Weekly Review — July 2, 2012, 6:27 pm

Weekly Review

eye_350x382 The United Nations hosted a summit in Geneva to broker a plan for peace and the establishment of a unified transitional government in Syria, where an uprising has killed more than 14,000 people in sixteen months. “The way things have been going thus far—we are not helping anyone,” said U.N. and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who drafted the negotiating text. “Let us break this trend and start being of some use.” Russia rejected wording that expressly prohibited Syrian president Bashar al-Assad from retaining power, and the final accord allowed for Assad’s regime to participate in the transitional government. “The country has been destroyed,” said Syrian opposition figure Haitham Maleh, “and they want us then to sit with the killer?”[1][2][3] In a 5–4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, allowing that the controversial “individual mandate” clause, which penalizes any individual who does not carry health insurance, is legal under the federal government’s taxing authority. “The Supreme Court just saved Obama’s ass,” wrote law professor Adam Winkler. “This is the end of America as we know it. No exaggeration,” tweeted Breitbart.com blogger Ben Shapiro. House Republicans vowed to repeal the law on July 9, even though the Democratic-controlled Senate will be able to uphold it. Polls found that 47 percent of Americans oppose the act, 33 percent support it, and 65 percent believe Obama would handle an alien invasion better than Mitt Romney.[4][5][6][7][8][9] The National Geographic Channel announced plans to beam a crowd-sourced message composed of tweets in the direction of the only significant radio signal ever received from space, and hackers took over the Twitter account of Russian anticorruption activist Alexei Navalny, then sent messages to his followers saying he would use their money to party in Mexico. “Life without Twitter is HELL,” Navalny tweeted after regaining control of his account. “You have to get your news from the INTERNET!”[10][11]

President Islam Karimov warned journalists on Mass Media Workers’ Day in Uzbekistan not to “get overexcited.”[12] Preliminary results in the Mexican presidential election indicated victory for Enrique Peña Nieto and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled virtually unchallenged for seven decades before being voted out in 2000. Mexicans believe the PRI can negotiate an end to the country’s drug war, said one analyst, because the party and the cartels have “always been close.”[13][14][15][16] In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi was sworn in as president by the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court, which dissolved parliament two weeks ago.[17] Queen Elizabeth II and former Irish Republican Army leader Martin McGuinness shook hands at Belfast’s Lyric Theater, then conversed for eight minutes. “Other than moving into Buckingham Palace and curling up like an old green corgi at the foot of the queen’s bed,” said Belfastian commentator Alex Kane, “I’m not sure how much more Sinn Féin could do to indicate that their war has been lost.”[18][19] The Queen approved an update to the Order of Precedence in the Royal Household explaining that Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, a commoner, need curtsy before the blood princesses Alexandra, Anne, Beatrice, and Eugenie only when unaccompanied by Prince William, but must curtsy before the common-blooded Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles, at all times.[20] The British House of Commons approved a plan to rename Big Ben the Elizabeth Tower, the world’s largest McDonald’s opened in London’s Olympic Park, and researchers discovered that mice who like to eat more are less interested in cocaine.[21][22][23] A man in Waco, Texas, ate his family’s dog while on the synthetic cannabinoid K2.[24]

Two chimps at the Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden in South Africa attacked an American researcher, dragging him nearly half a mile and biting him repeatedly. “They were highly motivated,” said managing director Eugene Cussons of chimps Amadeus, who had formerly lived at the Johannesburg Zoo, and Nikki, whose parents were killed for their meat and whose former owners in Liberia dressed him in clothes, shaved his body, and taught him to eat at a table using cutlery.[25][26] Biologists in Norway built a mini-gym for rock ptarmigans, chicken-like arctic birds who become fat for winter. “They’re natural-born athletes,” said the project’s lead scientist. “As soon as you put them on the treadmill, they start to run.”[27] Particle physicists announced that the “God particle” has nearly been discovered and almost certainly exists.[28] A primary-school teacher in China struck her husband’s lover and the woman’s four-year-old daughter with her car, then stripped naked and blocked the ambulance from taking them to the hospital.[29] A researcher at the Karolinska Institute near Stockholm cut off his wife’s lip so she could never kiss another man, then ate it to ensure that it would not be surgically reattached. “I got the idea spontaneously,” he told police. “I’m a man of science; I have a very high IQ. I have the ability to solve problems in a second.”[30]

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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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