CIA director Leon Panetta admitted that the agency,initially under orders from then-Vice President Dick Cheney, kept secret from Congress the existence of a special counterterrorism program for eight years. Panetta also said that the program--intended to deploy small teams to assassinate Al Qaeda leaders--was canceled last month. Attorney General Eric Holder was considering the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate CIA torture (shackling, punching, beating, waterboarding with extra water, and violating the U.N. Convention Against Torture) under the Bush Administration, despite the resistance of the White House, which believes that its legislative agenda would be hindered by a probe of the crimes of the last administration. Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson, speaking before a Senate hearing, claimed that under the "law of war authority" the president maintains the right to imprison someone indefinitely even after he has been tried and acquitted. President Obama shook Muammar Qaddafi's hand at the G-8 summit in Italy, then went on to Africa, singling out Ghana, an oil state, for a visit (because of its strong democracy); in Accra he spoke to the parliament on the topic of good government and promised U.S. support in prosecuting (African) war crimes. "Yes you can," he said. General Motors exited bankruptcy protection after 40 days, and a Florida man was arrested after killing a prostitute and asking his fifth-grade son to help him get rid of the body. Britney Spears was upset to learn that there are no unicorns in New Zealand, Al Franken was sworn in as a senator, and Michael Jackson was to be buried without his brain. Irish officials were debating whether to construct a museum of child abuse. Congress was considering a plan to lower the volume of ads on TV.

A truck bomb in Afghanistan killed 25 people, most of them civilians. Seven Christian churches were bombed in three days in Iraq, and U.S drones, likely using Hellfire missiles, blew up another 50 people in Pakistan. A Saudi Arabian family was relocated to a safe house after filing a lawsuit against a genie who left threatening voicemails. The 184th person died in Uighur-rights protests in China; the families of dead "innocents" will be granted 200,000 yuan by the government. Seventy-one people died drinking bootleg alcohol in the Indian state of Gujarat, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il may have pancreatic cancer. The Aral Sea continued to shrink. Two men who kissed at a Chico's Tacos in El Paso, Texas, were ejected by guards for "faggot stuff," and more than 60 day-camp children were kicked out of a suburban Philadelphia swim club because of their blackness. "There was concern," said the club president in a statement, "that a lot of kids would change the complexion... of the club." A 75-year-old woman beat a fawn to death with a shovel in Euclid, Ohio, and three Georgia policemen were in trouble for Tasing their waffle-house waiter for laughs. An explosion at a beef jerky plant in June was expected to cause a national Slim Jim shortage.

Sarah Palin promised to stump for other conservatives after she leaves office. Wookey Hole in Somerset, England, was looking to hire a full-time witch to live in its caves. A teenager in New York City fell down a manhole while writing a text message, and a man in Camden, New Jersey, died when he fell into a vat of chocolate. A London taxi driver tied one end of a rope around a post and the other around his neck and drove into a pillar, launching his head from the car. An eight-foot fiberglass Statue of Liberty stolen from a coffee shop in Brooklyn appeared in a YouTube video, where it was beheaded while the words "Death to America" were shown on-screen. "Liberty is the holy masquerade of the decapitated," explained a vandal in an email, "so we decapitated it in the struggle for a truly free unity." Osama bin Laden's son Omar said that his father killed his puppies to test chemical weapons, and a Swedish man was found with enough Zyklon-B to kill 42,000 people. Wisconsin scientists, after a 20-year study into caloric restriction, confirmed that hungry monkeys live longer; German scientists found that pigs can catch swine flu from humans. Researchers studying Senegalese villagers found that fathers will spend more time with children who look like them, and SpongeBob was turning ten. An analysis of 38 nun brains showed that people with greater language skills as teenagers are less likely to exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer's, researchers in North Carolina found that people who build castles in the sand are at a greater risk of diarrhea, and scientists in San Diego made a robot head study itself in a mirror until it learned to smile.

-- Paul Ford