Weekly Review — August 13, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The U.S. government responds to an alleged terrorist plot, Ramadan ends in violence in parts of the Muslim world, and Swedish men guard their testicles from pacu fish

Saluting the Town (Weekly)The U.S. government reopened 18 diplomatic posts that it had closed across the Middle East after allegedly intercepting details of a planned attack in communications between Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Nasser al-Wuhayshi. The U.S. consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, remained closed, as did the U.S. embassy in Yemen, whose government claimed that it had, and had not, thwarted an Al Qaeda plot to take over an oil terminal, blow up oil pipelines, and kidnap foreign workers. “Everybody is feeling that there is something going on,” said a human rights advocate in Sana‘a, “but nobody knows what.”[1][2][3][4] Defense attorneys advising Major Nidal Hasan, who is representing himself in his trial for killing 13 people at Fort Hood Army Base in 2009, asked to be relieved of their duties because they believed Hasan was surreptitiously seeking the death penalty. “This has got to be torture,” said a former Army prosecutor, “particularly if you’re opposed to capital punishment.”[5] The White House canceled a planned summit between Barack Obama and Russian president Vladimir Putin. “They slip back into Cold War thinking and Cold War mentality,” said Obama during an appearance on The Tonight Show. “I continually say to them and to President Putin: ‘That’s the past.’ ”[6] Mikhail Gorbachev announced that he wasn’t dead.[7] The White House press corps asked no questions about reforms to National Security Agency surveillance practices at a press conference called to discuss reforms to NSA surveillance practices.[8] At a speech by Obama in Phoenix, the audience interrupted to sing “Happy Birthday” to the president, while protesters outside shouted, “He’s 47 percent negro!” and “Bye, Bye, Black Sheep.” “He’s divided all the races,” said a demonstrator. “I hate him for that.”[9][10] Curiosity sang “Happy Birthday” to itself on Mars.[11]

In Jonglei, South Sudan, 328 people were reported to have been killed during two weeks of fighting between the army, rebel soldiers, and rival tribes; in Konduga, Nigeria, suspected members of Boko Haram shot and killed 44 people while they prayed at a mosque; in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, a remote-controlled bomb killed seven women and seven children as they visited the gravesite of a family member; in Quetta, Pakistan, a suicide bombing at a police officer’s funeral killed at least 30 people; in Adra, Syria, government troops killed 62 members of an opposition militia in a desert ambush and left their bodies in the sand; and across Iraq, a string of car bombs detonated on Eid al-Fitr, killing at least 61. “We had a terrible day,” said the owner of a shoe store whose windows were shattered, “that was supposed to be nice.”[12][13][14][15][16][17][18] Authorities rescued California teenager Hannah Anderson and killed her abductor, James Lee DiMaggio, in Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.[19] Interim Egyptian president Adli Mansour declared that international diplomacy had failed in Egypt.[20] The king of Morocco retracted a pardon inadvertently granted to a Spanish pedophile.[21] An American surgeon vacationing in Florence accidentally severed a finger from a statue of the Virgin Mary.[22] Breton farmers smashed tens of thousands of eggs to protest their cheapness.[23][24] Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger was found guilty of 31 racketeering charges that encompassed the murders of 11 people. “Rat-a-tat-tat, Whitey!” shouted a woman in the courtroom.[25] The New York Times sold the Boston Globe for 6 percent of its 1993 purchase price, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos purchased the Washington Post for 1 percent of his net worth.[26][27] A recording was leaked of a conversation between a former Ron Paul aide and Jesse Benton, who worked for Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign and is now managing the re-election campaign of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.). “Between you and me,” said Benton, “I’m sort of holding my nose for two years.”[28]

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Correction: Spaniards, not Germans, were found to have the most organized fridges in Europe. 

American hog farmers were struggling to contain porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, which has killed thousands of piglets across 16 states.[29] Thames Water completed the removal of a 16.5-ton mound consisting of food grease and wet wipes from a sewage drain in a suburb of London. “We reckon it has to be the biggest such berg,” said the company’s waste-contracts supervisor, “in British history.”[30] A hamburger made from lab-grown beef was eaten in London. “It’s close to meat,” said one of the testers. “I would have said if it was disgusting.”[31] Germans were found to have the most organized fridges in Europe.[32][Correction] Scientists hypothesized that Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which has killed nearly half of the 94 people infected, might be transmitted via contact with one-humped camels.[33] A 69-year-old Englishwoman named Penny Freeman and her brother were trapped in their home for four days by a family of seagulls that pecked on their windows and vomited on them when they tried to leave.[34] The Edinburgh Fringe Fest held a Ginger Pride rally, and a film society in Pordenone, Italy, discovered Too Much Johnson, Orson Welles’s first professional film.[35][36] Swedish men were advised against skinny-dipping after a pacu fish was discovered in Øresund Sound. “They bite because they’re hungry,” said a Danish ichthyologist. “And testicles sit nicely in their mouths.”[37]


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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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