“Our nation has lost a colossus”
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“Our nation has lost a colossus”
Former South African president, anti-apartheid leader, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nelson Mandela died in Johannesburg at the age of 95. “Our nation has lost a colossus, an epitome of humility, equality, justice, peace, and the hope of millions; here and abroad,” said the African National Congress. “He really was like a magician with a magic wand, turning us into this glorious, multi-colored, rainbow people,” said Desmond Tutu. “May we as Christians in this Afrikaans church surprise the world,” said Pastor Niekie Lamprecht of the Dutch Reformed Church in Pretoria, “by not responding with hate.” Mandela’s body was taken to the capital city of Pretoria — where Thembu tribal leaders will perform a ceremony called the Closing of the Eyes in order to commune with Mandela’s ancestors and ease his passage to the afterlife — en route to his childhood village of Qunu, where he will be interred. President Barack Obama, Pope Francis, Queen Elizabeth II, British prime minister David Cameron, the Dalai Lama, former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, singers Bono and Annie Lennox, talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, and model Naomi Campbell were planning to travel to South Africa for memorial services, while a spokesman for former president George H. W. Bush said that Bush was no longer able to travel long distances. “He’ll be with them,” said a spokesman, “in spirit.” Fox News host Bill O’Reilly noted that Mandela was a “great man” but a communist, and former senator Rick Santorum likened Mandela’s fight against injustice to Republican opposition to the Affordable Health Care Act. The Anti-Defamation League objected to Kanye West’s claim during a radio interview that president Obama was struggling because “black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people,” and Obama celebrated the end of Hanukkah at two separate White House receptions before lighting the National Christmas Tree. To honor the 150th anniversary of the painter Edvard Munch’s birth, the Norwegian embassy in Washington D.C. decorated a Christmas tree with 700 ornaments featuring the distorted face of the man depicted in the Scream paintings. “It symbolizes all the angst,” said Ambassador Kåre Aas, “in preparing for an excellent Christmas.”
France and the African Union announced plans to deploy several thousand additional troops in the Central African Republic, where clashes between Christians and Muslims killed nearly 400 people in the worst violence since the predominantly Muslim Seleka coalition overthrew the government in March. “They are slaughtering us,” said Appolinaire Donoboy, a Christian, “like chickens.” Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved the country’s lower house of parliament and called early elections after more than 150 lawmakers from the Democrat Party resigned en masse to join street demonstrations, and protesters at antigovernment rallies in Kiev toppled and decapitated a statue of Vladimir Lenin, then took turns beating the headless torso. “It’s a revolution,” said opposition leader Oleh Tyahnybok, “of dignity.” North Korea deported Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran with a heart condition who had been detained on suspicion of espionage for over a month, citing “his sincere repentance and advanced age and health condition.” “Obviously, that’s not my English,” said Merrill of a videotaped apology released by the country. Irish online bookmaker Paddy Power announced plans to sponsor retired NBA star Dennis Rodman’s upcoming trip to North Korea to train the country’s basketball team, which will play an exhibition game against former NBA players in January, and Delta cancelled a commercial flight from Gainesville, Florida, to Atlanta in order to make the plane available to the University of Florida men’s basketball team. “For some people,” said a passenger, “it was an important inconvenience.”
A North Dakota woman was discovered to have a glass meth pipe and a syringe hidden in her vagina, and a grand jury in Manhattan indicted a man for assault following an incident in which police fired on him while he was unarmed and wounded two bystanders. A motorist driving southbound to South Riding, Virginia, hit a deer that flew through the air and struck a jogger, and the City of Milwaukee revealed plans to enhance road salt by mixing it with cheese brine. “The only other type of de-icing that I’ve heard of was like beet juice,” said a newspaper deliveryman, “which seems real impractical.” Alzheimer’s Disease International predicted a worldwide epidemic of dementia. In North Grimston, a West Highland Terrier named Joey successfully mated with Zara, a Rottweiler twice his size, producing the world’s first known litter of “wotties,” and in Norfolk six black-tipped reef sharks, a bonnethead shark, a bowmouth guitar shark, six penguins, and a green sea turtle were evacuated from the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary because of flooding. An escaped circus elephant named Mia wandered the suburbs of Rome for two hours before her capture during a moment of indecision at a traffic roundabout; a Daly City, California, man was charged with biting his parents after they told him he couldn’t see the family cat; and Matthew Tyler Webb and Audrey Mayo of LaFayette, Georgia, were reportedly dating after Webb, out hunting after consuming several drugs, mistook Mayo for a deer and shot her in the knee. “A caveman,” said Mayo’s sister, “used to bash a woman over the head with a club.”
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Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.
Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”