Weekly Review — August 27, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

A poison-gas attack in Syria, a verdict in the Manning trial, and wing-walker Flame Brewer

A Humbug (Weekly)Five days after a poison-gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus killed more than 300 people and caused symptoms of neurotoxicity in more than 3,000 others, the regime of Bashar al-Assad agreed to allow United Nations inspectors to collect samples of soil, blood, urine, and tissue in an attempt to determine who was responsible. Calling the use of chemical weapons a “moral obscenity,” Secretary of State John Kerry said that President Barack Obama would make an “informed decision” about the U.S. response. “Failure awaits the United States,” said Assad, “as in all previous wars it has unleashed.”[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] Documents declassified by the CIA indicated that the Reagan Administration offered intelligence to Saddam Hussein during the Iran–Iraq War in the knowledge that he would use nerve agents. “The Iraqis never told us,” said a retired Air Force colonel. “They didn’t have to. We already knew.”[8] Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who was removed from power by the army in 2011, and Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohammed Badie, whose party was removed from power by the army last month, went on trial for incitement to kill protesters. “Those who tried and are still trying to break the Egyptian army,” said a spokesman for interim president Adly Mansour, “will fall alongside the Tatars and Crusaders.”[9] At Fort Hood, Texas, Major Nidal Hasan was found guilty of 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder for his 2009 attack on an Army barracks; at Fort Lewis, Washington, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was sentenced to life in prison for killing 16 Afghan civilians in 2012; and at Fort Meade, Maryland, Private Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for providing 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks. “Justice,” said a relative of Bales’s victims, “was served the American way.” Manning announced that she would now live as a woman named Chelsea.[10][11][12][13]

George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watchman acquitted last month of the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, toured the facility in Cocoa, Florida, where the gun he used to shoot Martin was manufactured. “That was not part of our public-relations plan,” said a spokesman for Zimmerman’s attorney.[14][15] Martin’s parents were among tens of thousands of people to gather on the National Mall to mark the semicentennial of the March on Washington. “My generation cannot now afford to sit back,” said Newark mayor Cory Booker, “getting dumb, fat, and happy thinking we have achieved our freedoms.”[16][17] Pilgrims of the Universal White Brotherhood converged on the mountains of Bulgaria to practice their paneurhythmy.[18] A third of white high-school-age girls in the United States admitted to having used a tanning bed in the past year, and lepidopterists discovered that Calindoea trifascialis larvae hop away from the sun to pupate.[19][20] The Rim Fire was approaching Yosemite National Park’s Hetch Hetchy reservoir.[21] A real estate developer installed a Beaver Deceiver in Fairview, Texas, and the city of Zurich opened nine drive-in sex boxes. “It will not work,” said a local politician, “because the clients will not come.”[22][23] San Diego’s city council voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Mayor Bob Filner, who has been accused of sexual harassment by 18 women in the past six weeks. “He made me begin to feel like a 16-year-old again,” said one of Filner’s advisers, “with the vitality of his ideas.”[24] The Canadian military was continuing tests on Loki, a $620,000 stealth snowmobile, and Australian scientists were modifying beer to increase its rehydrative properties. “This is definitely not a good idea,” said one nutrition researcher.[25][26] A South Florida judge dismissed a citation issued in April to a man jogging backward. “I came very far,” said the jogger, “to get to where I’m at.”[27]

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The walrus left Jökulsárlón, and the eggman collected blackberries in Exbury.[28][29][30] A skydiver died in Yolo County, California.[31] A girl named Flame Brewer wing-walked over Gloucestershire.[32] French pigeon hunters spooked a horse in Kent, and 3,000 donkeys in Kenya’s Rift Valley were found to be on leave.[33][34] Swedish neonatologists requested that crocheted octopuses no longer be brought to maternity wards.[35] Stray dogs in Detroit and Swainson’s hawks in Calgary were disrupting postal rounds. “It’s like Chihuahuaville,” said mailwoman Catherine Guzik. “They’re quite clever,” said postman Reuben Hawkes.[36][37] English archaeologists prepared to extract the tenth-century sarcophagus of “somebody terribly important.”[38] In Pennsylvania, a clown couple married at Clownfest. “Every layer of greasepaint,” said a clown named Happy, “is a layer of happiness.”[39][40] Researchers found that Double Stuf Oreos contain only 1.86 times the cream filling of traditional Oreos, that crocodilians who eat fruit do so deliberately, and that British snails locomote more quickly than previously assumed. “They are not,” said one malacologist, “just lettuce munchers.”[41][42][43] A Krispy Kreme in Edinburgh announced that it had sold an average of one doughnut every three seconds since opening in February. “They are ruinous,” said Scottish National Obesity Forum spokesman Tam Fry.[44]


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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Artwork by Imre Kinszki © Imre Kinszki Estate
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The Lords of Lambeau·

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Photograph (detail) by Balazs Gardi
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"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Photograph (detail) by Lara Shipley

Price of ten pencils made from “recycled twigs,” from the Nature Company:

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