Weekly Review — October 22, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The U.S. government shutdown ends, Saudi Arabia turns down a U.N. Security Council seat, and an Alaskan town debates a successor for its cat-mayor

Saluting the Town (Weekly)Sixteen days into a U.S. federal government shutdown, on the evening before the Treasury Department was set to exhaust the extraordinary accounting measures it has been using since May to pay down U.S. debts, Congressional Republicans agreed to pass a bill that would fund the government until January 15, 2014, and would raise the country’s debt ceiling until February 7. “If we learn nothing else, I hope we learn we shouldn’t get behind a strategy that has no endgame,” said Senator Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.). “The snowshoe hare, every ten years, multiplies sixfold,” said a Republican strategist explaining on CNN the thinking of Texas senator Ted Cruz, who played a crucial role in precipitating the shutdown. “I’m high. Totally high.”[1][2][3][4][5] A House stenographer interrupted voting on the bill in order to deliver a speech about God and the Freemasons. “This is not ‘One Nation Under God.’ It never was,” she said. “Had it been, it would not have been.”[6][7] Alcatraz Island reopened, the U.S. Forest Service recommenced logging, the National Zoo reconnected its panda cam, and North Carolina resumed disbursing welfare benefits to children. Hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees returned to work, among them Internal Revenue Service auditors, issuers of permits to Alaskan crabbers, and laborers at the White House vegetable garden, where squirrels were found eating rotting tomatoes and a fox had taken up residence. “I can tell that the alcohol industry missed us,” said Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau specialist Renee Yankey.[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] Newark mayor Cory Booker (D.) won a special election for New Jersey’s vacant U.S. Senate seat, and Saudi Arabia rejected a seat that it had won on the United Nations Security Council. “Double standards existing in the Security Council prevent it from performing its duties,” said the Saudi foreign ministry. “Should have thought of that,” said Guatemala’s ambassador to the U.N. “before competing for the seat.”[16][17][18][19]

JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay the U.S. Department of Justice $13 billion in order to end federal probes into its sales of mortgage-backed securities.[20] A teenager was arrested in a New York City Victoria’s Secret store while shoplifting with a fetus in her handbag, and a Thai man was arrested for trying to donate approximately $95 worth of methamphetamine to a flood-relief center. “I want to do good deeds and help people,” said the man. “I took five yaba pills before coming here.”[21][22] Canada and the European Union reached a comprehensive free-trade deal after Canada agreed to import more cheese, and Belgian authorities lured the Somali pirate leader known as Loud Mouth to Brussels by offering to make him an adviser on a nonexistent documentary film about his life.[23][24] Peter Fitzek, the self-appointed ruler of New Germany, a 22-acre plot of land in Saxony-Anhalt, was jailed for driving without a valid license. “I do own a license,” said Fitzek at his trial in Neustadt. “That of my kingdom.”[25] An Iranian prisoner who awoke in a mortuary after being hanged was ordered hanged again.[26] Authorities in Florida recaptured two convicted murderers who were released after court officials received a forged order from a judge. “We’re kind of like the post office,” said a courts spokeswoman. “It comes in and we move it along.”[27][28]

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The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force investigated a spate of green-laser attacks on the cockpits of New York–bound passenger airplanes, flights out of LAX were grounded after a dry-ice bomb exploded in an employee restroom, and a Melbourne airport terminal was shut down after a kangaroo hopped into an airport pharmacy.[29][30][31] Fukushima Industries introduced as its mascot a flying egg named Fukuppy.[32] Bootleg liquor killed 42 people in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, New Mexican hazmat crews battled a chili-powder cloud, and California bacteriologists agreed to self-censor publication of the gene sequence of botulinum toxin H, the deadliest substance yet discovered.[33][34][35] Paleoanthropologists posited that a 1.8 million-year-old prehuman skull discovered in Georgia might collapse the distinctions between Homo erectus, Homo rudolfensis, and Homo habilis.[36] Arachnologists discovered the missing link between spiders and scorpions, and archaeologists claimed that Mesolithic settlers ate roast toad at Blick Mead.[37][38] Two Utah men were receiving death threats for upsetting a hoodoo at a 170-million-year-old Jurassian red-rock formation in Goblin Valley.[39] Kentucky herpetologists accused Pentecostal serpent handlers of starving their snakes to render them impotent, a Peruvian magistrate outlawed the eating of cats, and residents of Talkeetna, Alaska, discussed possible successors for Stubbs, the town’s ailing cat-mayor. “Anything’s better,” said one citizen, “than a human.”[40][41][42]


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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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