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The release of a 14-minute YouTube trailer for the film Innocence of Muslims, which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a homosexual womanizer, triggered mass demonstrations and riots across more than a dozen countries. Egyptian protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo and lowered the American flag, replacing it with an Islamist banner, and in Libya Islamist militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades stormed a U.S. consulate compound, killing four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. “The people in Benghazi, I think,” said Fathi Baja, a Libyan politician, “are very sad right now.” Hundreds of protesters in Jakarta threw stones and Molotov cocktails at police, who retaliated with tear gas; 4,000 protesters in Kabul burned cars and chanted “Death to America!”; and thousands of protesters in Kashmir called for the film’s creator, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, to be put to death. Nakoula, who has served time in prison for counterfeiting checks and has used pseudonyms including Kritbag Difrat, P. J. Tobacco, and Sam Bacile, went into hiding. “Sam said that he was a cancer victim and was gonna die,” said Jimmy Israel, a member of Nakoula’s film crew. “It gave us a lot of sympathy for him.” One Innocence of Muslims actor claimed she thought she was shooting scenes for Desert Warrior, about a tribal battle that breaks out after a comet hits Earth. A murderer serving a life sentence in Oregon sued for the right to die by lethal injection after Governor John Kitzhaber issued a moratorium on executions until the future of capital punishment was decided. “This is my constitutional right,” said the prisoner. “You know, we need to put this to sleep. That’s probably the wrong expression.”
The Chicago Teachers Union went on strike for the first time in 25 years, locking the city’s 350,000 public-school students out of their classrooms in a dispute over new employment contracts that would change the way teachers are hired and evaluated. In commemoration of 9/11, a fourth-grade teacher in El Paso, Texas, asked students to draw depictions of planes hitting the north and south towers of the World Trade Center. “We had to draw the boom cloud, the planes hitting, and people jumping out of the windows,” explained one student. “He was under the impression that this happens every 9/11,” added his mother. Somewhere between Pecos and Odessa, Texas, Halliburton employees lost a seven-inch rod of radioactive americium-241/beryllium. A health-department official noted that though the rod is “not something that produces radiation in an extremely dangerous form,” any resident who stumbles upon it should “stay back, 20 or 25 feet.” Air-quality control officials identified the Salton Sea as the source of a recent “large and unusual odor event” that blanketed southern California with the smell of rotten eggs. South Korean authorities announced that they would allow a drunk North Korean who floated to South Korea in his underpants to stay in the country, and the district attorney of Queens concluded Operation Last Call, arresting eighteen workers at Kennedy International Airport who are alleged to have stolen 100,000 miniature liquor bottles.
Groundskeepers at Chicago’s O’Hare airport were looking for a herd of sheep or goats to help mow the lawn, and New Delhian customs officials, who recently confiscated 11 bird eggs, ten turtles, six Persian cats, and three venomous tarantulas from passengers, detained a man attempting to smuggle a loris in his pants. Northern Irish rugby player Nevin Spence drowned in a slurry pit alongside his brother and father while attempting to rescue the family dog, and a woman in Nigeria gave birth to a horse in church. “We have seen people vomit several things during our service,” said the woman’s pastor, “but not this type of thing.” An East London market was caught selling illegal exotic meats, including cane rat, a rodent native to the Sahara that can weigh up to 15 pounds, and “smokey,” which is made by blowtorching a goat. A poll of Ohio Republicans found that 15 percent believe Mitt Romney deserves more credit for killing Osama Bin Laden than does Barack Obama, and former Republican senator Rick Santorum told a gathering of conservatives in Washington, “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.” Mitt Romney admitted to being a fan of Jersey Shore cast member Snooki. “Look how tiny she’s gotten,” he said. “She’s lost weight. She’s energetic. Just her spark-plug personality is kind of fun.”
Chances that a deep breath inhaled today will contain a molecule from Julius Caesar’s dying breath:
Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences, by John Allen Paulos, Hill and Wang (N.Y.C.)
The earth once had three moons; the two lost moons may have crashed into the surviving moon, or been sucked into the sun, or flung out of the solar system to drift through deep space.
In Florida, an 87-year-old World War II veteran flying touch-and-go drills in a Cessna collided with an airborne skydiver. “There was a ‘woof’ sound,” said a witness, “like falling on your face into your pillow.”
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”