this matter is still under the jurisdiction of the German internal authorities, but as a courtesy they customarily collect enough material in their investigations to share with us so we can double-check their findings,” said Gottebekidding. “Since in this case it’s a small-scale operation, not a major pan-European enterprise, the Directorate sees no need to get directly involved.” Punitive measures against the witch, if they prove warranted, will be a matter for the German authorities to determine.
Yaga herself was unavailable for comment, but her attorney, Jan Derwindobreks, says his client denies any wrongdoing. “Yaga has been using the same locally available ingredients since she began luring children to their deaths hundreds of years ago,” he insisted. Derwindobreks says he and his client are confident the investigation will exonerate Yaga, and she will be able to return to her practice of attracting helpless children into her lair, fattening them up, and cooking them.
While the investigation is in progress, Yaga is barred from further production of sweets. As the candies are an integral part of the witch’s roof and other building elements, Derwindobreks laments that his client must resort to standard building materials in order to replace the pieces that children eat before they are lured inside, and she lacks the experience to properly install each item. As a result, the structural integrity of the house is in peril.
Health Ministry spokesman Willy Kwitchergreipen said the injunction was temporary, pending the outcome of the investigation, and that it is standard practice. “We make no exceptions when it comes to our regular procedure – as soon as Ms. Yaga is cleared of malfeasance in this regard we will rescind the injunction and she may return to her customary production of sweets – provided they contain no high-fructose corn syrup.”
The ingredient, a modified form of glucose syrup derived from corn, has been associated with diabetes and other ills, and was banned by EU authorities two years ago. Most European confection manufacturers have readily complied, though the added expense and logistical hurdles inherent in switching to other forms of sugar have proved troublesome. According to Kwitchergreipen, it remains unclear where Yaga may have obtained the syrup, as imports of it have been barred since the ban went into effect and it has only been available from major industrial suppliers. None of those suppliers has had any of the syrup in stock since then, he said.
“It remains possible that, if in fact we find evidence that Ms. Yaga used high-fructose corn syrup, she synthesized it herself.” Investigators did document the presence in the house of several types of equipment that could be used in the production of high-fructose corn syrup, such as cauldrons, stirring implements, and brooms, the bottoms of which are often made of broom corn.
If found in violation of the regulations, Yaga faces a fine of up to 50,000 Euros and will be prohibited from manufacturing confections. Derwindobreks is confident that she will be found to have complied all along, but worries that if the investigation concludes she used the banned substance, she will be left with no other means to sustain herself.
“She could starve,” he warned.
Snellville, Georgia (AP) – In this suburb of Atlanta, Temple Beth David’s Reform Jewish congregation offers a full range of religious-style services, bringing Jewish-style worship to Gwinnett County. Founded in 1981, Beth David adheres to most of the familiar tenet-style teachings of Reform Judaism, including a firm commitment to a tradition-style lifestyle.
“We’re all about our heritage,” said synagogue president Mickey Kroll in an interview-style encounter with a reporter over a lunch of lobster, a creature that Jewish heritage prohibits. “We make the eternal Jewish message relevant to modern society,” he continued, seemingly unaware of the ontological impossibility inherent in that sentence. Kroll explained that his congregation maintains a strong faith in God, except that God can’t be trusted to formulate a lasting moral system.
In a demonstration of Jewish-style practice, the Atlanta native ate the Biblically forbidden crustacean at a restaurant that also serves foods prepared with at least a nod toward, if not actual adherence to, Jewish dietary tradition, such as the meat of permitted animal species. Kroll ate without acknowledging, either before or after eating, the goodness, insight, and wisdom of a creator who made such delicacies and their appreciation possible.
In fact, says Ronald Bluming, the congregation’s Rabbi, belief in God is not even a prerequisite for Reform worship-style practice. “I’m actually an avowed atheist,” he notes. Bluming sees no contradiction in values between his vocation and his position of theological authority, as the absence of a Creator makes all values a human construct in any case. “There’s no such thing as absolute morality without a God as the source, definer and arbiter of that morality,” he explains, “so I don’t so much give my congregation moral guidance as I do moral-style guidance.”
According to Bluming, moral-style guidance resembles genuine moral guidance in that it purports to be based on the goal of increasing good in the world, but unlike the morality in an absolute system, the very definition of “good” remains wholly the product of the perceptions, whims, drives, prejudices, limitations, and zeitgeists of the people involved. Moral-style guidance denies that any immutable good is even a coherent concept, and posits that all we have available to us is our conscience.
Bluming’s predecessor, Richard Baroff, arrived at similar practical pastoral conclusions even without overt atheism. Baroff, who retired in 2001, strove to convey to his congregants that God is real but does not ultimately care what we do. This approach, common among Reform Jews – and large swaths of society at large – allows a person and community to shift with changing mores, and to avoid the pesky notion that there is any cosmic significance to human behavior.
The freedom inherent in this attitude means that the community and movement can find in their faith support for anything they find compelling, untroubled by other parts of the same sources they adduce that condemn that very practice. Thus, the members of Beth David often quote the portions of Leviticus that advocate love for others, while ignoring the inconvenient neighboring passages that bar adulterous, incestuous, or otherwise immoral sexual liaisons.
Similarly, Temple Beth David welcomes interfaith couples and condones intermarriage, consistent with the view that all religious-style paths are of equal worth and there is no place for the notion that a special, unique, exclusive, individual and national relationship has any relevance, which also serves to explain the aforementioned attitude toward adulterous liaisons.
New Paltz, New York (AP) – Violet Nance, 26, of Schenectady, expressed her displeasure today at receiving an actual speeding ticket. All of Ms. Nance’s previous brushes with highway speed enforcement have resulted in a flirtatious exchange with the policeman or trooper, ending with the latter letting Ms. Nance off with just a warning.
Ms. Nance, a graduate student at the State University of New York at Albany-Rensselaer, was traveling north on Interstate 87 at 75 miles per hour, or ten mph over the speed limit, when State Trooper Scott MacCarran signaled her to pull over. Trooper MacCarran approached Nance’s 2013 Ford Focus ST and requested her license and registration.
According to Ms. Nance, she opened with a careless toss of the hair and a shy smile, her lustrous auburn locks almost obscuring one eye. Trooper MacCarran seemed not to react as she had expected, and proceeded to interrogate the driver regarding her speed.
Shifting social gears, Ms. Nance cocked her head to one side and laughed, a move that almost invariably causes men to smile and lose interest in everything but retaining her attention. Trooper MacCarran, however, seemed more professional than any other law enforcement official she has ever met.
“He was no-nonsense, all, ‘The speed limit is 65 here, ma’am,’ and ‘I’m going to write you a ticket.’ What the hell?” she said. “Since when does a guy ignore my looks and focus on something else?”
“Is it a training thing?” she wondered. “Do NY troopers have to go through some sort of romantic desensitization program? This changes everything!”
“What am I going to do?!” Nance exclaimed, noting that her adherence to the rules of the road has all but disappeared since she discovered, at age 16, that her looks would get her out of almost any trouble. Despite involvement in four accidents between ages 18 and 23, witnesses and law enforcement officials consistently sided with her even when the objective facts of each incident placed the fault squarely on Nance’s attractive shoulders.
The student also flirted her way out of six speeding tickets during both high school and undergraduate studies at SUNY Buffalo, where she led the cheerleading squad. On two separate occasions Ms. Nance used her wiles to secure a higher grade from male professors than she deserved, taking care to wear tighter or more-revealing clothing then usual in preparation for those encounters.
At press time, Trooper MacCarran was returning home to New Paltz, where his husband had dinner waiting.
New York, NY, July 18 (AP) – Reacting to widespread criticism of his magazine’s featuring Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of its August issue, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner wondered aloud why Tsarnaev’s appearance was any more objectionable that that of the other questionable role models the publication has glorified over the years.
The cover article, by Janet Reitman, explores the childhood influences and life of the bombing suspect before he was arrested for the April terrorist attacks. The controversy involves not the material of the article, which most readers agree demonstrates journalistic integrity, but the magazine’s decision to feature Tsarnaev on its cover, a spot usually reserved for prominent entertainment or political figures. National chains such as Walgreen’s and CVS have refused to sell the August issue, ignoring the fact that nearly every other Rolling Stone issue features a cover photo of someone heavily involved in unsavory, illegal, or harmful activities.
“When people say nothing of our lionizing of drug addicts, womanizers, and abusers of their romantic partners, I have to say I find this particular bit of noise disingenuous,” said Wenner. In its 46-year history the magazine has featured Woody Allen, whose marriage to Mia Farrow dissolved over his sexual relationship with the couple’s adopted daughter; Madonna, who has been second only to porn stars in glamorizing the sexualization of women; and Kurt Cobain, whose substance abuse and stormy relationship with Courtney Love eventually led to his 1994 suicide. According to Wenner, these three were but the tip of the cultural iceberg that Rolling Stone’s covers represented, and he could not help but wonder what made Americans stay silent until now.
“Actually, it’s more of a cesspool than an iceberg. Are you telling me it’s OK to heap praise on people who promote the use of LSD, such as several of The Beatles? Or Jimi Hendrix, who died because he took eighteen times the recommended dosage of sleeping pills?” continued an incredulous Wenner. “Heck, even our own writer, Hunter S. Thompson, admitted to using drugs, alcohol, and violence, and he also killed himself. What do you expect from us, My Little Pony?”
In response to suggestions that Tsarnaev was a different order of unpleasant character, an actual terrorist and murderer, Wenner retorted that Rolling Stone had on four occasions put none other than Richard Nixon on its cover, and asked reporters why no one seemed to care then that the publication was lionizing a hateful, bloodthirsty, bigoted, corrupt hypocrite responsible for the loss of thousands of American, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and other lives. “The Guy was scum,” noted Wenner. “Where were all these critics then?”
At press time, an animated South Park version of Saddam Hussein and an image of Darth Vader, who have also appeared on Rolling Stone covers, were heard laughing in a sinister fashion.
‘Can’t this guy take a hint?’
Amman, Jordan (AP) – With US Secretary of State John Kerry on his sixth visit of his term, trying once again to restart a moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, officials on both sides could not suppress their disbelief at the secretary’s apparent cluelessness over the intractability of the generations-old conflict.
Kerry landed in the Jordanian capital yesterday to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to attempt to persuade him to return to the negotiating table. Abbas has previously declared he will not negotiate unless the parties agree at the outset that the 1967 lines form the basis of those discussions. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel insists that negotiations take place with no preconditions. Neither side has budged in years despite multiple sustained efforts by outside parties to bridge the gaps, prompting observers on either side of the Green Line to question Kerry’s grip on reality.
“I think each side has made it abundantly clear that they are not interested in really negotiating,” said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. “The fact is, once this issue of the starting point is settled, that pretty much dictates the entire outcome – so what’s the point?” he explained. Erekat wondered what Kerry thinks he can accomplish when neither party finds any of its options palatable, making inaction the most likely and least wasteful course.
“He seems to think we actually feel comfortable about reaching some final-status agreements,” Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, said of Kerry. “Hasn’t he realized that any likely such agreement would separate Jews from the places to which they have the most intense historical attachment? Why would we ever agree to that? Can’t this guy take a hint?” He added that while continued discriminatory rule over millions of Palestinians is hardly ideal, it is preferable to sacrificing the very places that Jewish lore yearns for, having lacked consistent access to, or control of, those places for millennia, and the arrogance with which Kerry – or any other would-be mediator – writes off thousands of years of longing makes his judgment suspect.
Neither do the Palestinians find their choices acceptable. “If Abu Mazen wants maximum international legitimacy he needs to continue avoiding the violence he formally forswore years ago,” said Nicholas Martin of the Near East Policy Center, using the nickname by which Abbas is popularly known. “But that leaves him with precious little negotiating leverage, and anything he gives up will make him ripe for charges of betrayal from more radical quarters such as Hamas,” referring to the Islamic militant organization that controls the Gaza Strip. Given those options, says Martin, continued avoidance of negotiation is the only real strategy that Abbas finds useful, rendering Kerry’s continued pursuit of those negotiations an indicator of his questionable mental acuity.
“Time can only work against us,” Secretary Kerry told reporters before his meeting, seemingly oblivious to the pointlessness of the endeavor, given the instability in Egypt and Syria, which is also spilling over into Lebanon, and the disunity among the Palestinians themselves. He added that cliches such as, “Time can only work against us” are just one of the powerful inducements he can bring to bear in drawing the sides back to the negotiating table.
“You never know what tomorrow may bring,” he added.
Jose Ruiz Menendez, 28, and his girlfriend, Sara Murphy, 24, were arrested late this morning on Fifth Avenue, allegedly following a cloying display of hand-holding, nuzzling, repeated pecks on the cheeks, and multiple counts of loving head-on-partner’s-shoulder caressing. As a result of the couple’s actions, 11 people were sent to Belleview Hospital, with a further nineteen treated by paramedics at the scene.
According to preliminary police reports, the couple were walking south along the east side of Fifth Avenue at about 10:30 AM when Murphy, walking alongside Menendez, grasped his arm and inclined her head tightly against it, continuing in that position for about eight yards, according to eyewitnesses. The resulting disgust caused three people to succumb to nausea and three others to reel around to escape the sight, slightly injuring six.
As Menendez and Murphy proceeded south, they apparently remained oblivious to the mayhem they fomented. Menendez kissed Murphy on the top of her head several times and murmured lovingly to her as they waited to cross 38th Street, causing an elderly woman to clutch her chest, having suffered a mild heart attack. She was listed in stable condition as of about noon.
When the couple stopped to sit on a bench near 36th St., Murphy sat on Menendez’s lap as the two exchanged embraces, kisses, affectionate strokes of the hair, shoulders, back, and arms, as well as words of devotion and mutual care. This further display resulted in several more victims, at least one of them admitted to the hospital’s trauma unit. A bystander notified the police, who arrested the two perpetrators at the scene.
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly told reporters that New York has seen its share of similar crimes, but the department must remain vigilant, as this case clearly demonstrates. “According to the information we have right now, the two suspects were engaging in sickening displays in broad daylight. Neither of them has any criminal record, but our officers continue to be on the lookout for such crimes.” He dismissed reports that a police officer had failed to report the couple upon seeing them holding hands and smiling as far north as 45th St., noting that the first recorded incidence of disgust occurred significant to the south of that location, and that the first eyewitnesses placed Menendez and Murphy on 44th between Fifth and Sixth before they were even observed on Fifth, making the former report unlikely.
According to NYPD statistics for 2012, 12 couples were arrested for Public Displays of Affection, a decrease of 3 since 2011, which in turn saw a reduction of 2 in 2010. The statistics spiked in fall 2009, possibly as a result of the Yankees World Series title, but that remains conjecture.
Menendez and Murphy were unavailable for comment, and their attorneys declined to comment for this article.
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran (Reuters) – After two terms leading his country in a staunchly anti-Israel, and, many would say, anti-Semitic direction, former President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discovered his own Jewish roots yesterday.
Unpacking from the move away from the Presidential Palace in the capital city, Ahmadinejad came across old photos of his parents holding him. On the back of one photo, marked 4 November 1956, were the words “Mazal Tov Moshe. May you only grow in Torah and love of Israel,” in Farsi. The former President at first thought the photo and inscription were a practical joke, but the age of the writing prompted him to consult an old relative, who broke the news to him.
The discovery is likely to have little or no impact on Iran’s policy toward Israel, as Ahmadinejad holds no more power, and he had fallen out of favor with the ruling elite over the last several years. If anything, says Persian Studies scholar Ima Yenta of Columbia University, “this development is actually more likely to inflame anti-Israel passions further, as it could easily be portrayed as another alleged case of Jews and Israel controlling governments and peoples.”
On a personal level, it is unclear how the revelation will affect Ahmadinejad. Iran has a small Jewish community that officially toes the government line on anti-Zionism, meaning the former President’s Jewishness does not necessarily make him persona non grata in his previous circles. However, the thin line between anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric and behavior often gets blurred when passions flare, which puts Ahmadinejad in a potentially risky position, given his prominence.
Ahmadinejad is not the first world leader to discover his Jewish roots later in life, nor the first anti-Jewish firebrand to face his Hebrew ancestry. According to Tuttle Beeyess, a Stanford University historian, none other than Joseph Stalin whispered a deathbed request that someone say Kaddish for him, referring to a selection from Jewish liturgy recited by the relatives of the deceased for a time after his death. Stalin was notorious for persecution of Jews and other adherents of religion, in keeping with Marxist Communist ideology. After his death it emerged that he was circumcised per Jewish practice at one week old and named Yosef ben BenTzion, but virulent Tsarist persecutions drove the family to hide their Jewish identity.
Another surprising Jew was Abraham Lincoln, who was still struggling with his discovery the night he was assassinated in 1865. Some fragments of letters by his wife Mary attest to the conflicted feelings he harbored upon being informed that his parents had been crypto-Jews, continuing a long line of secretly Jewish Britons going back to the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290.
White House officials refused to comment on when President Obama will announce that he is also Jewish.
Princeton, New Jersey (AP) – A new study by ugly Princeton University researchers points to myriad benefits from dating or marrying an unattractive man, writes a team of scientists in the journal Health Insights and Developments in Emotional, Occupational and Utilitarian Settings (HIDEOUS).
The HIDEOUS study, to be published in August, lists eleven positive factors proven to exist in a relationship with an ugly man, plus eighteen more suggested by the data, but which warrant further study to confirm. According to the study authors, the results obtain across a wide range of demographics and socioeconomic sectors, especially, the study authors note, among those residing in the central and southern New Jersey area.
Among the factors contributing to a better relationship, says the article, are less stress in competition among females for unattractive men; realistic expectations among such men as to the qualities and appearance of female mates; and the convenience of finding any number of such available men within a half-hour’s driving radius of the greater Princeton area – which, the study notes, includes the major New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia.
Scientists discreetly observed more than one hundred couples over a period of four months, cataloging both the multiple obvious problems present when the man was attractive, and the manifest advantages of the several instances in which a non-attractive man was a member of a romantic couple. The researchers stressed that in no way were they looking for problems with the handsome men, certainly not the problems that could not possibly be observed from an anonymous distance.
However, noted lead author N. V. Greenwith, certain external manifestations of personal defects are visible to the keen observer, and which should not under any circumstances be confused with wishful speculation. “It was obvious, to us at least, that certain attire such as a Yankees baseball cap over a well-proportioned face, or a T-shirt that revealed an impressive physique, meant that the wearer was probably impotent or insufficiently endowed to properly satisfy a woman,” he explained.
Similar observations applied to well-coiffed hair, which the study noted is associated with a tendency toward domestic abuse, and you could look it up, as well as stylish dress, which the researchers point out is usually symptomatic of certain virulent sexually transmitted diseases.
“This study could revolutionize the dating world,” said Dr. Rhee Jekt of Columbia University, who was not involved in the study. “Intelligent women would be well advised to pay attention to this clear pattern, and make their romantic choices wisely,” he advised
“Especially that hot number over in the Butler Library,” he concluded.
Jerusalem, Israel (AP) – Another round of shuttle diplomacy by US Secretary of State John Kerry has succeeded in getting Israel and the Palestinians to agree to a statement that the Secretary’s appearance resembles a caricature.
In what has become a rare point of consensus between the two sides, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told their constituencies this morning that as a result of spending hours talking to Kerry about how and under what conditions to restart final status negotiations, they concluded that his height, enlarged features, hairstyle, and unusually prominent chin all combine to produce what Netanyahu called, “a cross between Jay Leno and the sloth from Ice Age.” Abbas characterized the look as “giraffe-like.”
Israel and the Palestinians have not held final-status talks in more than two years. Abbas demands that Israel accept the 1967 border as the starting point for such negotiations, while Netanyahu dismisses any preconditions. Kerry, like his predecessor Hillary Clinton, has been trying to bridge the gaps between those positions. To date, the only point of agreement remains his likeness to an Andy-Griffith-Sea-Otter blend.
The development comes at a time of increasing instability in the Middle East, with the civil war in Syria already more than two years old; a continuing protest movement in Turkey; ongoing sectarian violence in Iraq; and renewed upheaval in Egypt. The Israeli-Palestinian front has come to seem less relevant of late, Kerry told reporters, but it remains a crucial linchpin in the complex web of strategic elements in the region, which he likened in shape to a silhouetted dog pile.
This is not the first time warring factions have agreed on nothing but that their would-me mediator appears similar to various things comical or ugly. In the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israeli and Egyptian representatives alike compared US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s head to a hard-boiled egg. The same parties later said that President Jimmy Carter looked like a badly drawn Alfred E. Newman, the mascot of MAD magazine.
Kerry hopes to leverage this development toward more ambitious areas of agreement, perhaps getting the sides to commit, as early as this August, to a joint resolution in the Security Council to mock various nations for their shapes. “I’ve always thought Greece looks vaguely like that thing that hangs down from the back end of a goat, and that Norway and Sweden are ridiculously phallic,” he said.
From there the nations might move on to making overt fun of other countries’ names. “Ecuador? Really?” continued Kerry. “You name your country for its location on some imaginary line?” he laughed.
Netanyahu agreed, noting that the “United” States of America have seldom been so.
New York, July 1 (AP) – Following decades of doting parenthood, reluctance to impart criticism, and the ever-increasing availability of social media to feed narcissistic tendencies, the number of people who see themselves as great, or at least destined for greatness, is at unprecedented levels, according to a report from the National Association of Really, Cosmically, Indubitably, Super Special Unique Stars (NARCISSUS).
The 95-page report, published Monday, analyzed the findings of several studies, though this analysis was preceded by 90 pages of exploration as to the source of the association’s manifest awesomeness. The studies determined that as a result of exclusively positive feedback from parents, teachers, and other figures of authority, the emerging generation of young adults, especially in the United States, contains a higher percentage than ever of individuals who wrongly believe they are God’s gift to the universe, the opposite sex, potential employers, academic institutions, and other prospective participants in relationships.
Before the emergence of the Baby Boomers and Generations X, Y, and so-called Millennials, relatively few people had sustained, outsize images of themselves, according to Maya Eego-Booszt, editor of the journal Mine, who was not involved in the study but supported it under the assumption it was, as everything else, about her. ”The people who genuinely believed themselves to be of global importance has been steadily on the rise for almost half a century,” she noted, citing the mass navel-gazing of the 1960′s and the Yuppie mentality of the 1980′s as markers of the trend.
“But once upon a time life was challenging enough that the vast majority of people encountered the sobering reality early on,” she explained, meaning that any illusions of greatness they harbored were dashed in all but the most obtuse, sociopathic individuals. “Invariably, those sociopaths went into careers that attracted such personalities, such as politics or entertainment, which is how we wound up with Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Kim Song-Il, Mussolini, de Gaulle, James Brown, and every operatic tenor.”
But with the rise of mass media and the softening of living conditions of billions around the globe over the last fifty years or so, countless young people reach physical maturity without encountering any situations that pose serious questions about their assumed ability to surmount all obstacles. As a corollary, the same masses of individuals continue their parents’ work in nurturing the sense that everyone else, and everything they encounter, is theirs to exploit.
For some, says social critic Constance Facepalm, their delusion is narrowed to specific fields of endeavor, such as expressed loyalty to a specific sports franchise, or ability to sound off endlessly on certain political, social, or cultural issues such as Lindsay Lohan and her latest escapades.
“There’s a natural affinity that these deluded egomaniacs have for other misguided, corrupt souls,” she says. “What other period in history could have such attention showered on a Kanye-West-Kim-Kardashian-type story and have so many people genuinely believe it’s newsworthy? Only a generation that sees itself as illuminated by that story in ways it considers flattering.”
“But they’re all ridiculously obese,” she continued. “It boggles the mind.”
Washington, DC (AP) – Responding to growing concerns over access to methods of birth control, the National Institutes of Health issued new guidelines to you today, assuring you that just being yourself would provide all the protection against pregnancy that you will ever need.
A report entitled Useful Guidelines for Libidinal You (UGLY) gives an analysis of the effectiveness of this method. According to UGLY statistics, just being yourself prevents pregnancy and most sexually transmitted diseases, topping even the latex condom in effectiveness. The condom is 98% effective in preventing pregnancy and STDs such as herpes and HIV, while being yourself achieves 100% prevention.
The NIH cautions that just being yourself works to prevent pregnancy only for about 84% of the population. The other 16% are both actually physically attractive and have a personality that does not make others cringe. For that segment of the population, existing methods of birth control and infection prevention remain the recommended procedures.
The NIH report’s conclusions are already enjoying a surprising level of bipartisan support, given the historic acrimony over birth control and other reproductive issues between Republicans and Democrats. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has already welcomed the report, praising it for its candor in touting methods that do not rely on access to abortion or manipulation of the menstrual cycle, methods that make religious conservatives uneasy.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) also praised the NIH, saying that the UGLY method shows unique promise in his home state, where rudeness and antisocial behavior have long since come to define the local ethos. “New York can be the front line for implementing this strategy,” suggested Schumer. “We’re talking about a state – and especially a city – where making eye contact is generally considered grounds for homicide.” It should be no problem, said the Senator, to let the hostility and awkwardness play its natural role of keeping the population in check.
New Jersey Governer Chris Christie, a Republican, lauded the potential for tremendous savings. “Condom distribution programs cost money, and they’re always a political hot-button issue,” acknowledged the 2016 presidential hopeful. “But who can argue with social programs that actually save money and don’t pit conservatives and liberals against each other?” added the overweight, abrasive man.
Years ago New Jersey actually began a publicity campaign to foster such down-home birth control methods. The earliest successful measure, though limited, provided the environment for Aaron Burr to kill Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Already in the early nineteenth century the Garden State had secured a reputation as a backwater, lawless place, and the two combatants agreed that Weehawken made a suitably unpleasant location to fight to the death. It has not changed much in the intervening two centuries.
More recently, New Jersey played host to The Sopranos, a hit HBO drama involving realistic mobsters, emphasizing the petty, ugly concerns that characterize not only the life of a mafia boss but of every inhabitant of the state outside Princeton. A few years later, the reality TV series Jersey Shore introduced the typical New Jersey characters to viewers nationwide, allowing the state’s residents to bask in the disgust and contempt that has always made New Jersey notable.
The state’s efforts received an unexpected endorsement this past fall when the Nets, formerly of New Jersey, relocated to Brooklyn, demonstrating that some places are even less welcoming than New York.
Rome, Italy (AP) – The actor who garnered multiple awards for his role as a complex New Jersey mafia boss in the hit HBO series The Sopranos has wowed critics again with his convincing portrayal of a dead actor.
James Gandolfini, 51, was vacationing in Italy and was scheduled to attend the Taormina Film Fest, when he gave an impromptu, tour de force performance as a heart attack victim and ceased all bodily metabolic activity. Long regarded as a gifted thespian, Gandolfini’s stock had remained high since his breakout role as Tony Soprano, and his achievements had left audiences and critics wondering whether he could sustain the dramatic artistry that came to define him.
With the heart attack, Gandolfini effectively put to rest any doubts as to his continued ability to throw himself completely into a character and channel his own emotional and physiological state into the acting.
“I’ve always said he’s comparable to Mozart,” said David Chase, who directed the HBO series. “But he wasn’t so convinced. I guess he needed to keep proving how talented he is. Truth is we didn’t need this convincing, but if this helps James feel better about his acting, more power to him.”
Chase said he had wondered whether Gandolfini would attempt to break out of the molds that had come to define the roles he was given, but admitted he did not see this move coming, especially right now. “You don’t usually see such forceful, top-flight acting when a guy isn’t in front of a camera or on a stage – yet another way in which James surprises us.” Gandolfini was relegated to character acting and minor roles in various films from when he began his acting career in 1987 until he became a bona fide star in 1999 with the start of The Sopranos. The series ran six seasons and won multiple Emmy awards, including three for Gandolfini as Outstanding Lead Actor in a drama. He was nominated for that award all six seasons.
Gandolfini was unavailable for comment.
Austin, TX (AP) – Conservative activists turned out in large numbers today to oppose a proposed repeal of the death penalty in Texas, repeating the claim that properly administered capital punishment deters crime. The mostly Evangelical Christian demonstrators repeatedly invoked the name of Jesus, whose execution nearly two thousand years ago deterred countless potential Christians from ever accepting him and effectively short-circuiting the entire religion.
“What Would Jesus Do?” cried Samantha Osborne, 44, of Corpus Christi, exhorting her compatriots. “He’d keep the death penalty!” Jesus was continually cited as the prime example of capital punishment working, as his crucifixion in the year 33 CE by the Roman authorities put an end to trouble from early Christians and forever relegated Jesus’s followers to the footnotes of history.
At issue is a legislative proposal set to be voted on in committee this week, a measure that would ban the death penalty in the state for any sentences handed down after December 31 of the year it becomes law. If it survives several rounds of voting and is signed by the governor, the bill could attain passage this year. Inmates already on death row would not have their sentences commuted automatically, but they could request that their punishment be changed from the currently mandated method, lethal injection, to the more traditional crucifixion.
The rally, sponsored jointly by the student group Campus Crusade for Christ and the Christian Coalition, a political organization, attracted nearly 10,000 Christians from across the Lone Star State, with many driving up to six hours and several dozen others flying in from as far away as San Antonio. Speakers called on the crowd to defend both the conservative values represented by capital punishment and the very sanctity of life, which, they contended, could only be upheld if those who took life were similarly deprived of it.
“We have no issue with proper oversight of courts so that we do not risk putting innocent people to death,” acknowledged Rick Perry, the former Republican governor in his address to the crowd. “But truly innocent people know how not to end up on death row in the first place. Jesus Christ!” he continued, invoking the name of someone he believes to have been wrongfully executed. At least four documented cases exist in which Texas executed the wrong party for a capital crime, and little incentive exists for post-execution investigations that would lead to revelations in dozens of other possible wrongful executions.
Jesus Christ was unavailable for comment.
New York, NY (AP) – In yet another blow to the ailing credibility of the news media, a new survey by The New York Times and CBS News reveals that more than 100% of Americans think the news media make errors with disturbing frequency.
The poll, conducted online and by telephone with more than 3,000 adults of all major demographic groups, found that 213%, or just over three quarters, of respondents find they must take figures that the media uses in news stories with a grain of salt until some other source can corroborate the data. The margin of error in the poll was completely misunderstood by everyone including the researchers who collated the data.
The 213% represents an increase of 19% over the figure from last year at the same time. Last May, the same poll found that almost nobody understands the difference between a 19% increase and an increase by 19 percentage points, a cohort that includes most reporters outside the Business and Science sections of most major news outlets. A further 92% of respondents had no idea what was meant by “cohort” in the previous sentence, but they conceded that it sounded like a word a statistician might use.
The figure of 213% is by far the highest such figure in the global media marketplace. China, for example, touts its state-run press as achieving 100% accuracy 100% of the time, along with 100% agreement from 100% of the population on that point. Similar statistics emerge from Iran, where the Islamic Republic regularly canvasses citizens for feedback on such crucial media issues as the tightness of their shackles and the degree to which Israel is responsible for every ill that has ever plagued humanity, plus several more.
The findings also represent a continuing trend in American journalism away from reliance on established, credible news organizations, in favor of sources that uphold the viewer or reader’s preconceived notions about the world. As a natural consequence, says Stanley Spidowski, a consultant with U62 Media, a trade group, they mistrust any outlet other than their preferred biased source.
“The major players have been struggling for years with a shrinking market for objective reporting,” he said in response to the data. “The only major American outlet that has really managed to ride this wave is Fox, which has never relied as heavily as the other organizations on facts.”
Foreign media did not fare well in the survey either, though only 20% of respondents were aware that such outlets exist. Only 15%, or barely a third of respondents, knew that the BBC existed in the first place, let alone that the initials stand for British Broad-abuse Coverups. Iran’s Press TV can boast even less penetration of the American market, at -12% awareness. Among overseas organizations, only Al-Jazeera was identified by a significant number of respondents, though more than 80% of them thought the Qatari network was made up by Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart.
Los Angeles, CA (AP) – Glenn, a mako shark, has grown tired of the constant stream of pop culture elements leaping over his head on their way into terminal decline. He intends to recruit a team of other marine predators to prevent any further attempts.
In an exclusive interview with Mightier than the Pen, Glenn recalled the initial positive response he had to the first occasion, a 1977 episode of Happy Days in which a water skiing Henry Winkler character leaps over the shark. The moment later became the prototype for the point at which a phenomenon has lost its freshness.
“I always liked that first one,” said Glenn. “The Fonz was a sweet guy, and the novelty of the situation will always be special to me. But it just got old after that,” and now the phenomenon simply aggravates him. Ironically, Happy Days continued successfully for several more seasons after the shark-jumping episode, a fact that simply irritates Glenn even more.
To make matters worse, says the shark, in the wake of the skiing incident, people began trying to identify earlier such occasions, forcing Glenn into situations in which he had no interest in participating. “Some people want to retrofit me into Shakespeare’s works, as if it were all downhill after The Taming of the Shrew,” he lamented.
To stem the tide of shark-jumpers, Glenn and several hundred friends have established a committee to discuss what can be done to prevent further annoyance at the skis of more and more creative doldrums. One proposal, submitted by an orca named Phil, suggests sabotaging naval vessels of various military powers to instigate a major war. In the ensuing conflict, the orca hopes, hundreds of millions of humans will perish and both the audience and pool of creative individuals will be reduced.
A second idea now being mooted involves a strategic anti-plankton and anti-algae effort. The resulting lack of photosynthesizing creatures would bring about a more rapid rise in global temperatures as more and more atmospheric carbon dioxide would remain. At a certain point, argues the proponents, the climatic upheaval would destroy human culture, the only source of shark-jumping. The latter proposal has numerous opponents and is unlikely to be adopted; too many cold-weather species rely on the global temperature remaining stable.
Yet a third possibility would have all the sea creatures finally end the charade of pretending they are not sentient and capable of communicating with humans, and engage people directly in hopes of eliminating the phenomenon. Of the three proposals, this one remains the least popular, as it involves actual interaction with humans.
Continued discussion of the issue has actually generated annoyance from a number of marine quarters. “Enough about this already,” said Edwina, a coral in the Great Barrier Reef. “As far as I’m concerned, the phrase ‘jump the shark’ is on the decline anyway – it’s already – well, you know.”
New York, NY (AP) – Continuing his efforts to employ mayoral authority to stem the rising tide of obesity, New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg launched another initiative today aimed at curtailing children’s consumption of fatty, sugary foods, this time as part of the treats traditionally distributed by the birthday celebrant to his or her departing guests.
The goody bag, or loot bag, as it is known in some quarters, traditionally contains several sweets and greasy or salty snacks, and sometimes cake or cookies. Some versions also include a small game or toy, but the focus of the new initiative – and of the kids who receive the bags – remains on the food portion of the contents.
Pending approval by the City Council, the measure would limit such bags to a single “fun size” sweet or salty treat, with the remainder of the contents comprising unprocessed fruits or vegetables and no more than 2 ounces of starchy, unsweetened material such as crackers or pretzels. Non-food items are not subject to the new legislation, and no limits would be placed on the quantity or type.
Earlier versions of the measure had a proposed mandatory inclusion of information on the importance of healthful eating habits, but according mayoral aides, Mr. Bloomberg quickly realized that such a requirement would be cumbersome and would necessitate further bureaucratic involvement to produce or approve such material and provide for its adequate distribution throughout the five boroughs.
The mayor’s previous anti-obesity initiative sought to ban the sale of large-size soft drinks. Though that measure passed the City Council, a subsequent lawsuit and opposition by the soft drink industry resulted in its cancellation. The goody bag industry does not enjoy the same financial and political clout as the soft drink companies, and experts expect the measure to remain on the books if it passes.
“Odds are this one will do well,” said N. Annie State, a political analyst for the journal Welfare Mom’s Day. “The snack food industry is too fragmented to put up much of a fight, and parents everywhere are getting more and more health-conscious.”
Other experts disagreed. “The demographic that actually puts together goody bags is not the demographic that suffers most from childhood obesity,” noted Ray Syst, who writes about diet and class issues for Time Magazine. “The people who buy the junk food in quantity are the ones who don’t have time to prepare a wholesome birthday party to begin with – they’ll just take the kid out to Burger King or some pizza place. This legislation misses the point entirely, and inconveniences people without accomplishing its goal.”
Syst said a better initiative would be to institute a minimum age for fast food items such as most states already have for tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, but acknowledges that would be an uphill fight even in regulation-friendly sates such as New York. Alternatively, he suggested, bag manufacturers could be required to print warnings regarding the dangers of overconsumption of unhealthy foods, much in the way cigarette packages must feature such a prominent label.