Weekly Review — March 19, 2012, 5:28 pm

Weekly Review

humbug_350x387 A gunman killed a teacher and three children on the playground of the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, France, and then fled on a black scooter. “We all know each other in this school, do you understand?” said one mother. “All the children here are a family.” A ballistics analysis showed that one of the weapons used at Ozar Hatorah was used in similar attacks targeting French soldiers of North African and Caribbean descent around Toulouse in the preceding week. “The entire Republic is mobilizing in the face of this tragedy,” said President Nicolas Sarkozy, who called on schools to observe a minute of silence.[1][2][3][4] A year and two days after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake killed 16,000 people in Japan and crippled the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear facility, a series of aftershocks struck the northeast of the country, prompting officials in the town of Otsuchi to issue a coastal evacuation order. In nearby Kamaishi, residents honored the efforts of Atsushi Chiba, a retired undertaker who cared for and performed Buddhist rites on almost 1,000 bodies following the 2011 quake. “I dreaded finding my mother’s body, lying alone on the cold ground among strangers,” said a local woman. “When I saw her peaceful, clean face, I knew someone had taken care of her until I arrived. That saved me.”[5][6]

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, the U.S. Army soldier accused of killing sixteen Afghan villagers last week, was put in solitary confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he met with his legal counsel, which will be led by the attorney who defended serial killer Ted Bundy.[7] Emails leaked to Britain’s Guardian newspaper by Syrian dissidents showed that the day after government forces began attacking the city of Homs, President Bashar al-Assad sent his wife the lyrics to Blake Shelton’s “God Gave Me You,” whose first verse reads, “I’ve been a walking heartache/ I’ve made a mess of me/ The person that I’ve been lately/ Ain’t who I wanna be.” Another email, sent to Assad, reportedly contained the image of a cartoon camel in thigh-high boots and bondage gear.[8][9] A pair of cigarette-smoking Slovak tweens inadvertently burned down a fourteenth-century Gothic castle, melting three bells, and an Iowa teenager faced arson charges after he set fire to several bags of beef jerky.[10][11] The U.S. Department of Agriculture decided that schools throughout the country would no longer be obliged to serve “pink slime,” a form of lean beef created with leftover cuts that are ground up, demulsified in a centrifuge, and sprayed with ammonium hydroxide.[12] State officials in Peru, New York, set out dried corn and Jell-O-laced doughnuts in an effort to capture feral swine, which were foraging intensively on upstate farms. “I’ve never worked with an animal this smart,” said one wildlife biologist. “They’re the most destructive mammal out there.”[13] After finishing second in the Alabama and Mississippi Republican primaries, Newt Gingrich continued to ignore outside calls to suspend his presidential campaign. “Our political system,” he said in Illinois, “is so methodically and deliberately stupid.” Rick Santorum, who won both states, spoke to Mississippians about climate change. “The dangers of carbon dioxide?” he asked. “Tell that to a plant, how dangerous carbon dioxide is.”[14][15][16]

Botanists at Cornell University waited for a corpse flower to bloom, primatologists were conducting an emergency study of the endangered Malagasy silky sifaka, herpetologists identified a new species of leopard frog near Yankee Stadium, neurobiologists found that sex-starved fruit flies take solace in alcohol, and ornithologists recommended creating “vulture restaurants” to lure griffon and African white-backed vultures, which cannot see directly ahead while flying, away from wind turbines. “These are big birds with big beaks,” said ornithologist Graham Martin. “I did lose a bit of my thumb.”[17][18][19][20][21] Actor James Van Der Beek announced the birth of a son on Twitter, and on the outskirts of Dawson Creek, British Columbia, a cat was found frozen into a block of ice at the Mile Zero Trailer Park.[22][23] Former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney canceled a trip to Canada over concerns the country was too dangerous, and a Colorado man was killed by a 20-foot avalanche of pinto beans.[24][25] Apiologists observed increased neural activity in the brains of Japanese honeybee workers taking part in hot defensive bee balls, and bee rustlers stole several beehives from a Houston-area restaurateur. “Someone that does bees,” said chef Randy Evans, “stole these bees.”[26][27] Scottish psychologists, after failing to find evidence that humans could see into the future, urged their colleagues “not to venture too far down the rabbit hole,” and Til, a rare earless rabbit born at a small zoo in eastern Germany, was crushed under a cameraman’s shoe shortly before a press conference that had been scheduled in the rabbit’s honor. “We are all shocked,” said the zoo’s director, Uwe Dempewolf. “No one could have foreseen this.”[28][29]

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“One of the peculiar things about economic inequality is that the people who are most articulate about it are not poor, while the poor themselves have said little, at least in print, about their situation.”
Photograph © Reuters/Brendan McDermid
“It would be nice to get through this review without recourse to the term ‘writer’s writer.’ The thing is, in the case of Joy Williams, I have seen the cliché made flesh.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
“Miniatures originated in Persia and were brought to the Indian subcontinent when the Mughals conquered it in the sixteenth century. They could take on almost any subject: landscapes or portraits; stories of love, war, or play.”
Painting by by Imran Qureshi.
“The business of being a country veterinarian is increasingly precarious. The heartland has been emptying of large-animal vets for at least two decades, as agribusiness changed the employment picture and people left the region.”
Photograph by Lance Rosenfield
“Rosie and her husband had burned through their small savings in the first few months after she lost her job. Now their family of five relied on his minimum-wage paychecks, plus Rosie’s unemployment and food stamps, which, combined, brought them to around $2,000 per month, just above the poverty line.”
Illustrations by Taylor Callery

Ratio of children’s emergency-room visits for injuries related to fireworks last year to those related to “desk supplies”:


The ecosystems around Chernobyl, Ukraine, are now healthier than they were before the nuclear disaster, though radiation levels are still too high for human habitation.

The Islamic State opened two new theme parks featuring a Ferris wheel, teacup rides, and bumper cars.

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Subways Are for Sleeping


“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

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