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Syria’s government reported that nearly 90 percent of voters had approved a draft constitution introducing democratic reforms, including a multiparty system. The referendum was boycotted by opposition groups and condemned by international leaders. “To open polling stations but continue to open fire on the civilians of the country,” said British foreign secretary William Hague, “has no credibility in the eyes of the world.” Activists reported that at least 140 Syrians had been killed in recent days in Homs, where government shelling also killed two Western journalists. In her final dispatch, one of the journalists, Marie Colvin, wrote, “I was met by a welcoming party keen for foreign journalists to reveal the city’s plight to the world. So desperate were they that they bundled me into an open truck and drove at speed with the headlights on, everyone standing in the back shouting ‘Allahu akbar’—God is the greatest. Inevitably, the Syrian army opened fire.” Sergeant Frank Wuterich, the only U.S. Marine to be found guilty of any charge related to the 2005 killing of 24 Iraqis in Haditha, was honorably discharged. In Afghanistan, about 40 people were killed, including two American military advisers, amid protests over the burning of Korans by NATO personnel at a Bagram Air Field garbage pit. President Barack Obama apologized to Afghans for the error, prompting Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum to say, “I think it shows weakness.” Mitt Romney praised Michigan’s automakers during a campaign stop in the state, saying, “I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually. And I used to have a Dodge truck. So, I used to have all three covered.” Asked later in the week whether he follows NASCAR, Romney responded, “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans. But I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners.”
The German Bundestag voted in favor of a $170 billion bailout for Greece, the largest share of which will be funded by Germany. “Greece needs a Marshall Plan,” said Left Party leader Gregor Gysi, who opposed the plan, “not a Versailles Treaty.” The Royal Bank of Scotland announced it would pay out about $630 million in bonuses despite an expected $3.5 billion in losses this year, the fourth in a row it has failed to post a profit, and British Labour MP Eric Joyce was arrested after he became enraged in a House of Commons bar, hit several fellow MPs, and headbutted the MP from Pudsey. “There are too many fucking Tories in here,” said Joyce.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn was held overnight in Lille to be questioned about possible connections between a prostitution ring and orgies he attended in Paris and Washington. “I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other woman,” a lawyer for Strauss-Kahn said on French radio in December. Bribery charges against former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi were thrown out of court in Rome, the sixth time a trial involving Berlusconi has ended because the statute of limitations had expired. Police in the Indian state of Kerala continued their murder investigation into two Italian marines accused of shooting two Indian fisherman from the deck of the oil tanker Enrica Lexie; more than 1,000 passengers on the Italian cruise ship Costa Allegra were adrift following a fire off the coast of Seychelles; and Italy began selling off a group of Sardinian lighthouses in response to its debt crisis.
The OPERA group at Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory acknowledged that readings it reported showing neutrinos to have surpassed the speed of light may have been caused by a faulty connector. “This connector was not perfectly plugged,” said Gran Sasso director Lucia Votano. “Okay?” A Naples, Florida, man was charged with aggravated assault after brandishing a weapon outside a bank and telling deputies he was the director of the CIA, Elvis Presley’s brother, and half orangutan, and that he needed to call the “fusion center” to ask about his monkey blood. Clouds were found to have been getting lower for the past decade, and Sifrhippus, a species of tiny horse that lived 56 million years ago, was found to have shrunk over thousands of years as the earth’s climate got hotter. Astronomers confirmed the existence of a “waterworld” exoplanet 40 light-years from Earth; NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovered solid buckyballs (buckminsterfullerene) in outer space, and Kellogg’s produced a box of chocolate, marshmallow, shortbread, and raisin Totes Amazeballs cereal for Charlatans U.K. singer Tim Burgess after he tweeted the name as a joke. Whitney Houston was found to have been the subject of 10 percent of all U.S. media coverage during the week after she died, and a Michigan man whose son died in Iraq, angry that Houston’s home state of New Jersey was flying its flags at half-staff in her honor, burned a New Jersey state flag on his backyard grill. “It was $12.95,” said the man of the flag, “and it was the best money I ever spent.”
More from J Gabriel Boylan:
For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.
One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.
Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:
Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.
An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”
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“He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.”