Weekly Review — September 3, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The United States debates a military strike in Syria, Ruth Bader Ginsburg officiates at a same-sex marriage, and KFC Japan begins selling deep-fried soup

Harpers-CarriageCostume-1850-07-400x400

Carriage Costume (July 1850)

President Barack Obama announced that he would request congressional approval for a punitive military strike against the Syrian government for the August 21 poison-gas attack that killed 1,429 people in Damascus. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked weapons inspectors to expedite a report on their findings following four days of investigation in Syria, and Secretary of State John Kerry claimed the United States had obtained independent proof that Bashar al-Assad used the nerve agent sarin against his own people. “I’m confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors,” said Obama. “The words ‘slam dunk’ should be retired from American national-security issues,” said Kerry. Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld called Obama’s Syria strategy “mindless,” and 43 percent of U.S. Department of Defense employees participating in an online game failed to locate Damascus on a map. “Our biggest problem is ignorance,” said the dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. “We’re pretty ignorant about Syria.” French president François Hollande pledged to assist in any U.S.-led intervention, the British parliament voted not to intervene, defense ministers in Syria and Iran threatened to attack Israel if Assad’s life was endangered, and crowds of Israelis mobbed gas-mask-distribution points in Haifa and Jerusalem.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] An 18-year-old Indian man who participated in the gang-rape and murder of a woman on a New Delhi bus last December was sentenced to three years in a reform home, and a former Montana high school teacher who had confessed to raping a 14-year-old student who later committed suicide was sentenced to spend 31 days in jail. The girl, said the judge, was “older than her chronological age.”[11][12] A South Korean newspaper reported that North Korea had executed the ex-girlfriend of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and 11 others for making and distributing a pornographic video.[13] Bo Xilai, a former Communist Party chief on trial in Jinan, China, for bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power, revealed an affair between his wife, who murdered a British businessman in 2011, and his former deputy, who Bo punched in the face while attempting to cover up his investigation into the case. “They were,” said Bo, “like glue and lacquer.”[14][15]

Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first Supreme Court justice to officiate at a same-sex marriage ceremony, and the Department of the Treasury announced that federal tax provisions for married couples would apply to same-sex spouses regardless of their state of residence.[16][17] The New York Police Department was revealed to have spied on several mosques it labeled “terrorist enterprises.”[18] In protest of low wages, eight Paraguayan bus drivers had reportedly nailed themselves to crosses, thousands of American fast-food employees staged a walkout, and four exotic dancers filed suit against Fantasy Gentlemen’s Club in Grand Junction, Colorado.[19][20][21] Dunkin’ Donuts apologized for having a model in blackface promote its “charcoal donut” in Thailand, Italian chocolatier Ferrero withdrew a German ad for white-chocolate kisses featuring the slogans “Yes White Can” and “Germany Votes White,” a black New Jersey high schooler running for student government was found to have sent racist texts to himself, and a Glaswegian man complained to Scottish officials that an Edinburgh chip shop was charging for ketchup but not brown sauce. “It reeks of racism,” he said.[22][23][24][25] KFC Japan announced that it would start selling deep-fried soup, and psychologists determined that people who hate Japan are likely also to hate the fictitious Monahan LPI-800 Compact 2/3-Cubic-Foot 700-Watt Microwave Oven.[26][27]

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A University of Washington student moved the hand of another student over the Internet.[28] Swedish scientists confirmed the existence of ununpentium, Austrian molecular biologists successfully grew miniature human brains in a laboratory, and Viennese ethologists determined that female Mus musculus mice choose to mate with multiple virgin males in order to reduce the likelihood of infanticide.[29][30][31] Nine police-dog couples were married in Sri Lanka.[32] A Stockholm man was threatened by a gang of drunken elk, and a New Zealand man was rescued from a remote Australian island where he had been trapped for two weeks by a 20-foot-long crocodile. “We gave him a cold beer,” said the man’s rescuer, “which was probably the wrong thing.”[33][34] Bino, an albino alligator at the São Paulo Aquarium, received acupuncture for his scoliosis, and a former lab chimpanzee named Brent was awarded $10,000 for an abstract tongue painting.[35][36] A Maine lobsterman caught a half-orange, half-brown lobster.[37] Pennsylvania high school sophomore Brandon Silk was hospitalized for anaphylaxis after his classmates failed to honor a request that they not wear Axe body spray, and members of the Franconian Fränkische Bund association expressed concern that German girls were buying cheap foreign-made costumes for Oktoberfest. “At the very latest [the craze will be over],” said a board member, “when a dirndl-making factory burns down in Pakistan.”[38][39]


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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.

Photograph (detail) by Karine Laval

Age at death last March of the sturgeon Nikita, Khrushchev’s gift to Norway, after an accidental immersion in salt water:

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