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The Games of the XXX Olympiad began in London. The opening ceremony, which was directed by filmmaker Danny Boyle, celebrated the United Kingdom’s pastoral history, the Industrial Revolution, and the National Health Service, as well as soccer star David Beckham, who piloted a motorboat bearing the Olympic torch up the Thames River. “Good evening, Mr. Bond,” said the Queen of England in a video that depicted her parachuting from a helicopter into Olympic Stadium. The first female athletes ever to represent Brunei, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia in an Olympics marched in the ceremony, and seven young British athletes lit the Olympic flame. Scotland Yard misplaced a set of keys to Wembley Stadium, and officials at a pitch in Glasgow mistakenly flew the South Korean flag before a North Korean women’s soccer match. Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella was sent home for tweeting “I want to beat up all South Koreans, you can all go burn. Bunch of mongoloids.” Greek triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou was sent home for tweeting “With so many Africans in Greece . . . the West Nile mosquitoes will at least eat homemade food!!!” Days before offending Palestinians by suggesting that Israelis’ greater wealth can be explained by cultural differences and “the hand of providence,” American presidential candidate Mitt Romney offended Britons by suggesting that London wasn’t prepared for the Games. “Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” said British prime minister David Cameron, in reference to Romney’s work as CEO of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. “Some Americans shouldn’t leave the country,” said nine-time track-and-field gold medalist Carl Lewis. Scientists explained the placebo effect created by beetroot-juice consumption during athletic training. “You’re going to pee purple,” said one researcher. “You’re going to poo purple.” Piglets proved unwilling to run mazes for Skittles.
The United Nations reported that 200,000 Syrians had fled Aleppo because of an ongoing government siege of the city. Arms-control advocates criticized the first draft of a U.N. arms treaty for its failure to address ammunition sales. “The United States government has been the one that resisted the inclusion of ammunition,” said Amnesty International’s head of arms control and human rights. “President Obama is sitting on the key to the door.” In remarks about the shooting spree that killed 12 people at a July 20 screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, Obama said he would work to control gun violence. “A lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals,” he said. “We do absolutely anything they ask,” a Democratic staffer said of the National Rifle Association, “and we NEVER cross them.” James Eagan Holmes was charged with 116 counts of attempted murder for the Aurora spree, as well as two counts of first-degree murder for each victim—one for intending to cause harm and one for acting with extreme indifference toward human life. In prison, Holmes was outfitted with a spit guard after he repeatedly spat at corrections officers. “Did you see the movie?” he asked one jail worker. “How does it end?” Ebola spread from the Ugandan countryside to Kampala. Ghanaian president John Atta Mills died at 68 and was succeeded by his vice president, John Mahama. A Baptist church in Mississippi refused to marry a couple because they were black. America’s oldest general store went out of business in Little Compton, Rhode Island. Native Americans celebrated the birth of a white bison in Connecticut. As local strip clubs prepared for the G.O.P. presidential convention in Tampa, the executive director of an adult-nightclub trade organization revealed the results of a survey of party members’ spending habits. “The average was $150 for Republicans,” she said, “and $50 for Democrats.” The U.S. Army was soliciting quotes for 4,000 bushels of shucked and air-dried oyster shells, and 2,000 farmers in Assam, India, were chosen to grow super-spicy bhut jolokia chilies in response to increased military demand for chili grenades. “Oh dear,” said one cultivator, “I think I may have got some on my fingers.”
An outage left more than 300 million people in northern India without power. Pakistani peacocks were dying of Newcastle disease, a gorilla hanged himself in Prague, and herd behavior in sheep was found to be motivated by self-interest. “They’re not going to put a sheep on the moon,” said one neurobiologist. Sally Ride, the first American woman to travel to outer space, died at age 61, and a pair of Canadeyes was en route to NASA. Scientists temporarily cured blindness in mice, Natterer’s bats were found to prey on flies that copulate too loudly, and a study of nearly 500,000 songs recorded between 1955 and 2010 showed that pop music has become louder and less original. Sting declared his support for the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, whose members went on trial for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after a performance in Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral in which they called on the Virgin Mary to depose Vladimir Putin. Genographers revealed that some Romanian Basarabs are unrelated to Dracula, glaciologists discovered a massive rift beneath the surface of the Ferrigno Ice Stream in Antarctica, climatologists learned that more than half of Greenland’s surface ice had melted during four days in July, and biologists were creating a coral sperm bank in anticipation of the collapse of the world’s reefs. “Sometimes,” said cryopreservationist Kenneth Storey, “the next step is getting punched repeatedly in the face.”
More from Jeremy Keehn:
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ISIL murders journalist Steven Sotloff; Satan in Moscow and Detroit; and Florida police play Cherries Waffles Tennis
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Alternating shelter bombings and ceasefires in Gaza; a do-nothing Congress whimpers feebly into recess; and India hires a troupe of black-faced-langur imitators
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.”