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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.”
Discussed in this essay:
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Henry Holt. 352 pages. $28.
The extinction symbol is a spare graphic that began to appear on London walls and sidewalks a couple of years ago. It has since become popular enough as an emblem of protest that people display it at environmental rallies. Others tattoo it on their arms. The symbol consists of two triangles inscribed within a circle, like so:
“The triangles represent an hourglass; the circle represents Earth; the symbol as a whole represents, according to a popular Twitter feed devoted to its dissemination (@extinctsymbol, 19.2K followers), “the rapidly accelerating collapse of global biodiversity” — what scientists refer to alternately as the Holocene extinction, the Anthropocene extinction, and (with somewhat more circumspection) the sixth mass extinction.
Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:
Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.
Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.
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Science’s crisis of faith