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Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Walid bin Attash, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh were arraigned before a military tribunal at Camp Justice in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for orchestrating the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Six of the victims’ families, who had won the right to attend the hearing in a lottery, watched from behind soundproof glass as the accused protested the conditions of their confinement by refusing to enter pleas and answer questions posed to them by the judge. The defendants also insisted that the entire charge sheet be read out, though prosecutors stopped short of reciting the names of all 2,976 people killed on 9/11. Mohammed, the professed mastermind of the attacks, disrupted the proceedings with a prayer session; another defendant stripped to show scars he said had been inflicted by Guantánamo guards; and two others quietly read The Economist magazine. “Why is this so hard?” asked the judge. An explosion killed six people outside a Kabul housing complex on the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, hours after President Barack Obama visited the city to sign a troop-drawdown pact with the Afghan government. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, rebuked Obama for politicizing the bin Laden assassination. “Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order,” Romney said at a campaign event. Newly released documents obtained during the raid on bin Laden’s compound included critiques of Fox News as “lacking neutrality” and MSNBC as “good and neutral” until it fired Keith Olbermann and “Octavia Nasser the Lebanese,” a plan to rebrand Al Qaeda with a new name, and details of a plot to assassinate Obama. “Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make Biden take over the presidency,” wrote bin Laden. “Biden is totally unprepared for that post.” An American citizen was found guilty of plotting a suicide attack on the New York City subway system. One World Trade Center became the city’s tallest building.
Socialist Party candidate François Hollande defeated Nicolas Sarkozy to become the next president of France. “Austerity can no longer be the only option,” declared Hollande in his victory speech. Analysts speculated that Greece may exit the Eurozone after both the country’s main political parties failed to win a majority in parliamentary elections. A 1990 Volkswagen Golf that once belonged to German chancellor Angela Merkel sold for €10,165 in an online auction, and a California man sued BMW, claiming his motorcycle had given him a 20-month erection. The owner of a 2004 Harley-Davidson motorbike that washed up on Canadian shores after floating across the Pacific with other debris from last year’s tsunami in Japan was identified as Ikuo Yokoyama, a 29-year-old man who lost three family members in the disaster. The Japanese government shut down the country’s last active nuclear reactor. After reaching an agreement with the Chinese government, dissident Chen Guangcheng left the U.S. embassy in Beijing, where he had taken refuge following his escape from house arrest. Chen subsequently requested asylum from an American congressional hearing via speakerphone. “My fervent hope,” he said, “is to leave for the U.S. on Hillary Clinton’s plane.” China blocked mention of The Shawshank Redemption on the popular microblogging service Sina Weibo over concerns that the film’s plot parallels Chen’s story. In Texas, more than 100 suspected illegal immigrants were found locked inside a house without access to food or water, and in California a college student detained during a DEA raid drank his own urine after he was abandoned in a holding cell for five days. Charges were brought against 13 people in the hazing death of a Florida A&M drum major. Wildlife experts speculated that a dolphin trapped in the Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Orange County, California, may have been the victim of bullying. “People think they are happy loving animals,” said a marine-animal rescue specialist, “but they have a dark side.”
A New Jersey couple discovered 30,000 honeybees in their attic; an Oklahoma City utility blamed a snake for a power outage; and the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., live-tweeted the artificial insemination of a giant panda. Two leopards, two primates, and a bear were returned to the widow of a man who released dozens of exotic animals in Zanesville, Ohio, before committing suicide last fall. In Lake in the Hills, Illinois, a 19-year-old girl bit her family’s bulldog during a fight with her mother. Scientists suggested that teenagers’ brains may predispose them to impulsive behavior, and researchers calculated that every hour on average an American baby is born addicted to painkillers. A man who once ran for governor in Alabama moved to New Zealand to be with the children he secretly conceived as a sperm donor for lesbian couples there. “He is obsessed with this,” said his wife. “He doesn’t want to stop.” Richard Grenell, a gay foreign-policy spokesman for Mitt Romney, resigned after conservative groups suggested his sexual orientation made him a national-security risk. Straight couples were banned from kissing at a Copenhagen gay bar. In Poland, a dentist faced jail time for removing the teeth of her ex-boyfriend after he left her for another woman. “The new girlfriend has now left me,” he said. “She can’t be with a man without teeth.”*
*Update (May 10): The story about the Polish dentist was revealed to have been a hoax. The source web pages have been removed.
More from Jacob Z. Gross:
Weekly Review — July 29, 2014, 8:00 am
The quixotic quest for a Gaza ceasefire; West African doctors face mortal peril; and Russian gecko porn, restored
Weekly Review — June 17, 2014, 8:00 am
ISIS launches a major offensive in Iraq, the 2014 World Cup begins, and Florida keeps on being Florida
Weekly Review — April 29, 2014, 8:00 am
The U.S. Supreme Court and L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling remark on race and opportunity, the FCC prepares to end net neutrality, and white supremacists propagandize children’s Easter eggs
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“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.”