MONDAY, NOVEMBER 28 The week kicks off with a story for our holiday-in-hard-times, one that the Daily Mail headlined "Store Santa Clauses now taught to size up recession-hit parents' wealth and manage children's gift expectations." Details come from the New York Times, which identifies the source of the wealth-judging Santas as Midland, Michigan's Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, where for nearly 75 years, thousands of men have been taught the art and craft of professional Santa Clausing. Until now, classes centered on the basics: beard curling, off-season wig storage, appropriate mannerisms ("a hearty laugh that rumbles not from the throat but from deep below the diaphragm"), and, of course, non-smelly breath. New to this year's curriculum: Classes where Santas "learn to swiftly size up families' financial circumstances, gently scale back children's Christmas gift requests, and even how to answer the wish some say they have been hearing with more frequency—'Can you bring my parent a job?'" As one pro told the NYT, "In the end, Santas have to be sure to never promise anything," and if that involves telling kids an expectation-diminishing story "about a wayward elf and slowed toy production at the North Pole for children who are requesting a gift clearly beyond their family's price range," so be it. Surviving the recession with aplomb: the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School itself, which last month drew the largest class in its history. "And while most of the men were longtime, passionate Santas looking to hone their skills in hair bleaching, story-telling and sign language," writes the NYT, "at least a handful, including an aerospace engineer and an accountant, said they were testing out Santa school in part because of slim times, shrunken retirement accounts, or a dearth of work altogether." "There are no jobs out there—it's ridiculous," 28-year-old Joe Stolte said to the Times. "I like being Santa Claus. And I figure it comes once a year. It's a thing that's going to be there."
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 29 Speaking of characters who allegedly venture into private homes to give residents everything they want, the week continues with an update on Conrad Murray, the Houston cardiologist who gave Michael Jackson the drugs that ended up killing him. Having been convicted of involuntary manslaughter, today Dr. Murray appeared in Los Angeles County Superior Court, where he was sentenced to four years in prison. (Due to overcrowding, Dr. Murray will likely serve only two, and will likely emerge with zero medical licenses.)
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 30 Nothing happened today, unless you count the Sacramento police officer who pulled over a driver in the south part of the city and was presented with a car carrying two adults, one child, and, allegedly, so much pot smoke it took the officer a moment to be able to see the 2-year-old in the backseat. Speaking to Sacramento's CBS13 News, the child's father, J. C. Monroe, disputed the policeman's account and vehemently denied that anyone had been "hotboxing" inside the vehicle.
"My son was in the car, there was some smoke, but it was not a hotbox," said Monroe to CBS13, explaining that his friend, a medical marijuana patient, had just taken his first puff when cops pulled them over. Arrested on charges of child abuse and probation violation, Mr. Monroe remains held on $82,000 bond. The child has been placed in the custody of his mother.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1 The week continues with World AIDS Day, the annual-since-1988 day of remembrance for the more than 25 million people killed by AIDS since 1981 that doubles as a day of renewed commitment to fight AIDS until it is no more. In honor of the day, President Obama stood before a microphone and gave good president: "If you go back and you look at the themes of past World AIDS Days, if you read them one after another, you'll see the story of how the human race has confronted one of the most devastating pandemics in our history. You'll see that in those early years—when we started losing good men and women to a disease that no one truly understood—it was about ringing the alarm, calling for global action, proving that this deadly disease was not isolated to one area or one group of people. And that's part of what makes today so remarkable, because back in those early years, few could have imagined this day... Because we invested in anti-retroviral treatment, people who would have died, some of whom are here today, are living full and vibrant lives. Because we developed new tools, more and more mothers are giving birth to children free from this disease. And because of a persistent focus on awareness, the global rate of new infections and deaths is declining. So make no mistake, we are going to win this fight. But the fight is not over—not by a long shot. The rate of new infections may be going down elsewhere, but it's not going down here in America. The infection rate here has been holding steady for over a decade. There are communities in this country being devastated, still, by this disease. When new infections among young black gay men increase by nearly 50 percent in three years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter. When Latinos are dying sooner than other groups, and when black women feel forgotten, even though they account for most of the new cases among women, then we've got to do more. So this fight is not over. Not for the 1.2 million Americans who are living with HIV right now. Not for the Americans who are infected every day. This fight is not over for them, it's not over for their families, and as a consequence, it can't be over for anybody in this room—and it certainly isn't over for your president."
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2 Nothing happened today, unless you count the many people made sad by the passing of Edie Whitsett, the Seattle scenic artist who gets a proper commemoration on page 44.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 3 In lighter news (but only barely), the week continues with Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State coach/children's charity leader/accused child rapist who, in an interview published today, willingly sat down with a New York Times reporter to say a bunch of really, really creepy things. Seriously—what is it about alleged pedophiles that makes them want to sit before a camera all dewy-eyed to say things like "That's the most loving thing to do, to share your bed with someone" (Michael Jackson, referring to the child—and soon-to-be-latest accuser—he was cuddling with in front of Martin Bashir's camera) or "If I say, 'No, I'm not attracted to boys,' that's not the truth because I'm attracted to young people" (Jerry Sandusky, spoken from the sofa in his lawyer's home, to an NYT reporter). Is the shameless, dewy-eyed public defense part of the thrill?
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 4 Nothing happened today, unless you count the world's wistful celebration of Herman Cain, the million-dollar GOP goofball who yesterday capped a month of sexual assault accusations, outspoken ex-mistresses, and extensive talking out of his ass by suspending his 2012 presidential campaign.
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