Weekly Review — August 6, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Zimbabwe re-elects Robert Mugabe, a fatwa against croissants, and a lemonade-stand robbery at BB-gunpoint

ALL IN MY EYE.Zimbabwe’s national election commission announced that Robert Mugabe had won 61 percent of the vote in the country’s presidential election, securing him a seventh consecutive term as leader. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change party alleged that Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party had stacked the voters’ registry with invalid names, intimidated voters in rural areas, and plotted to swap out ballot boxes. “There are clearly hundreds of thousands of deceased people on the voters’ roll,” said an independent monitor. “Either that or Japan does not have the oldest-age population in the world. There are thousands of 114-year-olds.” Australia’s foreign minister called for the election to be re-run, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry said the result was “the culmination of a deeply flawed process,” and journalists asked Mugabe after he cast his ballot whether he was nervous about the outcome. “No, no, no,” he said. “I’ve gone past that.”[1][2][3] Russia granted temporary asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who faces prosecution in the United States for leaking classified documents, and canceled a concert by the American band Bloodhound Gang after bassist Evil Jared shoved a Russian flag down his pants and said “Don’t tell Putin” during a concert in Ukraine.[4][5] In Cleveland, Ariel Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for 937 charges related to his subjection of three women to beatings, rape, and starvation while he held them hostage for over nine years. ‘‘A lot of harmony went on in that home,” said Castro.[6][7] Gangster James “Whitey” Bulger declined to testify in his trial for racketeering and 19 counts of murder in Boston. “Do what youse want with me,” said Bulger.[8] Two weeks after he was acquitted of murdering Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman informed a police officer who pulled him over in Texas for speeding that he had a registered gun in his glove compartment. “Just take it easy,” said the officer. “Don’t play with your firearm, okay?”[9]

The U.S. government announced the temporary closure of 22 embassies and consulates across the Middle East and Africa after reportedly intercepting a threatening message sent among senior Al Qaeda figures.[10] A sharia committee in a rebel-held area of Aleppo, Syria, issued a fatwa banning croissants, and the Observatoire du Pain launched an advertising campaign to combat a steep decline in baguette-eating among the French.[11][12][13] Pakistani talk-show host Dr. Aamir Liaquat Hussain gave away two abandoned baby girls during a live television broadcast, and it was reported that a baby weighing 13.4 pounds had been delivered vaginally in Leipzig, making it the largest non-Caesarian birth on record in Germany.[14][15] Aevin Dugas, of Reserve, Louisiana, was found to have the world’s largest afro, at 52 inches in circumference.[16] During a severe heat wave in southern and eastern China, city dwellers cooked bacon, eggs, and shrimp on manhole covers and pavement, a billboard spontaneously combusted, and eggs hatched without incubators.[17] A policeman rescued four chickens left unattended in a hot car in the English village of Cranleigh, several female British journalists who complained of online abuse against women were sent bomb threats via Twitter, and Scotland established a national register of inflamed bowels.[18][19][20][21]

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Eight New Jersey TGI Friday’s restaurants agreed to pay fines totaling $500,000 after they were found during the state’s Operation Swill to have filled premium liquor bottles with cheap spirits, dirty water, rubbing alcohol, and caramel food coloring.[22] A Portuguese court ruled that trash collectors couldn’t be fired for being drunk on the job. “With alcohol,” read the verdict, “this happy worker is a very efficient, excellent and quick remover of scrap.”[23] Gay bars in Europe and the United States were protesting the recent passage of antigay laws in Russia by boycotting Stolichnaya vodka, which is largely distilled in Latvia by a company based in Luxembourg and owned by a Russian exile.[24][25] A 12-year-old Pennsylvania boy held up a 10-year-old boy’s lemonade stand with a BB gun, and a Detroit pastor was shot to death when he asked his neighbors to quiet down. “It was devastating,” said his daughter. “I cried for a minute.”[26][27] The open-air Tent City Jail in Maricopa County, Arizona, gave inmates candy cigarettes to celebrate its twentieth anniversary.[28] The U.S. government agreed to pay $4.1 million to San Diego student Daniel Chong, who was abandoned in a windowless jail cell for four and a half days following a drug raid in 2012, and Chilean prosecutors exonerated the owners of a copper mine that collapsed in 2010, trapping 33 miners for 69 days. “I want to dig a deep hole,” said one miner, “and bury myself again.”[29][30]


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For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.

One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.

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