Friday, December 16, 2011

first-est with the best-est, last-est with the least-est

It's news ... the biggest, bestest, most important, most deplorable. Sometimes I wonder what happens to the rest of the news when what is called news is today's news. Former CBS newsman Walter Cronkite once said, approximately, "News is not about how many cats did not get stranded on the garage roof." To my mind, the aptness of that observation ought to serve to make news people humble ... but of course it doesn't.

-- In the Netherlands, a report states that thousands of children suffered sexual abuse while attending Dutch Catholic institutions. One victim criticized the report: "What was happening was sexual abuse, violence, spiritual terror, and that should have been investigated," Smeets told The Associated Press. "It remains vague. All sorts of things happened but nobody knows exactly what or by whom. This way they avoid responsibility." How exhausting it is, whether at Penn State or the Citadel or Zen Studies Society or the Roman Catholic Church, to have institutions side-step the nitty-gritty of personal harm committed under an umbrella of decency or education or religious goodness.

-- Intellectual gadfly Christopher Hitchens, a legend in his own mind, died Thursday night of esophageal cancer. He was 62. As a child, "He was "a mere weed and weakling and kick-bag" who discovered that "words could function as weapons" and so stockpiled them." Words as weapons -- I too have known that feeling and, although I never drank as much as Hitchens did, still it strikes me as a pity never to have come around the corner and found more than a superficial answer to the question, "weapons against what?"

-- The fact has become somehow bizarre -- the idea that someone had never used the Internet -- but there it is: Almost a quarter of the European Union's 500 million people have never done so.

-- An eighteen-year-old who was declared the shortest woman in the world on Friday counted herself fortunate by stature: Without being so short (24.7 inches/ 62.8cm), how would she have been able to visit all the interesting countries she visited from her home in India?

The story of her first-place status did not answer a host of questions -- how much does she eat, does she have brothers and sisters, where does she get her clothes made, what about sex, does she hope to marry ... -- that rattle around in the mind. You know, the news that did not qualify as news.

-- And then there is a Christmas story worth telling -- strangers paying off lay-away debts for the hard-pressed in hard times.

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