Weekly Review — January 21, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Obama announces surveillance reforms, the Taliban bombs a Kabul restaurant, and Smartie snorting prompts nose-maggot panic

ALL IN MY EYE.In a speech at the Department of Justice, President Barack Obama outlined new measures to curtail U.S. government surveillance of the communications of American and foreign citizens. Obama’s proposed reforms included shifting custody of the National Security Agency’s database of Americans’ phone records to an undetermined private-sector entity; requiring intelligence officials to obtain a court order for each phone number that they wish to query in the database; and reducing officials’ access to phone-call data to two “hops” from a subject rather than three (the records of someone who called someone who called someone who called a suspect). “As the nation that developed the Internet, the world expects us to ensure that the digital revolution works as a tool for individual empowerment, not government control” said Obama. “It’s embarrassing for a head of state like that to go on for almost 45 minutes and say almost nothing,” said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.[1][2][3][4][5] Representative Mike Rogers (R., Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden had been assisted by the Russian government in leaking documents to media. “There’s a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms,” said Rogers, “of an FSB agent in Moscow.”[6] Russian president Vladimir Putin held a press briefing during which he denied allegations of corruption in the country’s preparations for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, and responded to criticism of Russia’s ban on propaganda relating to “non-traditional sexual relations.” “When they achieve great results, such as, for instance Elton John,” said Putin, “millions of our people sincerely love him with no regard to his sexual orientation.”[7] At least 30 people were arrested across Nigeria under a new law banning gay marriage and gay groups, and U.K. Independent Party councilor David Silvester of Henley-Upon-Thames was suspended for publishing a letter in the Henley Standard blaming recent storms and flooding on the government’s decision to legalize gay marriage. “The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith,” Silvester wrote, “will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence, and war.”[8][9][10]

The Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack that killed 21 people at La Taverna du Liban, a popular restaurant for foreigners in Kabul, “where the invaders used to dine,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, “with booze and liquor in the plenty.”[11] Protesters accused the Thai government of detonating a grenade that killed one person and wounded 35 at an antigovernment demonstration in Bangkok. “Let me tell you, brothers and sisters,” said protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, “there’s no need to suspect anyone else.” Two days later, two more grenades exploded, wounding 28 and destroying a stall selling antigovernment T-shirts.[12][13] Ninety-three wildfires burned in Australia, a Canadian tennis player had a vision of Snoopy before collapsing on-court at the Australian Open during a heat wave, and brushfires burned 1,700 acres east of Los Angeles, displacing 11 residents at a Catholic retreat center but leaving statues of Jesus and Mary untouched.[14][15][16][17] A lightning strike damaged the right thumb of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, a month after another strike damaged its right middle finger.[18] A Salvadorian nun gave birth to a son at the Little Disciples of Jesus convent in Campomoro, Italy. “I did not know I was pregnant,” she said. “I only felt a stomach pain.”[19] The star of the MTV reality show Teen Mom, Farrah Abraham, who has created a line of sex toys and appeared in a porn film, announced that she is writing a book on Christian parenting.[20] Divorce rates were found to be higher than average among religiously conservative American Protestants and their neighbors, and the family of televangelist Billy Graham asked the public to pray for his health as he recovered from a lung infection. “We’ve got some other filming,” said his son Franklin, “I’d like my father to do.”[21][22]

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

Parents of students at Portsmouth Middle School in Rhode Island received letters from administrators warning that teens who snort Smarties could develop nose maggots.[23] A German farmer captured a runaway bull by spiking a bucket of grain with two bottles of vodka, and a collie named Molly survived a runaway-tractor crash in the English town of Colyton.[24][25] South African biologists reported the capture on film of a tigerfish jumping out of a lake to prey on a swallow in flight, and Japanese fishermen caught a 360-pound giant squid, tearing off its longest tentacles in the process. “I wish,” said a fisherman, “we’d been able to make the squid more presentable.”[26][27] An Italian man living in Dublin killed his landlord during a dispute over a chess match, then attempted to eat his heart. “[He] liked a good argument,” said a friend of the landlord.[28] A retired Tampa police officer killed a stranger who was texting during previews before the film Lone Survivor; a Providence, New York, man was indicted for conspiring to create a radioactive death ray and sell it to the Ku Klux Klan or to Jewish groups so they could eliminate the enemies of Israel; and Craig Cobb pleaded not guilty to seven terrorism charges stemming from a failed attempt to turn the town of Leith, North Dakota, into a white-separatist enclave called Cobbsville. “I warned him,” said former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard Tom Metzger, to whom Cobb had given a property, “not to bring in the Hollywood-style Nazis.”[29][30][31]


Sign up and get the Weekly Review delivered to your inbox every Tuesday morning.

Share
Single Page

More from Sara Breselor:

Weekly Review April 14, 2015, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Michael Slager is charged with murder, Hillary Clinton declares her candidacy for president, and a Utah television personality gets probation for kicking a barn owl

Weekly Review January 20, 2015, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The Pope says climate change is mostly man made, Al Qaeda claims responsibility for the attack on Charlie Hebdo, and residents of a town in Denmark agree to have sex more often

Weekly Review December 23, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

North Korea attacks the U.S. film industry, Pakistan reinstates the death penalty, and a Pennsylvania electrician stabs a Virgin Mary lawn ornament in the head

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

Tremendous Machine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Neoliberal Arts

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
New Television·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Season 5 of Louie (FX), Louie is a new kind of superhero. Like Wonder Woman, the canonical superhero he most resembles, Louie’s distinctive superpower is love.”
Illustration by Demetrios Psillos
Article
Romancing Kano·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.

In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.

Article
The Prisoner of Sex·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Gangs of Karachi·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
Photograph © Asim Rafiqui/NOOR Images
Article
Weed Whackers·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
Photograph by Chad Ress

Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.

A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today