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Gifts that keep on giving

 

Here in Rhode Island, we ink-stained wretches like to refer to the state and its picaresque characters as the gifts that keep on giving. Clearly, though, the national stage also has much to offer for future generations. Take a look at these details from yesterday's New York Times:

1) White House Predicts Bush Will Leave $482 Billion Deficit

WASHINGTON — The White House predicted Monday that President Bush would leave a record $482 billion deficit to his successor, a sobering turnabout in the nation’s fiscal condition from 2001, when Mr. Bush took office after three consecutive years of budget surpluses.

The worst may be yet to come. The deficit announced by Jim Nussle, the White House budget director, does not reflect the full cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the potential $50 billion cost of another economic stimulus package, or the possibility of steeper losses in tax revenues if individual income or corporate profits decline.

The new deficit numbers also do not account for any drains on the national treasury that might result from further declines in the housing market.

2) Waterboarding as Art

The journalist Christopher Hitchens underwent waterboarding for a recent Vanity Fair article. Now an artist is using that interrogation technique — which makes people feel as if they were drowning — to raise awareness of the issue of torture. The artist, Steve Powers, opened “The Waterboarding Thrill Ride” on Saturday in the Coney Island arcade in Brooklyn. An animatronic diorama that depicts a prisoner being waterboarded, it is being presented by Creative Time, the public art organization, as part of an initiative called “Democracy in America: The National Campaign.” The piece, which occupies a former photo booth redesigned as a jail cell on West 12th Street in Coney Island, will be on view to the public throughout the summer. Viewers can see the scene through cell bars after paying $1 outside. “Humor has long been a strategy for speaking the unspeakable,” Anne Pasternak, the president and artistic director of Creative Time, said in a statement, “and it is vital that we as a nation begin a dialogue about the implications of waterboarding.” In mid-August Mr. Powers and several lawyers will be waterboarded by a trained professional in a secret location in Coney Island as a private performance. Documentation on the performance will be at creativetime.org.

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