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World leaders gathered for debate at the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly. As protests continued across the Muslim world over an online video mocking the prophet Mohammed, Barack Obama spoke to the General Assembly about the importance of freedom of speech. “As president of our country,” he said, “I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day.” The United States delegation boycotted a speech by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while other Western nations instructed their emissaries to leave if he said anything offensive. “Previously we’ve walked out because of his anti-Semitism, threats against Israel, and 9/11 conspiracies,” said a European diplomat. “This year his only crime was incoherence.” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a felt marker and a cartoon drawing of a bomb to illustrate the “red line” Israel would prevent Iran from crossing in its efforts to develop a nuclear weapon. U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-Moon answered a prank call from a pair of comedians claiming to be Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper. “Perhaps this was not the best use of his time,” said Ban’s spokeswoman. Omar Khadr, the only remaining Westerner to be held captive at Guantánamo Bay, was repatriated to Canada. The number of American military deaths in Afghanistan reached 2,000. Syrian government authorities sent a text message reading “Game over” to opposition forces, who mounted a major assault on the army’s Damascus headquarters. Following a controversial call by replacement officials that gave the Seattle Seahawks a last-second victory over the Green Bay Packers and cost bettors as much as $250 million, the National Football League brokered a deal to end a lockout of its referees. “It’s time to get the real refs,” said Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan. “It reminds me of President Obama and the economy.” Mitt Romney vowed to fight Lyme disease in Virginia, American voters said they associated Romney with Monopoly and Obama with chess, and Madonna gave the president her endorsement. “We have a black Muslim in the White House,” she said. “That’s some amazing shit.”
European financial markets fell as Greek workers began a general strike and thousands of demonstrators protested new austerity measures in Spain, where a Catalan theater was avoiding a new value-added tax by selling carrots in lieu of tickets. Two thousand assembly-line workers rioted at a factory in Taiyuan, China, where components for Apple’s iPhone are manufactured. More than a thousand women were expelled from Saudi Arabia for attempting to perform the hajj without male guardians, and Ikea apologized for deleting images of women from the Saudi version of its furniture catalogue. Citing a lack of female administrators, a school district in Texas introduced new rules allowing officials to spank students of the opposite sex. Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger, the longtime publisher of the New York Times, died at age 86. Fox News broadcast a high-speed police chase that ended with the suspect getting out of his car and shooting himself in the head. “I’m just not sure about this,” said anchor Shepard Smith as the man exited the car. “This makes me a little nervous.” A soldier at Fort Hood, Texas, fatally shot a comrade whose hiccups he was trying to scare away, and a Connecticut grade-school teacher investigating a robbery at his neighbor’s home shot and killed a masked suspect who turned out to be his own son. A defense contractor from Virginia committed suicide after killing his wife and two teenage children, in part because he feared President Obama would win reelection. “He just did not want his kids inheriting this mess,” said a neighbor. California became the first state to outlaw therapy aimed at changing the sexual orientation of minors. A Hong Kong billionaire offered a $65 million “marriage bounty” to any man who could woo his lesbian daughter away from her new wife. “I am really a lucky girl,” said the daughter. “It’s really sweet of him to do something like this as an expression of his fatherly love.”
Britain’s National Pig Association forecast a global bacon shortage, and a Niagara police constable was arrested in connection with a major Canadian cheese-smuggling ring. “We get all our stuff legit,” said a local pizzeria owner. A Montana ice-cream company refused service to a local Muslim customer who inquired about the presence of pork gelatin in some of its flavors. “We don’t deliver outside of Montana,” said the company’s president, “certainly not to Pakistan.” A man disguised as a car seat was apprehended at the Morocco–Spain border. An Ohio man pleaded guilty to robbing the same bank he served two years in prison for robbing in 2010. “For someone to do what you did,” the judge told defendant Adam Billman, “shows a total lack of brain power.” Authorities in Idaho traced a finger discovered inside a trout to Haans Galassi, who lost four fingers in a wakeboarding accident two months ago. “There’s still three more,” said the detective who identified the finger. “It’s hard to say where those are going to end up.” Turkish divers rescued a blow-up sex doll they had mistaken for a woman drowning in the Black Sea, and a man was barred from running for mayor of the Bosnian city of Zenica after posting pornographic images on his campaign website. “Boys and girls in my country want to make love freely,” he said. “They dream of Hollywood, not Tehran.”
More from Jacob Z. Gross:
Weekly Review — July 29, 2014, 8:00 am
The quixotic quest for a Gaza ceasefire; West African doctors face mortal peril; and Russian gecko porn, restored
Weekly Review — June 17, 2014, 8:00 am
ISIS launches a major offensive in Iraq, the 2014 World Cup begins, and Florida keeps on being Florida
Weekly Review — April 29, 2014, 8:00 am
The U.S. Supreme Court and L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling remark on race and opportunity, the FCC prepares to end net neutrality, and white supremacists propagandize children’s Easter eggs
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.”