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Incumbent Democratic president Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney discussed domestic policy at the first presidential debate, in Denver. To prepare, Obama, who said he was “just okay” at debating and that his opponent was a “good debater,” held a three-day debate camp at a Middle Eastern–themed hotel in Las Vegas. Romney ended his preparation by watching his sons play Jenga. Obama began the debate by wishing his wife a happy anniversary. “There was some speculation as to whether this had an impact on my performance,” he said later, responding to criticism that he had appeared sluggish and unfocused. “But I did make it up to her on Saturday.” “When you go to 5,000 feet, and you only have a few hours to adjust,” said former vice president Al Gore, “I don’t know . . . maybe.” Romney was criticized for cutting off the debate moderator, PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer, and for suggesting he would cut federal funding to PBS if elected. “I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too,” he said to Lehrer. “You can kill things and still like them,” said former G.O.P. senator Rick Santorum. “You know who loves debates?” asked Big Bird. “De fishes.” Turkey shelled Syria after it fired a mortar into a Turkish border town and killed five Turks; Syrian rebels and security forces fought near the country’s border with Lebanon; and car bombs exploded near a Syrian officers’ club in downtown Aleppo. Hugo Chávez was elected to a fourth term as president of Venezuela. “If Obama were from . . . some neighborhood here in Caracas, he’d vote for Chávez,” said Chávez. Officials in Pennsylvania and Mississippi temporarily blocked state laws requiring voters to present photo identification at election stations. Republican supporters questioned the legitimacy and timing of a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announcement that the unemployment rate had fallen below 8 percent for the first time since 2009. “These Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers,” tweeted former General Electric CEO Jack Welch. “I should have put a question mark on that,” he later clarified.
Israel shot down an unmanned aircraft that it believed to be operated by Hezbollah. An antidrone rally led by Pakistani politician and ex-cricketer Imran Khan was blocked from entering the province of South Waziristan, and retired instead to Tank. Opposition politicians in Iran blamed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for hyperinflation related to the ongoing decline of the Iranian rial. “If my presence is a burden on you,” warned Ahmadinejad, “[I can] write one line to say goodbye.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were working to contain a meningitis outbreak, caused by contaminated spinal steroid injections given to as many as 13,000 people in 23 U.S. states, that has so far afflicted at least 105 people and killed eight. An 11-year-old Russian boy uncovered the nearly intact remains of a 30,000-year-old woolly mammoth on the cape of Sopochnaya Karga. A pro-Kremlin youth group made a video for Vladimir Putin’s sixtieth birthday, set to “Blueberry Hill,” that showed attractive young women riding on horseback, scoring in a hockey game against the United States, and retrieving an urn from the sea; anti-Putin protesters brought reading glasses and tobacco pipes to a “Let’s Send Grandpa to Retirement!” rally near Moscow’s Red Square. British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm died at 95, and Bobby Hogg, the last native speaker of the Scottish dialect of Cromarty, died at 92. “Wi silver in ma pocket an oatmeal in ma scoo,” Hogg was once recorded singing. “Ah’ll tramp gladly homeward like cadgers always do.” A Coquille, Oregon, farmer whose hat, cigarettes, dentures, and body parts were found in his pigpen was presumed eaten by his hogs. “For all we know it was a horrific accident,” said Coos County district attorney Paul Frasier, “but it’s so doggone weird.”
A recording was posted of congressman Paul Broun (R., Ga.), who sits on the House’s Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, claiming two weeks ago that “evolution, embryology, and [the] Big Bang theory” were “lies from the pit of hell.” Pope Benedict’s former butler was convicted of leaking papal documents to a journalist and sentenced to 18 months’ house arrest. Moroccan warships prevented a Dutch abortion-education boat from entering Smir harbor. A veteran sued the U.S. government for improperly icing his penis, thereby necessitating a partial penectomy, and Connecticut’s Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction after determining that the mentally handicapped victim could have repelled the assault at her Success Village condo by biting her attacker. Al Neuharth, the founder of USA Today, presented an Olive Garden reviewer in Grand Forks, North Dakota, with the 2012 Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media. A SpaceX Falcon launched a Dragon into space, M&M’s runoff was found to have changed the color of Alsatian honey, and Carmageddon II was declared a success in Los Angeles. Scientists were planning to save the world’s coral reefs by poisoning starfish. A woman who had been spotted illegally riding a manatee near St. Petersburg, Florida, turned herself in. A New York City woman granted the right to die chose instead to live. Canadian police recovered 600 barrels of maple syrup, and Chicago police harvested and destroyed 1,500 tree-sized cannabis plants found near Stoney Island Avenue. “Now every plant,” said the officer who spotted the marijuana from a helicopter, “looks like dope to us.”
More from Ryann Liebenthal:
Weekly Review — May 19, 2015, 8:00 am
An Amtrak train derails, a Bangladeshi blogger is hacked to death, and an African-American boy who was maced at an anti–police-brutality protest is grateful he wasn’t shot
Estimated percentage of New Hampshire’s bat population that died in 2010:
A horticulturalist in Florida announced a new low-carb potato.
In Peru, a 51-year-old activist became the first former sex worker to run for the national legislature. “I’m going to put order,” she said, “in that big brothel which is Congress.”
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“Civilization masks us with a screen, from ourselves and from one another, with thin depth of unreality. We habitually live — do we not? — in a world self-created, half established, of false values arbitrarily upheld, largely inspired by misconception, misapprehension, wrong perspective, and defective proportion, misapplication.”