Thursday, December 11, 1997

That Israeli Mossad official who made up his Syrian source used to teach at the Mossad spy school--a course on "The Lie as Art."

The cold war is over. Germany will sooner or later move its capital to Berlin, where the government always used to make its best decisions. And Kazakhstan just this week moved its capital to Akmola. Mosquitos in the summer, -40 degrees in the winter, hundreds of people dying of cold each year because the gas and power supply is less than reliable.

Two records in Britain: their oldest person just died at 114, which means she was 18 when Queen Victoria died. She is not the oldest person ever to live in Britain, if you count Thomas Parr, who died in 1635 at the age of 152. Well, that's what it says in those ads for Parr's Life Pills I keep seeing in newspapers from the 1840s.

And someone set the traffic ticket record, for speeding at 154 MPH. An Aston Martin, if you're wondering.

We'll see if I'm right, but this may be the next Christian right-wing scandal after gays in Disneyland and Ellen DeGeneres: the Mass. Supreme Court has ruled that a divorced father who has recently found god may not teach his children about it, and certainly may not take them to his church where they are likely to be told that non-Christians like their mother, an Orthodox Jew, are going to burn in hell.

The Supreme Court just made an important decision on double jeopardy. The previous standard, since 1989, states that civil penalties can only be assessed separately from criminal ones if the amount involved is to compensate the government for injury caused, and not if they are so high as to constitute an actual punishment. Which seems reasonable. This has been reversed, 9-0 yet, which means that, what, 4 or 5 people must have changed their minds since 1989. The definition of whether a fine is civil rather than criminal is--whatever Congress says it is when it enacts the fine.

Now I'll repeat my question of last week since nobody answered it: SINCE WHEN DO WE HAVE TRIAL IN ABSENTIA IN THIS COUNTRY?

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