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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 — February 4, 2014, 8:00 am
The president wants to raise the minimum wage, Pete Seeger and Philip Seymour Hoffman pass away, and a criminal is sentenced to Gladwell
Weekly Review — December 24, 2013, 8:00 am
More NSA surveillance targets are revealed, violence in South Sudan, and claims of U.S. virgin births
Weekly Review — November 5, 2013, 8:00 am
Syria finishes destroying its chemical-weapons facilities, the United States kills the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, and Axe body spray fells eight New York City students
Estimated acres of forest Henry David Thoreau burned down in 1844 trying to cook fish he had caught for dinner:
The bombardier beetle, which can fire liquid at its enemies from its rear end at up to 300 squirts per second, was being scrutinized in the hope of building a better airplane engine.
London Fire Brigade investigators blamed a building fire in South London on a bird that carried a lit cigarette to its rooftop nest. “Smokers,” said neighborhood baker Richard Scroggs. “What can you say?”
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”