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The News You May Have Missed: March 2022


Return of the Festive Fire

For the first time in five years, a giant straw Yule goat in Gavle, Sweden, was set ablaze this December, reviving a long-running tradition of locals illegally attempting to torch it and authorities scrambling to stop them (Reuters, Dec. 17). The 42-foot-high statue made of wood and straw, erected every year before Christmas, became famous when the first one was installed in 1966 as a marketing ploy. It was burned down on New Year’s Eve that year. Over the years, authorities have hired guards and deployed around-the-clock video surveillance and vast quantities of flame retardant to protect the statue, but it has been torched or otherwise destroyed at least 35 times. In 2005 two assailants — one dressed as Santa Claus and one as a gingerbread man — set it on fire with bows and burning arrows. It has also been run over by cars, set ablaze by fireworks, and smashed with clubs. The local tourism administration says there was once a botched plan to kidnap it using a helicopter. Police have arrested a man who witnesses said had been acting suspiciously before the most recent blaze.


Crazed Congressman

A Tennessee House Republican apologized after he was ejected from a high school basketball game and either feigned an attempt or failed to pull down a referee’s pants (Associated Press, Jan. 5). Rep. Jeremy Faison, 45, admitted he “acted the fool” for “wanting…to fight” the referee. “[I] totally lost my junk,” Faison said. “It was completely stupid of me. Emotions getting in the way of rational thoughts are never good…. I was bad wrong.” Providence Academy, a private school in Johnson City, was hosting Lakeway Christian Academy from White Pine, for which Faison’s son plays. After a brief scuffle between the two teams over a loose ball, Faison appeared on the court and was told to leave by a referee. Faison pointed his finger in the referee’s face and said, “You can’t tell me to leave the floor. This was your fault.” He then grabbed the ref’s pants and tugged down on them. The referee’s pants stayed up. Since 2019 Faison has been the Republican caucus chairman, one of the most influential positions in the Tennessee House of Representatives.


Maus Trap

A Tennessee school district has voted to remove Maus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, from its curriculum due to its “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a nude woman (Associated Press, Jan. 27). Art Spiegelman, who won the Pulitzer in 1992 for the work that tells the story of his Jewish parents living in 1940s Poland, said he was “baffled” by the school board’s decision, which he called “Orwellian.” The McMinn County School Board discussed how to “get rid of the eight curse words and the picture of the woman.” In the graphic novel, Jews are drawn as mice, and Nazis as cats. The “nude” woman in question is a mouse. Instructional supervisor Julie Goodin, a former history teacher, said the graphic novel is a good way to depict a horrific event. “It’s hard for this generation. These kids don’t even know 9/11; they were not even born,” she said. The board emphasized that it does not object to teaching about the Holocaust.


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