Weekly Review — June 4, 2012, 5:40 pm

Weekly Review

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In Egypt, former president Hosni Mubarak and former interior minister Habib El-Adly were sentenced to life in prison for complicity in the murder and attempted murder of protesters in the 2011 uprising that removed Mubarak from power. “The people released a collective sigh of relief after a nightmare that did not, as is customary, last for a night,” said the judge at Mubarak’s sentencing, “but for almost thirty black, black, black years.” The judge acquitted six police commanders of complicity and Mubarak’s two sons of corruption charges, leading to mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.[1][2][3][4] Former Liberian president Charles Taylor was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to 50 years for aiding Sierra Leonean rebels who raped, maimed, and murdered tens of thousands of civilians. “The sentence is outrageous,” said Taylor’s brother-in-law. “How can you give a man 50 years for only aiding and abetting?”[5][6] Syrian president Bashar al-Assad defended his regime’s military crackdown on opponents during a speech to parliament. “When a surgeon in an operating room . . . cuts and cleans and amputates, and the wound bleeds, do we say to him ‘Your hands are stained with blood?’ ” he asked. “Or do we thank him for saving the patient?”[7] Snigdha Nandipati won the Scripps National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling “guetapens,” a French-derived word meaning “ambush,” “snare,” or “trap.”[8][9] The New York Times reported that President Barack Obama oversees a secret “kill list” of prospective assassination targets abroad, and that he has adopted a method of counting civilian casualties that excludes military-age males within a strike zone who have not been explicitly proven innocent. “Laws,” said a former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, “are not going to get bin Laden dead.”[10] At the unveiling of George W. Bush’s official White House portrait, Obama praised his predecessor’s “strength and resolve” and thanked him for his guidance and encouragement. “You also left me a really good TV sports package,” said Obama. “I use it.”[11][12]

More than a million people celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee at a pageant of a thousand barges, tugboats, dragon boats, Maori war canoes, and Venetian gondolas on the River Thames. Britons celebrated in Hertfordshire with a naked picnic, in West Yorkshire with a 1950s-themed “knees-up,” and in Oxfordshire with the traditional tossing of currant buns from the roof of the county hall in response to the chant “We want buns!” A poll identified Queen Elizabeth II as the most popular monarch in British history, ahead of Victoria and Elizabeth I. “It’s not a good year for us,” said a spokesman for a British antimonarchy group.[13][14][15][16][17][18] Dutch crown prince Willem-Alexander expressed shame for having taken part in a Queen’s Day toilet-throwing competition at which he’d won a cup topped by a miniature flushing toilet; Norway’s Ila Prison planned to hire people to play chess and hockey with Anders Behring Breivik, at whose trial a judge was caught playing computer solitaire; and the Stuxnet computer worm that infected Iran’s Natanz nuclear reactor was revealed to have been a joint American–Israeli project code-named “Olympic Games.”[19][20][21][22] John Edwards was acquitted of one charge of accepting illegal contributions to his 2008 presidential campaign, while a deadlocked jury led to the declaration of a mistrial on the five remaining charges.[23] Former first lady Nancy Reagan offered her endorsement to Mitt Romney over cookies and lemonade after he earned enough delegates to secure the G.O.P.’s presidential nomination with a primary win in Texas.[24][25] Idaho’s state liquor division banned the sale of Utah-distilled Five Wives Vodka, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg argued that his proposed ban on soda servings larger than sixteen ounces would increase life expectancy. “Just before you die,” he said, “remember you got three extra years.”[26][27]

Police in Miami shot a naked man whom they found gnawing at another man’s “half-eaten” face on a highway off-ramp; a college student in Maryland was charged with killing a boarder in his family’s home and eating the victim’s brains and heart; a male porn actor who allegedly dismembered an acquaintance and sent his body parts to Canadian politicians was apprehended in Berlin; and a New Jersey man stabbed himself and flung bits of his intestines at police officers called in to help him.[28][29][30][31] Sheep rained from the sky near Melbourne, Australia.[32] A scarf-wearing pig eluded capture by Pennsylvania state troopers.[33] A hen in Abilene, Texas, laid an egg inside another egg.[34] Residents of a Splendora, Texas, home claimed that an outline of Jesus in the mold on their bathroom wall was keeping one of them out of jail and ameliorating the HIV of another. “It kinda looks like me!” said neighbor Michael Bearden.[35] Serpent-handling Pentecostal preacher Mack Wolford was killed by a rattlesnake that bit him during a service at the Panther Wildlife Management Area in West Virginia, nearly 30 years after his serpent-handling father was killed by a rattlesnake bite. “I hated to see him go,” Wolford once said of his father, “but he died for what he believed in.”[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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