Weekly Review — April 16, 2012, 9:29 pm

Weekly Review

saluting_the_town_350x278 North Korea commemorated the hundredth anniversary of Great Leader Kim Il Sung’s birth by unveiling a new portrait of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, formally naming new leader Kim Jong Un as head of the National Defense Commission, and launching a long-range rocket bearing a satellite called Bright Shining Star. The rocket, which was estimated to have cost the equivalent of six years’ worth of food for North Korea’s 24 million citizens, flew for one minute before disintegrating over the Yellow Sea. “This stuff is really hard to do,” said a theoretical physicist not involved with the launch. Hours after the rocket’s failure, Kim Jong Un laughed with commanders at his first public speech, where he unveiled another, possibly fake, missile and called the strengthening of the military his “first, second, and third” priorities. A tour guide inadvertently drove a busload of foreign reporters, invited for the centenary celebrations, into a Pyongyang slum. “I hope that the journalists present here report only the absolute truth,” said one chaperone.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8] It was reported that more than 150,000 North Koreans were being held in secret government labor camps; that Ukraine had refused to permit the release of a movie depicting Ukrainians as Nazi collaborators; and that a Gori, Georgia, museum honoring Joseph Stalin was being remodeled to focus on his atrocities. “Stalin was a great man,” said one Gori resident. “As to the purges, they did take place, but there were significantly fewer victims than the number we hear today.”[9][10][11] Cuban “Harlistas” participated in hot-dog-catching and no-feet motorcycle-riding competitions at the country’s first nationwide Harley-Davidson rally, and Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins suspended manager Ozzie Guillen after he was quoted saying “I love Fidel Castro” in an interview. “I was thinking in Spanish and said it wrong in English,” said Guillen. “It was misinterpreted. I said I cannot believe someone who has hurt so many people is still alive.”[12][13]

George Zimmerman, whose lawyers quit after he stopped responding to their calls and text messages, emerged from hiding in Florida to plead not guilty to the murder of Trayvon Martin.[14][15][16] The executive director of the NRA expressed his support for Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, arguing that it could “literally save your life,” while Ben Crump, the Martin family’s lawyer, said he would call for its repeal. “We’re not the wild, wild West,” he said.[17] Rick Santorum suspended his presidential candidacy, while Newt Gingrich vowed to stay in the race.[18] Former Republican candidate Herman Cain released an anti-tax video in which a farmer is eaten alive by chickens.[19] Politicians in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu offered a reward of $2,000 for the capture of vampires accused by townspeople of sucking blood from cattle, and police in Brazil arrested a three-person sect for luring women with offers of lucrative babysitting jobs, then turning them into human empanadas and selling them to neighbors.[20][21] Crematoria in Germany were found to be melting under the strain of increasingly obese corpses; ten protesters deposited on the doorstep of the German embassy in Athens a pile of fake human feces covered in gold paper and topped with a photo of a busty Angela Merkel–headed eagle; and in Los Angeles, a man stood up and shouted “Heil Hitler!” in the middle of a city-council meeting. “This city’s going to hell in a handbasket,” he said. “So I guess I’ll just salute you.”[22][23][24]

Eleven U.S. Secret Service agents had their security clearances revoked following allegations they’d entertained prostitutes at a hotel in Cartagena. A ten-year-old Colombian gave birth to a baby girl.[25][26][27] El Salvador celebrated its first murder-free day in nearly three years.[28] Charles Manson, who recently bragged to a prison psychologist that he was “a very dangerous man,” was denied parole for the twelfth time, at a hearing he refused to attend.[29] One of a group of marauding black bears charged Vermont governor Peter Shumlin after he ran naked from his house to save his birdfeeders from them. “You almost lost the governor,” he said. “I was within three feet of getting ‘Arrrh.’”[30][31] Newark mayor Cory Booker suffered smoke inhalation and burns after he rushed into a neighbor’s burning apartment building and “whipped her out of bed.”[32] A San Francisco man fashioned a replica of the Titanic from a single toothpick, French police seized 13 tons of tiny contraband Eiffel Towers from a Paris souvenir shop, and 2 World Financial Center in New York was evacuated after UPS delivered a novelty grenade ordered by a Japanese investment-bank employee.[33][34][35] A British army bomb squad exploded a World War II–era hand grenade that a Somerset woman had mistaken for an egg after she found her son standing on it during an Easter egg hunt. “Everyone keeps saying how stupid I was to try to pick it up,” she said. “But it was such a natural reaction.”[36]?

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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.

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