Archive for September 2013
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) – In a move surprising to both supporters and opponents of President Obama’s landmark universal health care law, the Supreme Court ruled this morning that the far-reaching piece of legislation, affecting hundreds of millions of Americans, is actually a variety of cheese similar to cheddar.
Democratic supporters and Republican opponents have waged a public conflict over the constitutionality, feasibility, and costs of the health care package, with Congressional Republicans threatening to withhold funding for the program. The Court ruling at once forces the administration to reconsider the application of the law and deprives Republicans of ammunition in the fight against it.
In a split decision, the Court decided 5-4 that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), as the package is formally known, is not a piece of legislation at all, but a semi-hard cheese with the pungency of of young Gouda and a texture evocative of Pecorino.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts praised the PPACA’s strong flavor and creaminess, noting how unusual it is for a cheese made from cow’s milk to achieve the particular balance of flavor and texture normally associated with sheep cheeses such as Pecorino.
“We find the PPACA a sumptuous feast of the senses,” Roberts wrote. “The unmistakable aroma of a fine Pecorino gives way to the not-quite al dente feel of a sensuous, creamy Gruyère.”
In a spirited dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia vigorously denounced that characterization, asserting that in fact Obamacare bears only a passing resemblance to cheese. Scalia minced no words in putting forth the argument that if anything, the PPACA calls to mind and palate a delicate veal carpaccio.
“Far be it from this judge to weigh in on matters of taste, but since the majority has already done so, let it be known that the majority would not know a mozzarella from a matza,” wrote Scalia, referring to a type of crispy, unleavened bread eaten by Jews on Passover. “In fact Obamacare would be best served with a nice Rosé, or better yet, an apéritif of some sort, but you won’t hear such things from the stodgy confines of the rest of the bench.”
In practice, the ruling leaves the PPACA out of the realm of direct influence from Congress, as regulation of cheeses and other dairy products falls under the aegis of the Department of Agriculture. While calling into question the medical application of the health care package, the Supreme Court has nevertheless granted the President effective carte blanche to apply it as the agency that answers to him sees fit.
“We certainly see this as a victory,” said White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew. “A victory to be savored, perhaps on a rye cracker with nigella or caraway seeds.” Lew himself noted that he could not necessarily partake of the cheese, as he follows Jewish dietary law; the vast majority of cheeses available in the United States are not kosher, as they use rennet, an enzyme from animal sources that is considered a meat substance under Jewish law, and may not be mixed with dairy.
Congressional Republicans were quick to voice their disappointment. “Not what I expected at all, to tell you the truth,” conceded Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “We had been near certain the Court would see things our way, considering the Chief Justice’s own conservative tastes.” McConnell said he had yet to decide whether he would purchase any of the PPACA.
“My tastes run more toward Brie and Camembert,” he confessed, referring to softer cheeses.
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.
Rockville Centre, NY (AP) – The Lord God Almighty finally responded to repeated entreaties by a local man, instructing the 27-year-old to stop pestering Him and do something to improve his own life for once.
Gary Bonner, currently unemployed, has been praying for a windfall since he lost his job as a welder in late 2012. Rather than immediately seek another position, Bonner elected to place his trust entirely in the Lord, restricting his own revenue-related efforts to collecting unemployment benefits and buying various tickets from the New York State Lottery.
“Any God Who can provide for me by arranging a working position can also engineer events so that I don’t have to do any work to have a steady income, as well,” he reasoned, ignoring the Lord’s own pronouncements regarding the sweat of man’s brow as the default method for gaining bread.
Fed up, as it were, by the man’s attitude, the Lord appeared in a vision to Bonner and instructed him to cease all petition until he takes measures to indicate active participation in the live he was given. “I did not create thee to sit around on thy duff, waiting, as doth a goldfish in a tank, for magical food flakes to float down from Heaven,” the Creator of the universe informed the misguided soul. “Go forth and seek sustenance by thine own hand, and wait not, for thou art not a fetus in the womb that thy provisions be pumped directly into thy bloodstream.”
Unswayed from his lassitude, Bonner attempted to argue with the Almighty, citing the precedents of Elijah being brought food by the ravens, and the Israelites in the wilderness receiving a daily allotment of manna. “Lord, You’ve shown before that not everyone needs to work – why can’t I be one of those people, instead of the loser I am now?”
Although the Lord’s last serious debate occurred in the second millennium BCE, He demonstrated that He had lost none of His rhetorical sharpness. “Art thou Abraham, who beseeched Me to spare to wicked city of Sodom, that thou wouldst now engage in dispute?” the Lord retorted. “When was the last time thou sought to save anyone, let alone those whom others have dismissed as unworthy?”
“And as for your invocation of Elijah,” continued God, “when I see that thou hast devoted thy life to uprooting idolatrous practices and oppression of the meek, then shall I consider providing thee with thy daily bread through less effort of thine own,” admonished He Who spoke and the world was created. “And thou comparest thyself to the Israelites, My chosen people? The ones who followed Me into the wilderness, ready to accept My covenant of devotion when all other nations preferred to mire themselves in their orgies of oppression, castes, human sacrifice, and unbridled pursuit of power?”
According to witnesses, Bonner hesitated only a moment, but persisted nonetheless. “Lord, plenty of people have it easy, and they don’t seem to be doing anything worthy with their lives. Celebrities. Playboys. Bankers. I just want to be one of them instead!”
“Shut up already,” answered God, dismissing Bonner’s argument with a wave of His metaphorical hand. “Trust Me: if thou had any potential as an avatar of iniquity, thou wouldst already be decades into a life of debauched vanity. Now, for the second time, get off thy duff and seek gainful employment!”
At press time, Bonner was scouring the classified section of Newsday for available positions as corrupt dictator of a small Latin American country.
New York (AP) Addressing the United Nations General Assembly for the first time, newly installed President of Iran showed a softer side of the regime yesterday, preaching acceptance for everyone, provided they harbor animosity toward the Jewish state.
“The Islamic republic seeks engagement with the world, not discord,” said Hassan Rouhani to the annual gathering of world leaders, “and we can achieve that harmony if everyone accepts the premise that the Zionist regime is evil and must be obliterated.” Iran’s denies that its continued enrichment of uranium is intended to produce atomic weapons, while Israel and other Western countries have warned of the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Until recently, the official tone of Iran’s rhetoric has been defiant. Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, repeatedly and unabashedly issued predictions and calls for Israel’s destruction. Iran has supported various armed groups that attack Israel, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But with Rouhani now in office, the Ayatollah-run country has tried to burnish its image, portraying the new president as a more accommodating personality. Rouhani was heavily involved in the early stages of Iran’s nuclear program.
“It’s a hopeful sign,” said Venezuelan delegate Jose Maria Cortes. “For years, the world got used to hearing nothing but opposition to Israel’s existence, and now Iran has completely altered its approach, and they simply oppose the existence of Israel and are working to threaten it any way they can.”
French diplomat François Martin shared the Venezuelan’s assessment. “France has watched with concern as Iran repeatedly rebuffed the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he recalled, “but Rouhani and his fresh approach mean that now we can expect only further obstruction, concealment, and, ultimately, a nuclear-capable regime that has made no bones of its desire to rid the world of one of its neighbors.”
American officials have remained wary, and echoed Israeli admonitions to observe Iran’s behavior, rather than its pronouncements. “The Obama administration is certainly in favor of open discourse,” said US ambassador Samantha Power. “But we reserve judgment on Iran until it demonstrates a genuine shift in its policies, not mere lip service to the idea of removing Israel from the map.” The US has led an international effort to levy economic sanctions on Iran, and Iran’s economy has suffered as a result. Power said the US has noted Iran’s strong relations with such reputable states as Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, and Syria.
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.