Weekly Review — April 30, 2012, 6:52 pm

Weekly Review

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Imprisoned Chinese lawyer and human rights activist Chen Guangcheng escaped house arrest in Shandong Province and fled to Beijing, where he was reportedly being harbored at the American Embassy on the eve of an official visit by secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Chen, who is known for exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in rural China, had remained in bed for weeks in order to convince guards of his frailty, then scaled the wall surrounding his home in Dongshigu. “He’s blind,” said dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, “so the night to him is nothing.” Several of Chen’s accomplices, including a woman who drove him the 300 miles to the capital, have since disappeared. “It’s hard to call this a victory if everyone involved in his escape ends up detained, arrested and imprisoned,” said a researcher from Human Rights Watch.[1][2][3] Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, was convicted by an international tribunal in The Hague of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity—including murder, sexual enslavement, and the conscription of child soldiers—in conjunction with his support for the rebel Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone. “He once told Sierra Leoneans that we are going to taste the bitterness of war, so Charles Taylor should taste the bitterness of the law,” said one survivor of an RUF campaign. “They could jail him for 100 years,” said another, “and it wouldn’t make a difference.”[4][5][6] Pakistan deported Osama bin Laden’s three widows and 11 of his children and grandchildren to Saudi Arabia, the United States agreed to transfer 9,000 Marines out of Okinawa, and Mitt Romney won five more Republican primaries, leaving him 297 delegates shy of the total he needs to win the party’s presidential nomination. “I can say with confidence and gratitude,” said Romney in New Hampshire, “that you have given me a great honor and solemn responsibility.”[7][8][9][10][11]

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Oslo’s Youngstorget Square to heckle Anders Behring Breivik by singing “Children of the Rainbow,” a Norwegian translation of Pete Seeger’s “Rainbow Race,” which Breivik had cited as an example of cultural Marxism in recent court testimony about the massacre he carried out last summer on Utøya Island.[12] The Supreme Command of the North Korean People’s Army threatened to “reduce all ratlike groups … to ashes in three or four minutes, or in much shorter time”; the Dalai Lama said he loved George W. Bush as a human being; and Vice President Joe Biden touted President Barack Obama’s robust foreign policy to a crowd of New York University students. “This guy’s got a backbone like a ramrod,” said Biden. “For real. For real.”[13][14][15] William Lawlis Pace, a former cemetery custodian who lived for 94 and a half years with a bullet in his head, died at the age of 103, and officials in Old Lyme, Connecticut, hunted a goose with an arrow through its cheek.[16][17] Officials in New York cracked down on stagnant birdbath water and the illegal trade in black-bear gallbladders. “We have some people come in to buy 20 galls or more, and obviously they’re a dealer,” said an upstate taxidermist. “We also have Ma and Pa come up, and they’ll buy two galls. That’s obviously for their own consumption.”[18][19] A fishery commissioner in Michigan mailed two pounds of frozen Lake Huron lamprey to the English city of Gloucester, where, pursuant to medieval tradition, the eel-like parasite will be stewed in vinegar, cinnamon, and its own blood, baked into an ornately decorated tall crust, and presented to Queen Elizabeth II in honor of her Diamond Jubilee. Conservationists pointed out that the lamprey, which is considered invasive in the Great Lakes region, is a protected species in Gloucester’s River Severn. “It would be like us making a pie,” said the Michigan commissioner, “out of piping plover.”[20][21]

Scientists determined that zebrafish are more sociable when given mescaline, that male spotted bowerbirds who groom their bush tomatoes have more sex, and that pig mucus can be used to enhance the antiviral properties of commercial genital lubricants.[22][23][24] The National Endowment for the Arts earmarked $40,000 for the development of a video game based on Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, an Idaho man was arrested for turning an assault rifle on his neighbor and demanding that he moonwalk, and officials in Kyrgyzstan snuffed the country’s Eternal Flame because of an unpaid gas bill.[25][26][27] Astrophysicists found that slow-moving giant snowballs punch glittering holes through Saturn’s outermost ring, and that the Sombrero Galaxy has both a disk and a bulge.[28][29] Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who is serving 14 years in federal prison, was nearing the end of a three-month stint washing dishes, after which he expected to teach other inmates about literature or Greek mythology. “He knows a great deal about Shakespeare,” said one of Blagojevich’s friends.[30] Donald Trump flew to Scotland to testify against the construction of an offshore wind farm. “I’m an expert in tourism. I have won many, many awards,” said Trump. “You’re a liar!” shouted a protester. “You destroy people’s lives in Aberdeenshire!”[31] Investigators in the Scottish village of Heck determined that an otter was likely responsible for a rash of koi thefts, and British designers lamented the rising popularity of high-end fashion that is marketed to kids but poorly suited to their bodies. “Children have big tummies,” said one clothier, “and stand in funny ways.” [32][33]

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I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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Age at death last March of the sturgeon Nikita, Khrushchev’s gift to Norway, after an accidental immersion in salt water:

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