Weekly Review — July 9, 2012, 5:07 pm

Weekly Review

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Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, leaders of the military junta that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983, were found guilty of ordering the abductions of dozens of children born to leftist mothers imprisoned in the regime’s clandestine torture centers. Testifying in his own defense, Videla had called the mothers, many of whom were later dropped from airplanes into the Atlantic, “active militants in the machinery of terrorism.” Crowds outside the courthouse in Buenos Aires cheered the verdicts. “My life started all wrong,” said Alejandro Sandoval, one of the estimated 500 children stolen during the Dirty War. “But today there are reasons to celebrate.”[1][2][3] Islamist militants attacked a mosque in Timbuktu, destroying a door that had been prophesied to remain closed until the apocalypse, and a meeting in Cairo of groups opposed to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad devolved into weeping and fistfights after a Kurdish delegation stormed out. “They are so different, chaotic, and hate each other,” said an Arab League official of the opposition.[4][5][6] Human Rights Watch released Torture Archipelago, a report detailing abuses by the Syrian regime and including a description of one torture method known as the “flying carpet.” Assad reaffirmed his commitment to peace. “The United States is against me, the West is against me,” he said, “so how could I stay in this position? The answer is I still have public support.”[7][8][9] One in eight Americans disagreed with the premise set forth in the Declaration of Independence that a government derives its legitimacy from the people.[10]

Physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced the discovery of what is thought to be the Higgs boson, an elementary particle that endows other particles with mass. “It is very much a smoking duck that walks and quacks like the Higgs,” said one physicist. “It’s the Higgs,” said another. “Nobel prizes all round.” Vincent Connare, the designer of Comic Sans, announced his support for a petition to rename the typeface Comic Cerns, after one of CERN’s presenters used it in her slideshow.[11][12][13] A Swiss laboratory found traces of polonium-210 on clothing worn by Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat shortly before his death, prompting Arafat’s widow to demand that his body be exhumed and autopsied. An adviser to former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon insisted that Arafat could not have been poisoned by government operatives, because Sharon “didn’t think his physical liquidation would help.”[14][15] The first Miss Holocaust Survivor began her reign in Israel.[16][17] Several thousand men set out on a 68-mile march through the hills of eastern Bosnia to commemorate their escape from the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.[18] U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton announced that Afghanistan would be granted the status of special ally of the United States. Afghan president Hamid Karzai marked the occasion by quoting a Persian proverb: “When a friend is alive, they will meet again.”[19] A Fourth of July fireworks spectacle in Narrowsburg, New York, was canceled out of concern that the town would incur fines if it disturbed bald eagles nesting nearby. “It’s real ironic that we’re celebrating our independence, but you can’t be independent with our celebration,” said a volunteer fireman.[20] Barack Obama, campaigning in Ohio, paused for a Budweiser, and Mitt Romney, vacationing in New Hampshire, paused for a lemonade. “I’m feeling good, feeling steady,” said Obama. “Lemon,” said Romney. “Wet.”[21][22]

Happy hour came back to Kansas.[23] Physicists photographed the shadow cast by a lone ytterbium atom, biologists found that shrews shiver to warm themselves before undertaking cold-water dives, and ecologists observed male mourning cuttlefish courting and cross-dressing simultaneously.[24][25][26] A woman was suing Iceland’s interior ministry because its Name Committee ruled she could not name her daughter Blær, a masculine noun meaning “tint.”[27] Rufus, an American Harris hawk responsible for chasing pigeons from the Wimbledon tennis championships, was stolen from a parked car.[28] Groundskeepers at Wimbledon, where grass coverage on some courts’ baselines had dropped as low as 10 percent, were using high-powered Billy Goats to vacuum up debris, and officials in Washington’s Olympic National Forest were urging hikers not to urinate on trails because the resulting salt slicks attract aggressive mountain goats. “We’re second only to Alaska,” said a wildlife manager, “in terms of how many goats we have.”[29][30] Researchers found that 8 percent of American teens suffer from intermittent explosive disorder (IED), a psychological condition characterized by unpredictable paroxysms of rage, and that a bioluminescent bacterium dwelling symbiotically in the guts of microscopic worms possesses a DNA “madswitch” that causes it to produce insecticidal toxins.[31][32] The Pentagon’s inspector general recommended that Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, be disciplined for verbally abusing his subordinates. “If I could get my hands through the phone right now,” O’Reilly reportedly said during a staff teleconference, “I’d choke your fucking throat.”[33] Duncan Brannan, who voiced Chuck E. Cheese for 19 years, was replaced as part of a brand makeover by the lead singer of the pop-punk band Bowling for Soup. “I hope,” wrote Brannan in a letter to fans, “that you have seen Christ in me.”[34][35]

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The new docudrama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) isn’t really about Orenthal James Simpson. It’s about the trials that ran alongside his — those informal, unboundaried, court-of-public-opinion trials in which evidence was heard for and against the murder victims, the defense and the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the Los Angeles Police Department, to say nothing of white and black America. History has freed us from suspense about Simpson’s verdict, so that the man himself (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is less the tragic hero he seemed in the mid-Nineties than a curiously minor character. He comes to the center of our attention only once, in Episode 2, at the end of the lengthy Ford Bronco chase scene — which in real life was followed by a surreal cavalcade of police cars and media helicopters, as well as an estimated 95 million live viewers — when Simpson repeatedly, and with apparent sincerity, apologizes for taking up so much of so many people’s time. It is an uncannily ordinary moment of social decorum, a sort of could-you-please-pass-the-salt gesture on a sinking Titanic, in which Simpson briefly becomes more than just an archetype.

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With its lens shifting from the courtroom to the newsroom to people’s back yards, the series evokes the way in which, for a brief, delusory moment, the O. J. verdict seemed to deliver justice for all black men.
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