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An animated Thanksgiving preview

What’s on Need to Know this week? Here’s a special holiday bulletin from the Corner Cubicle.

Déjà vu in Juarez, Mexico

People clean a blood-stained patio at a home in the northern city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Saturday Oct. 23, 2010. At least 13 young people were shot dead in an attack on this house during a 15-year-old boy's birthday party. Photo: AP/Raymundo Ruiz

When we visited Villas de Salvarcar this past spring for our report on the enduring violence in Juarez, we found a neighborhood slowly putting its heart back together. On a block where 15 young people were massacred at a birthday party last January, federal law enforcement stood guard and social workers dispatched from Mexico City worked with local children to address the trauma. When we asked about the slain children, relatives emerged clutching photographs, and mothers stood in all their bravery to tell us who their children were, laying out scholastic awards and leaning on each other for support. President Felipe Calderon’s administration vowed “never again” and pledged new funding to improve law enforcement and build infrastructure projects.

And yet it did happen again, in almost exactly the same way, in Horizones Sur, a working class neighborhood not far from Villas de Salvarcar. Late last month, gunmen stormed into a birthday party spanning two yards, killing 13 young people and injuring 20 others. According to the Associated Press, most of the victims were high school students.
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Photo: A nation mourns

A caisson bearing the flag-draped coffin of President John F. Kennedy pauses in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., Nov. 25, 1963, en route to burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo: AP

On November 22, 1963, the 35th president of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. He was 46 years old. The next day, newly sworn-in President Lyndon B. Johnson issued his first proclamation, declaring November 25 to be a national day of mourning. On that day, hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the streets of Washington, D.C., to watch a horse-drawn caisson bearing Kennedy’s body travel from the Capitol to St. Matthew’s Catholic Cathedral for a requiem mass. Accompanying the casket was a riderless horse named Black Jack. With boots sitting reversed in the stirrups, the horse was the symbol of a fallen leader. The procession then continued to Arlington National Cemetery, where Kennedy was laid to rest. Representatives from more than 90 countries attended the state funeral.

John Lennon, like he means it

The ’70s are rightly remembered for all the excruciatingly awful corporate rock, numbing disco and pablum-pop that blared from car radios, dorm rooms and just about any place anybody spun records in those pre-iPod days. But it was also an era in which several artists who had gotten started in the ‘60s produced masterpieces of raw feeling (hummable raw feeling, no less) that will be listened to and talked about as long as there is rock ‘n roll: Joni Mitchell’s “Blue,” Neil Young’s “Tonight’s The Night,” Bob Dylan’s “Blood On The Tracks,” and the most magnificently wrenching of them all, John Lennon’s solo debut “Plastic Ono Band.” With its spare production, straight-ahead mix — Lennon’s voice and guitar (or piano) were right out front — and a remarkable collection of deeply-felt songs sung straight from the soul, “Plastic Ono” is an album in which the flimsiest of scrims divides the artist’s emotion from the audience’s experience; it’s as bracing to listen to today as when it was released some 40 years ago.

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band Album

I was reminded of the magnificence of that album again while watching my colleague Michael Epstein’s powerfully moving documentary for PBS’s “American Masters” series, LENNONYC. The film covers roughly the period from shortly after the ex-Beatle recorded “Plastic Ono Band” (his last LP recorded solely in England) until the time of his death. It was the period in which he lived and recorded in New York and Los Angeles, and the period in which he made his worst records.

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Fallout continues for Alaska native corporations

Photo: Nikki Kahn, Washington Post

This week, the federal government suspended two more companies as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged abuses of a federal contracting program. According to Robert O’Harrow Jr.’s story in the Washington Post today, “The action is part of an expanding investigation by the Small Business Administration into allegations that small companies are being used by large companies to obtain small-business set-aside contracts.”
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Photo: Color me bad

Photo: Timothy Riley

A female peafowl is called a peahen. A male is called a peacock. A white peacock is sometimes called an albino, but it is nothing of the sort. It is a color variation of the Indian Blue peacock. The lack of color in its feathers is due to a condition called Leucism, which is caused by a reduction in all types of skin pigment. Unlike a true albino bird, white peafowl have normally colored eyes. Whatever it is that makes them this way, they are stunning.

Climate scientists prepare for new attacks after GOP wins

In this political climate, is it possible to have a “rational discussion” about anything?

Democrats on the House Science and Technology Committee seem to think so. They’re holding a hearing today entitled “A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response.” The “discussion,” of course, is likely to devolve into an exchange of old bromides between politicians on both sides.

But the colloquy seems to have achieved what was, perhaps, its main purpose: to shine a light on the surprising number of House Republicans who either doubt or outright deny the science behind global warming. As Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones told Need to Know in our Climate Desk podcast last week, as much as half of the Republican caucus has openly denied that climate change is occurring, or that it is caused by human activity. And only one of the Republicans elected to the U.S. Senate in this month’s midterm elections  — Mark Kirk, of Illinois — has accepted the science behind global warming.

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Photo: A dignified transfer

An Army carry team walks through the fog during the dignified transfer of Army Pfc. Jacob C. Carroll of Clemmons, N.C. upon arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Del. on Monday, Nov. 15, 2010. Photo: AP/Jose Luis Magana

Away from the spotlight and cameras that broadcast the images of soldiers returning home to embrace their awaiting loved ones are the soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard. They also welcome home the soldiers of Iraq and Afghanistan. They are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to receive the remains of America’s fallen soldiers at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del. When the call comes in, the soldiers, dressed in the army combat uniform and white gloves, meet the aircraft carrying the transfer cases of deceased soldiers returning from overseas, and with stoic precision, receive the flag-draped caskets and carry them to awaiting vehicles. In the middle of the day or night, in the heat, cold or rain, with or without the relatives present, every returning soldier receives the 15-minute ceremony called a dignified transfer.

Photo: Hail to the chief

Manny Pacquiao, right, lands a punch against Antonio Margarito during the eleventh round of their WBC light middleweight title boxing match Saturday. Photo: AP/David J. Phillip

Although 5 inches shorter and 17 pounds lighter than his opponent, boxer Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao soundly defeated Antonio “Tijuana Tornado” Margarito to claim the WBC super welterweight title last Saturday in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Pacquiao became the first boxer in history to win world titles in eight different weight divisions. What Pacquiao lacked in size, he made up in skill and speed, winning every round of the 12-round fight and ultimately fracturing Margarito’s orbital bone in his right eye, which will require surgery Tuesday to repair. Now that the fight is in the history books, Pacquiao will return to his native Philippines to resume his second job as congressman; he was elected to the House of Representatives last May, representing the province of Sarangani.