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

Weekly Review

Walmart celebrates Black Friday with protests and police reports, Amazon experiments with drone delivery, and Republicans salute the end of racism 

Babylonian LionOn Black Friday, thousands of Walmart employees and union supporters staged protests to demand annual wages of at least $25,000 for the 825,000 workers who make less than that amount and supplement their incomes with an average of $1,000 annually in Medicaid and food stamps. “The protest is sad,” said a Southern California shopper, “because Walmart has good prices.” Police arrested a man dressed as Santa Claus outside an Ontario, California, Walmart; a shopper stabbed and pulled a gun on another shopper during a dispute over a parking space outside a Claypool Hill, Virginia, Walmart; police pepper-sprayed one shopper and ticketed another for spitting on a stranger’s child at a Garfield, New Jersey, Walmart; a police officer was hospitalized for injuries sustained while breaking up a fight outside a Rialto, California, Walmart; and a bomb threat led police to evacuate a White Plains, New York, Walmart. “Black Friday is the Super Bowl of retail,” said Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon. “We ran a play that only Walmart could deliver.”[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8] The prime minister of Latvia resigned after taking responsibility for the November 21 collapse of a Maxima supermarket in Riga, which killed 54 people, and Maxima’s head of operations for Latvia was fired. “May those who feel real responsibility resign,” he said. “I can look people in the eye.”[9][10] Protesters in Gafsa, Tunisia, set fire to the regional headquarters of the country’s ruling Islamist party during a demonstration to demand economic investment in poor areas, and police in Cairo beat several women and stripped a photographer while ending a peaceful demonstration against military trials of civilians and a law banning gatherings of more than 10 people.[11][12] Icelandic police shot and killed a civilian for the first time, then apologized for it.[13]

In Thailand, protesters calling for the removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra — whose brother was unseated by a 2006 military coup following accusations of corruption and abuse of power — threw fireworks at riot police and sought to enter Shinawatra’s residence by breaking barricades with garbage trucks. Former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban called on his supporters to besiege every government office in the country, many of which subsequently closed, and antigovernment “yellow shirts” engaged in shootouts with pro-government “red shirts” that left three people dead. “I will remain here,” said Shinawatra. “I may be a woman, but I have the courage to face all possible scenarios.”[14][15][16][17] Silvio Berlusconi was expelled from the Italian Parliament over his conviction for tax fraud, prompting his 28-year-old girlfriend to appeal to Pope Francis on his behalf. “It was the right thing to do,” said a lawmaker who supported the expulsion. “Otherwise we would have had the law of the jungle.”[18][19][20] Amazon released a promotional video for its experimental drone-delivery service that depicted an unmanned octocopter flying a yellow box containing a rollerblade-adjusting tool to a father and son. “It’s a symphony of people,” said CEO Jeff Bezos, “it’s a symphony of software, it’s a symphony of robots.”[21][22] Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.[23] The ACLU filed a lawsuit alleging that an Albuquerque prison guard had used pepper spray on an inmate’s vagina, and a Swedish prisoner with a toothache escaped to visit the dentist, then returned to jail.[24][25]

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Croatia voted to ban gay marriage, and France began investigating Bob Dylan for inciting ethnic hatred against Croats in an interview he gave to Rolling Stone in 2012. “If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that,” Dylan said. “Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.”[26][27] The Republican National Committee commended Rosa Parks on Twitter for “ending racism,”; a white employee of a 99p store in Withim, England, accused his nonwhite employers of treating him like a slave; and a Plantation, Florida, police officer was arrested after he refused to remove his Guy Fawkes mask during an anti-Obamacare protest.[28][29][30] It was revealed that the National Security Agency collected data on the pornography habits of six young Muslim men believed to be connected to terrorist groups, with the aim of harming their reputations.[31] ProPublica reported that Karl Rove’s fundraising group, Crossroads GPS, violated the terms of its tax-exempt status by awarding grant money to right-wing political organizations. “That’s called bullshit,” said a former IRS official, “with a serving of horseshit on the side.”[32] A Mormon bishop who attended a service in Utah disguised as a homeless man in order to teach his ward about compassion was asked by a congregant to leave, The Fast and the Furious star Paul Walker died in a car crash, and the mayor of Hampton, Florida, was arrested for buying and selling Oxycodone. “We will not tolerate illegal drug activity,” said the county sheriff. “This isn’t Toronto.”[33][34][35]


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For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.

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