Weekly Review — April 2, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The Supreme Court considers skim-milk marriage, a Guantánamo Bay hunger strike expands, and Egyptian scuba divers sabotage SEA-ME-WE-4

"What Though I Am Obligated to Dance a Bear"

“What Though I Am Obligated to Dance a Bear”

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of California’s ban on same-sex marriage, and of a provision of the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act that withholds from gay married couples federal benefits guaranteed to heterosexual married couples. “There’s two kinds of marriage,” said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the situation created by DOMA. “There’s full marriage and then there’s sort of skim-milk marriage.” Same-sex marriage supporters rallied outside the courthouse with signs bearing such slogans as “Hey Supremes, you can hurry love” and “Marry me Rachel Maddow.” “You are entitled,” said New York cardinal Timothy Dolan, “to friendship.”[1][2][3][4] The governor of North Dakota signed into law three bills comprising the most stringent abortion restrictions in the United States, and a Colorado man claiming to be the illegitimate son of Dwight Eisenhower was detained for threatening the life of Barack Obama.[5][6] The U.S. military confirmed that 37 of the 166 prisoners incarcerated at Guantánamo Bay were participating in a hunger strike whose numbers have been growing for several weeks, and that it was force-feeding 11 of them, while a defense attorney claimed that in fact 130 prisoners were refusing food. “The hunger strikers have created an unfortunate situation with no clear path to resolution,” said Captain Robert Durand. “Progress has been made under this and the previous administration,” said White House deputy press secretary Joshua Earnest.[7][8][9][10][11] A Brazilian investigator said that a doctor charged with murdering seven patients in order to free up hospital beds may have been responsible for as many as 300 deaths. “Our mission,” said Dr. Virginia Soares de Souza in a recorded phone conversation, “is to be go-betweens on the springboard to the next life.”[12] A Muscovite was arrested for exposing his friend to radon in an attempt to help him achieve immortality, and Saudi Arabia beheaded a Yemeni man accused of murder, robbery, and sodomy, then crucified his body.[13][14]

In his Easter homily, Pope Francis called for peace in Israel, the Korean Peninsula, and Syria, where more than 6,000 people were reported to have been killed in March, and criticized human trafficking and the reckless exploitation of natural resources.[15][16] An Exxon oil pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, Arkansas, and three oil tanker cars ruptured during a train derailment near Parkers Prairie, Minnesota.[17][18] American beekeepers were blaming the prevalence of bee colony collapse disorder on the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides. “If you have whiskey every night, 365 days a year, your liver’s gone,” said a co-owner of the largest U.S. beekeeping concern.[19] A Wisconsin woman named Elizabeth Hoen was observed stealing three steaks while clothed soon after being observed on a street corner while pantsless, and Geico released a motorcycle-insurance ad set to a song by the Allman Brothers Band, two of whose members died in motorcycle crashes.[20][21] New studies cast doubt on the constancy of the speed of light in a vacuum and confirmed that the Xenoturbella bocki “paradox” worm is the progenitor of humankind. “Maybe we’re more closely related to the Xenoturbella bocki worm, which doesn’t have a brain,” said a Swedish biologist, “than we are to lobsters and flies.”[22][23] A Chinese fishmonger found a bomb inside a squid, and American scientists reported the discovery of a two-headed shark in the uterus of another shark.[24][25] British researchers developed a vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease. “What we have achieved here,” said biologist Dave Stuart, “is close to the holy grail of foot-and-mouth vaccines.”[26]

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North Korea said it had entered a “state of war” with South Korea, compared the security of the U.S. mainland to that of a boiled pumpkin, and released a photo showing a map with missile traces leading to Austin, Texas.[27][28] Hackers carried out against the Dutch antispam firm Spamhaus one of the most powerful distributed denial-of-service attacks in the history of the Internet.[29][30] The Egyptian military caught three scuba divers accused of disrupting Internet service in Africa and Asia by sabotaging the SEA-ME-WE-4 fiber-optic cable off the coast of Alexandria.[31] Lahoris were fighting over a proposal to rename after a Sikh revolutionary, who was hanged on the site by the British, a traffic circle that currently honors the Muslim student who coined the name “Pakistan.” “If a few people decide one day that the name has to be changed,” said merchant Zamid Butt, “why should the voice of the majority be ignored?”[32] Following a complaint from Google, Sweden removed the word “ogooglebar” (“ungoogleable”) from its official list of new words.[33] Germany confiscated the monkey of singer Justin Bieber.[34] In Rome, a penis added at the behest of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to an ancient statue of Mars was reported to have been removed, and in Missouri a probationer was charged with using a forging instrument after he wore a prosthetic penis to excrete drug-free urine for a compulsory test.[35][36] Conservatives were criticizing the U.S. National Science Foundation for granting $384,949 to fund a study of duck-penis plasticity. “Sometimes you have to look at the big picture,” said NSF spokeswoman Debbie Wing.[37][38][39]


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Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.

Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.

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