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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