Weekly Review — May 21, 2013, 8:30 am

Weekly Review

Government power-drunkenness, space oddities, and anti-lesbian prejudice on the Isle of Man

An American Mastiff.

An American Mastiff.

President Barack Obama removed Steven Miller as acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service after it was revealed that the agency’s Determinations Unit had given special scrutiny to conservative groups whose tax filings contained such terms as “tea party” and “patriots.” “Is this government so drunk on power?” asked Kevin Brady (R., Tx.) during Miller’s appearance before the House Committee on Ways and Means. “Is this still America?”[1][2] Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, subpoenaed the chairman of the independent panel investigating last year’s attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and the White House released emails it said proved the appropriateness of its response to the attack. “There’s no there there,” said Obama.[3][4][5] Six days after the Associated Press accused the Justice Department of clandestinely acquiring records for more than 20 of its reporters’ phone lines, a leaked affidavit revealed that the department had labeled as criminal activity a Fox News correspondent’s reporting on a State Department leak in 2010, and had subpoenaed his private emails.[6][7][8] The U.S. Army announced that it was investigating a sexual-assault program coordinator in Fort Hood, Texas, over allegations of pimping and abusive sexual contact, and the mayor of Osaka suggested that American military personnel stationed in Japan visit his country’s brothels. “Unless they make use of these facilities,” said Toru Hashimoto, “it will be difficult to control the sexual energies of the wild Marines.”[9][10] A woman testified that prostitutes at the “bunga bunga” parties thrown by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had dressed up as Obama. “They raised their skirts,” she said. “[But] I never saw contact.”[11]

At least 198 people died in sectarian violence in Iraq; Egyptian authorities strung up barbed wire at the country’s border crossing with the Gaza Strip after seven members of its security forces were kidnapped by Islamist gunmen; and President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in northern Nigeria following a series of attacks by the jihadist group Boko Haram. [12][13][14][15] The pro-Assad Syrian Electronic Army hacked the website and Twitter feed of the Financial Times, and a video was released showing Syrian rebel commander Abu Sakkar cutting into the chest of a government soldier and biting into one of the man’s lungs. “If the blood does not stop flowing,” said Sakkar, “all Syrians will become Abu Sakkars.”[16][17][18] Iran hanged two men accused of spying for Israel and the United States, and the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) expelled an American diplomat it claimed was carrying a recruitment letter, a compass, and two wigs. “The FSB got sick of American spies,” wrote a Moscow tabloid, “and publicly smacked one like a cockroach who thought himself king of the kitchen crumbs.”[19][20][21] A Russian capsule carrying crayfish, lizards, and dead mice touched down in a planted field after a month in orbit, and three astronauts landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan after a five-month stint aboard the International Space Station. “This is the first time animals have flown in space for so long on their own,” said an official from Russia’s Institute of Medical and Biological Problems. “My body was quite happy,” said ISS mission commander Chris Hadfield. “I learned to talk with a weightless tongue.”[22][23][24]

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Somali drug dealers shared with reporters a cell-phone video purportedly showing Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack, and nearly a third of Minnesota’s lakes were found to contain traces of cocaine.[25][26] In Belize, a construction company bulldozed a 2,300-year-old Mayan temple to make road fill. “Mind-boggling,” said archaeologist Jamie Awe.[27] Ohio was judged to be the most profane state, and priests in Tbilisi, Georgia, attacked homosexuals celebrating International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO).[28][29] Representatives from the House of Keys declared their support for a lesbian couple denied an apartment on the Isle of Man.[30] Angelina Jolie revealed that she had undergone a double mastectomy after learning she carries a “faulty” gene that increases her risk of developing breast cancer; scientists in Oregon successfully cloned human embryonic stem cells; and an Atlanta woman who lost portions of all four limbs to flesh-eating bacteria was outfitted with bionic hands that can be controlled via an iPhone app.[31][32][33] The Venezuelan government announced that it would import more than 760,000 tons of supplies to combat shortages of basic necessities. “The revolution,” said President Nicolás Maduro, “will bring the country 50 million rolls of toilet paper.”[34][35] In Vicenza, Italy, a 66-year-old man being evicted by city officials died after throwing himself from his apartment window. “We try to help everyone,” said the city’s mayor, “but the effort must be mutual.”[36]


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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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