Oil spills, the Iron Lady, and Barbie’s Berlin Dreamhouse
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Oil spills, the Iron Lady, and Barbie’s Berlin Dreamhouse
Canadian Pacific announced that the derailment of a freight train en route from Thunder Bay, Ontario, to Montreal had spilled 400 barrels of oil rather than four, the company’s original estimate, and the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ordered ExxonMobil to begin metallurgical testing of its ruptured Pegasus pipeline, which leaked 5,000 barrels of Canadian tar-sands oil near Starlite Road in Mayflower, Arkansas, forcing the evacuation of 22 homes and causing the deaths of at least 14 ducks, two turtles, and one nutria. “That neighborhood was like a scene from The Walking Dead,” said Arkansas attorney general Dustin McDaniel. ExxonMobil officials requested that the Federal Aviation Administration institute a temporary no-fly zone over the area affected by the spill and instructed local police to keep reporters away. “When you throw the media out,” said a Little Rock radio-station director, “that’s when the media really get their tentacles up.” Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom, died at the Ritz Hotel in London following a stroke. “She was probably the number-one person in our history,” said a Falkland Islander. “She will be remembered as a leader who gave nothing positive to the human kind,” said a veteran of the Falklands War. “She didn’t think it was her job to find middle ground,” said former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger. A suicide bomber in Afghanistan’s Zabul province attacked a U.S. convoy, killing three American soldiers, a Defense Department employee, and a 25-year-old State Department diplomat, while a NATO air strike in Kunar province reportedly killed several Taliban fighters and 11 children. “The folks who want to kill people,” said secretary of state John Kerry, “are scared of knowledge.”
A report released by the National Rifle Association called for the placement of armed security personnel in every U.S. school and cited in support of the plan a massacre of six students in Hastings, Minnesota, that never took place. “This is one of those times,” said Hastings’ police chief, “that we want to make sure the information we are using to make policy decisions is complete and accurate.” Connecticut placed strict new regulations on the types of weapons and ammunition that can be sold and purchased in the state, and poet Maya Angelou described her past use of a gun to drive off an intruder. “It was fall. I heard the rhythm of someone walking on the leaves,” said Angelou. “Boom. Boom.” North Korea moved an intermediate-range ballistic missile to its eastern coast and announced plans to reopen its Yongbyon atomic facility. “A small spark can now easily lead to a fire,” said a South Korean analyst. “The moment of explosion is approaching fast,” said North Korean state media. “We are looking for the temperature to be taken down,” said the Pentagon. At Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where last month a rat disabled the system that circulates coolant to more than 8,800 fuel rods, the system was again disabled, this time by technicians. “We were installing wire nets,” said a manager, “to keep the rats out.” A Saudi court ruled that a 24-year-old man who has spent a decade in prison for stabbing a friend in the spine and paralyzing him should be surgically paralyzed as punishment. A federal judge in Brooklyn instructed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make the morning-after pill available to women of all ages without a prescription, and the state legislature of Kansas passed the Women’s Right to Know Act, which states that life begins at fertilization. The government of Uganda was moving forward with a bill that would prohibit women from wearing miniskirts and would ban sexualized images from appearing in the country’s media. “Television,” said ethics minister Simon Lokodo, a former Catholic priest, “should not broadcast a sexy person.”
A 26,000-square-foot Barbie Dreamhouse was being built near Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. New Jersey banned the use of tanning beds by minors, and Los Angeles synchronized all 4,500 of its traffic lights. A Phoenix man was arrested for falsely claiming ownership of a hundred-pound tortoise named Jeeps. In Wales, where wardens of Dylan Thomas’s grave were considering the installation of badger-proof fencing and researchers established that Shakespeare hoarded barley, a lingering cold snap in Snowdonia was killing thousands of pregnant ewes, some of which had lambed prematurely. “The drifts are so bad we don’t know what’s under them,” said a shepherd from Betws-y-Coed. “Some sheep are trapped in catacombs,” said one from the Carneddau. The dearth of acorns and beechnuts in Gloucestershire was driving boars in the Forest of Dean to root more destructively, and a baked-bean spill caused the closure of a roadway near Newton-le-Willows. Meat-industry trade groups in the United States suggested that top loin pork chops, pork loin top loin chops, and bone-in pork loin chops be renamed. “A pork chop,” said a National Pork Board official, “is a pork chop.” A cheese-steak restaurant in Northeast Philadelphia changed its name from Chink’s to Joe’s. Samoa Air announced that it would begin setting fares on the basis of passengers’ body weight, and Target apologized for having labeled the same shade of kimono maxi dress “dark heather gray” in regular sizes and “manatee gray” in plus sizes. Brevetoxins from an algal bloom off Florida’s western coast were killing record numbers of manatees. “When algae blooms coincide with manatee movement,” said one veterinarian, “it results in catastrophic mortality.”
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."