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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
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Average speed of Heinz ketchup, from the mouth of an upended bottle, in miles per year:
After studying the fall of 64,000 individual raindrops, scientists found that some small raindrops fall faster than they ought to.
The Playboy mansion in California was bought by the heir to the Twinkie fortune, and a New Mexico man set fire to his apartment to protest his neighbors’ loud lovemaking.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”