Weekly Review — July 23, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Detroit files for bankruptcy, prison breaks outside Baghdad, and snail-mucus makeup in France

Babylonian LionThe city of Detroit applied for bankruptcy, citing $18.5 billion in debt owed to approximately 100,000 creditors, among them municipal bondholders and pension-plan members. “After this little kerfuffle,” said emergency manager Kevyn Orr, “we’ll be back in business.” Officials announced cuts in pension payouts to as many as 20,000 retired municipal employees and promised not to sell off the city’s original Howdy Doody puppet. “We don’t have that many people with pensions big enough for anything to be taken away from them,” said Shirley Lightesy, head of the Detroit Retired City Employees Association. “We may be bankrupt monetarily, but we are well funded in spirit,” said Detroit native Aretha Franklin.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, gave birth at St. Mary’s Hospital in London to a boy weighing eight pounds and six ounces. “I would very much like it to arrive,” said Queen Elizabeth II on being informed that Middleton had gone into labor. “I’m going on holiday.”[8][9][10] British cyclist Chris Froome won the 100th Tour de France in 83 hours, 56 minutes, and 20 seconds — four minutes and 20 seconds ahead of Nairo Quintana of Colombia — and researchers in Bristol charged a cell phone with urine.[11][12] Gunmen and suicide attackers staged a coordinated assault on Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, freeing at least 500[*] prisoners, most of them reportedly senior members of Al Qaeda who had been sentenced to death.[13] Syrian government troops killed at least 75 people in one day on the outskirts of Damascus, and antigovernment forces set off a car bomb outside police headquarters in Deir Atiyeh, killing 13.[14][15] It was reported that the Vatican was offering plenary indulgences, which are meant to reduce sinners’ time in purgatory, to those who follow Pope Francis on Twitter. “What really matters is the spiritual awakening that can come from the Pope’s tweets,” said Archbishop Claudio Celli, “or the pictures posted . . . on Pinterest.”[16][17]

[*] Subsequent reports placed the figure at 260, as some prisoners were recaptured, and noted that the assault encompassed the Taji prison outside Baghdad, as well.

President Obama spoke with the press about the acquittal of George Zimmerman on charges of murdering Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in Florida. “There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping at a department store,” said Obama, “and that includes me.”[18][19] A Wisconsin court convicted John Henry Spooner, a 76-year-old white man, of murdering Darius Simmons, a black 13-year-old, and five Democratic candidates for mayor of New York City slept in Harlem’s Lincoln Houses projects at the invitation of pastor and MSNBC host Al Sharpton. “I spent last night,” said Anthony Weiner, “with a family living in conditions you would never tolerate.”[20][21] Italian senate vice-president Roberto Calderoli apologized for racist comments about the country’s first black cabinet minister, Cécile Kyenge. “I love animals,” Calderoli told supporters of the anti-immigrant Northern League, “but when I see pictures of Kyenge I cannot but think of — even if I’m not saying she is one — the features of an orangutan.”[22] An Austrian man who kept 56 human skulls in his house was charged with disturbing the peace of the dead.[23] Four drunken students burned down Socrates High School in Rome following debate on a local beach.[24] Dubai pardoned a Norwegian woman who had been sentenced to 16 months in prison for having sex outside of marriage after she was raped on a business trip.[25] Kristian “Wolf” Vikernes, bassist for the Norwegian black-metal band Mayhem, was arrested at his home in Salon-la-Tour, France, for planning a “major terrorist act,” and French farmer Louis-Marie Guedon was building an industrial-scale facility capable of extracting 15 tons of garden-snail mucus annually for use in cosmetics. “I’ve already been producing the slime for three years,” said Guedon, “but manually.”[26][27]

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One of four original copies of Oskar Schindler’s list of 801 names of Jews designated for employment in one of his Polish factories during World War II was placed on eBay for $3 million, and an unemployed English IT technician failed to sell his services on eBay for $1.50 an hour.[28][29][30] Virginia attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider reinstating the state’s Crimes Against Nature law, which bans oral and anal sex, and the Rabbinical Council of California rescinded the Kosher certification it had granted to a line of personal lubricants manufactured by Wet International. “The intended uses of these items,” said the council’s statement, “was misunderstood.”[31][32] A Tennessee lawyer was revealed to have filed suit against Apple for facilitating a pornography addiction that allegedly led his wife to separate from him. “The Plaintiff’s grandfather died of emphysema,” said the filing. “Rampant porn online is proving to be the cigarettes of our time.”[33][34] British prime minister David Cameron announced regulatory changes that will require Internet service providers in the United Kingdom to filter out pornography unless households specifically opt to receive it, and a shirtless man armed with a loaded pistol and 171 rounds of additional ammunition was arrested outside the White House. “I was only going to fire,” he said, “a couple of shots.”[35][36]


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I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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