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Following two days of deliberation by a conclave of 115 cardinals, white smoke emerged from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, signaling the election of the 266th leader of the Catholic church, Argentine priest Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who will be the first Pope Francis. The Vatican fed the cardinals simple meals of soup, spaghetti, and boiled vegetables to discourage them from prolonging their decision. “After the third day,” one had said, “they’ll give us dry bread and water.” More than a thousand Catholics gathered to celebrate in Buenos Aires, where Bergoglio was being called a “slum pope.” “When I saw the news . . . I began screaming with joy,” said a cocaine addict. “And look, I’m still trembling.” Children cried out the new pope’s name when he appeared in the streets of the Vatican. “Are you a good boy?” Francis asked a child, patting him on the head. “Are you sure?” he added as the boy nodded. A squirrel monkey named Madonna gave birth at a Virginia zoo, and a cloud angel was spotted over Florida. Venezuelan officials canceled plans to embalm Hugo Chávez for permanent public display, and Iranian clerics chastised Mahmoud Ahmedinejad for touching Chávez’s mother at the funeral. The head of a Danish news program apologized for using an illustration from the video game Assassin’s Creed as a backdrop to a story about Syria, where small groups of protesters gathered on the second anniversary of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. “They were nice days,” said a teenager from suburban Damascus of the rebellion’s early protests. “Now there are no protests and no school,” she added. “Just shelling.”
In Basra, nine people were killed and 24 wounded in separate car bombings at an outdoor market and a tax-department parking lot; and in Baghdad, 24 were killed and more than 50 wounded in a coordinated attack on the justice ministry involving three car bombs, at least two suicide attackers, and gunmen dressed as police officers. In Afghanistan, suicide bombers attacked the defense ministry and spectators at a game of buzkashi, a sport played on horseback using a headless goat carcass; a police officer killed two U.S. soldiers and two of his fellow officers in Wardak Province; and Afghan president Hamid Karzai implied that U.S. forces were colluding with the Taliban. “We’re at a rough point in the relationship,” wrote International Security Assistance Force commander Joseph Dunford Jr. “I am perfectly capable,” said Senate Armed Services Committee member Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), “of pulling the plug on Afghanistan.” In Egypt, where the attorney general’s office was encouraging the practice of citizen’s arrests, soccer fans set fire to a police social club, a fast-food franchise, and the headquarters of the national soccer federation in protest of death sentences that were upheld for 21 rioters involved in a 2012 stadium riot that killed more than 70 people. A suspect in a gang rape that resulted in the death of a New Delhi woman hanged himself in prison; six men were arrested for the gang rape of a Swiss woman in the tent she was camping in with her husband on a cycling tour through the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh; and two Ohio high school football players were convicted of raping a drunk, unconscious classmate, then distributing naked pictures of her. “No pictures should have been sent around, let alone ever taken,” said one of the boys in his apology to the girl and her family. “My life is over,” said the other.
Archaeologists in England uncovered a mass grave thought to contain the corpses of fourteenth-century Plague victims, and in China, where Xi Jinping was named president, a total of 8,965 pig carcasses had been dredged from the Huangpu River. “This river’s color is about the same as excrement,” said microblogger Yuzhou Duelist. “Even if there weren’t dead pigs you couldn’t drink it.” The Association of International Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators named as its product of the year a microwaveable bacon package made for Spanish company Embotits Espina. In Tshwane, South Africa, eight-year-old Sanele Masilela was ritually wedded to 61-year-old Helen Shabangum, and in Amsterdam 70-year-old twins Louise and Martine Fokkens retired from prostitution. “It is very different now,” said Louise. “No sense of community these days.” A Maryland man died of rabies contracted from a transplanted kidney. Residents of Bridgewater, New Jersey, were stringing up dead vultures to scare away live vultures. Faced with a shortage of swordsmen, Saudi Arabia was considering replacing beheadings with executions by firing squads. Russia postponed its first posthumous trial, and Ieng Sary, a co-founder of the Khmer Rouge, died before the conclusion of his trial for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. At the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Mitt Romney apologized for not being president; Sarah Palin joked about pairing her “rack” with her husband’s rifle; and an African-American host of a panel called “Trump the Race Card: Are You Sick and Tired of Being Called a Racist and You Know You’re Not One?” lauded Frederick Douglass for having forgiven his slavemasters. “For giving him shelter?” shouted an audience member who claimed to be a direct descendant of Jefferson Davis. “And food for all those years?”
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More from Ryann Liebenthal:
Conversation — March 5, 2014, 2:37 pm
Barbara Ehrenreich on writing, social activism, and the possible existence of a mystical Other
Weekly Review — February 11, 2014, 8:00 am
The Winter Olympic Games open in Sochi, Al Qaeda splits with ISIS, and a cat named Quiver survives an arrow shot
Chances that a deep breath inhaled today will contain a molecule from Julius Caesar’s dying breath:
Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences, by John Allen Paulos, Hill and Wang (N.Y.C.)
The earth once had three moons; the two lost moons may have crashed into the surviving moon, or been sucked into the sun, or flung out of the solar system to drift through deep space.
In Florida, an 87-year-old World War II veteran flying touch-and-go drills in a Cessna collided with an airborne skydiver. “There was a ‘woof’ sound,” said a witness, “like falling on your face into your pillow.”
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”