Weekly Review — October 29, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The NSA’s phone tap on Angela Merkel is exposed, European authorities investigate false reports of Roma kidnappings, and Kim Jong-un receives an honorary degree from HELP U

ALL IN MY EYE.Documents leaked by former National Security Agency consultant Edward Snowden revealed that the organization’s Special Collection Service had been targeting the private cell phone of German chancellor Angela Merkel since 2002, and had begun monitoring the conversations of 35 other unnamed world leaders as early as 2006. “Spying on friends,” said Merkel, “is not on.” Merkel placed a direct call to President Barack Obama about the phone tap, Obama reportedly denied knowledge of the surveillance, a German newspaper reported that Obama had been personally briefed about the tap in 2010, the NSA denied the report, and White House officials stated that the NSA targets too many individuals to provide presidential briefings for all of them.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9] Confidential memos leaked to the Washington Post revealed that the government of Pakistan, which has long publicly denounced CIA drone strikes on its soil, was explicitly briefed about the attacks and secretly endorsed them. “I think,” said Pakistani military analyst Talat Masood, “people knew it already.”[10] Obama announced a “tech surge” to fix the glitches that have prevented many Americans from signing up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov, and congressional staffer Sean Hayes emailed a request for guidance to antivirus-software pioneer John McAfee, who was deported from Guatemala to the United States late last year for his suspected involvement in a murder in Belize. “Throw it out and start over,” McAfee told reporters, noting that Montreal-based CGI Group had overseen the site’s construction. “The Canadians are not well known for being high technologists.”[11][12][13] Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States demanded an apology after Texas senator Ted Cruz told a Tea Party gathering in Houston that HealthCare.gov had been built by “Nigerian email scammers,” and avocado lovers protested Cruz’s statement that he “passionately” dislikes the fruit.[14][15] An online halal sex shop opened in Turkey. “We use words which are delicate, not pornographic,” said proprietor Haluk Demirel. “For example, instead of ‘horny’ we use ‘desiring.’ ”[16]

Activists reported that at least sixty women had protested a tacit ban on driving in Saudi Arabia by getting behind the wheel of a car, and transgender Pakistanis fought with police in Peshawar during rallies to protest a campaign to “cleanse” the city’s Imamia Colony neighborhood. “It must be said,” said I. A. Rehman, director of the Pakistani Human Rights Commission, “that even the rights of non-gays are not protected.”[17][18] Bulgarian authorities pressed child-trafficking charges against a Roma woman after discovering that she was the biological mother of a blond, blue-eyed girl whom they had initially believed was abducted by, rather than sold to, two other Roma, and Irish authorities returned two blond, blue-eyed children seized from Roma families after DNA tests showed that the children had not been stolen.[19][20][21] South Korean police arrested two Chinese students for selling diet pills made of human flesh, a police officer kidnapped a fellow officer then shot himself in the head in Carbon County, Pennsylvania, and a model arrested in Florida for stabbing her boyfriend after his dog ate her marijuana claimed that the victim had repeatedly walked into her pink pocket knife.[22][23][24] Dogs were being poisoned by the excrement of drug users in Berlin parks.[25] English rangers expressed concern about a steep rise in the burglary of Surrey fungi, a Kentish man and two children were arrested for the theft of more than 150 Faversham pheasants, and a vegetable artist crossed the Solent from Gosport to the Isle of Wight in an 800-pound pumpkin.[26][27][28] Australian researchers calculated that 500 trees growing on top of a gold deposit would have sufficient gold in their bark and leaves to make a ring.[29]

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In Kuala Lumpur, North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un was awarded an honorary doctorate in economics by HELP University, and in Venezuela, where toilet-paper shortages were reportedly ongoing, President Nicolás Maduro announced the creation of the Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness.[30][31] A Nevada middle-school student killed an eighth-grade math teacher before fatally shooting himself, and a student at Danvers High School in Massachusetts was arrested after he killed his math teacher in a restroom, dumped her body in a recycling bin, and went to see a matinee of the film Blue Jasmine.[32][33][34][35] A man who walks with a cane returned to a burning building in Columbus, Georgia, to rescue his beer; two workers were killed in an explosion at a Mexican gummy-bear factory; a Swedish robber stole 75 kilograms of licorice from the back of a truck while the driver was napping; and a thief broke into the home of a 92-year-old woman in Manchester, England, then pulled a distress alarm from her neck, shook her by her cardigan, and took her purse. “Even the criminal fraternity will be appalled,” said a detective, “that someone can stoop so low.”[36][37][38][39] A Romanian thief threatened to sue the Dutch museum from which he had stolen Picasso’s Tête d’Arlequin for making the robbery too easy, and 500 clowns gathered in Mexico City to protest “generalized violence” after a gunman dressed in a clown suit, wig, and rubber nose killed a drug lord in Los Cabos. “We laugh,” said jester Alberto Villanueva, “at the very things that hurt us.”[40][41]


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