Weekly Review — March 25, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Malaysia declares Flight 370 lost, the Westboro Baptist Church loses its patriarch, and Hawaiian police officers fight for their right to have on-duty sex with prostitutes

An American Mastiff.

An American Mastiff.

Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak announced that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, had crashed into the southern Indian Ocean. The airline sent a text message to inform the missing passengers’ relatives, a few of whom had been briefly locked up in a hotel room three days earlier after they stormed a press conference. “I tell you, this was the wrong way to release this information,” said a sobbing representative of the families. “Don’t film,” shouted a man as he kicked a TV camera operator. “I’ll beat you to death!”[1][2][3][4] Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a treaty formally annexing Crimea and ordered a fireworks display in celebration. Ukraine began withdrawing its troops from the region and reported that a group of “aggressive women” had overtaken its naval headquarters in Sevastopol. “Putin gives us hope,” said a woman in the breakaway Moldovan republic of Transdniester. “He is reuniting the Soviet Union.” The G7 nations suspended their participation in the G8, and U.S. president Barack Obama announced expanded sanctions against several members of Putin’s inner circle, prompting Putin to bar nine American officials, including Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.), from entering Russia. “I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off,” said McCain. “The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock,” said a sanctioned Russian official. “I don’t need a visa to access their work.”[5][6][7][8][9][10][11] Documents released by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden exposed details of a voice-interception system called MYSTIC that allows the NSA to record every telephone call made in a foreign country and play it back up to a month later, and revealed that the United States had hacked the servers of Huawei, a telecommunications company suspected of having ties with the Chinese military.[12][13] An Israeli real-estate agent threatened to sue the attorney of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy after learning that, in an effort to avoid wiretaps, Sarkozy had conducted business on a phone registered in the agent’s name, and former American president Jimmy Carter offered advice on evading government surveillance to panelists on NBC’s Meet the Press. “When I want to communicate with a foreign leader privately,” he said, “I type or write a letter myself, put it in the post office, and mail it.”[14][15] Microsoft was found to have uncovered the identity of a former employee who leaked secrets to a tech blogger by searching the blogger’s Hotmail account.[16]

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was allegedly heard alluding to his involvement in corruption in recordings that circulated last month on social media, ordered that Twitter be blocked, prompting traffic originating from Turkey on the microblogging service to increase 138 percent, and announced that Turkish forces had shot down a Syrian warplane after it crossed into Turkey. “If you violate my airspace,” said Erdogan, “our slap after this will be hard.”[17][18] Syrian government forces captured the Crac des Chevaliers, a twelfth-century Crusader castle near Homs, from antigovernment fighters; Israel shut down all 103 of its foreign missions after its diplomats went on strike; and an Egyptian court sentenced 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death for the murder of a police officer last August.[19][20][21] American authorities arrested a 20-year-old National Guardsman from California who was allegedly planning to join up with Islamist militants fighting in Syria. “I would love to join Allah’s army,” he posted on Instagram under the name Assad Teausant bigolsmurf, “but I don’t even know how to start.”[22] Police in Houston raided a 1,200-square-foot house where more than 100 people smuggled into the country from Latin America were living and sharing a single toilet, and Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission opened an investigation into the apparent suicide of an eight-year-old girl after she was detained while trying to cross into the United States.[23][24] New York City authorities admitted that a Rikers Island inmate named Jerome Murdough had likely died because the temperature in his cell had risen above 100°F. “He basically baked to death,” said an official.[25]

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Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, which filed for bankruptcy last month, discovered $116 million worth of bitcoins in an old wallet.[26] Police officers in Hawaii lobbied to retain a provision in the state legal code that permits them to have sex with prostitutes while on duty, and customs officials in Leipzig were reported to have seized a package of cocaine-filled condoms destined for the Vatican.[27][28] Catholic League president Bill Donohue called for a boycott of three beer companies that pulled their sponsorship from St. Patrick’s Day parades over bans on the participation of gay and lesbian groups, and applied to march in New York City’s gay-pride parade carrying a banner reading “Straight Is Great.”[29][30] Hundreds of gay couples in Michigan married after a federal judge struck down a state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage and before an appeals court temporarily reinstated it.[31] A man stole meat from a New Jersey grocery store by claiming to have AIDS and threatening employees with a syringe, and preacher Fred Phelps, whose Westboro Baptist Church picketed the funerals of military service members and AIDS victims in order to spread its antigay message, died at 84. “There will not,” said Phelps’s daughter, “be a funeral.”[32][33]


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The new docudrama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) isn’t really about Orenthal James Simpson. It’s about the trials that ran alongside his — those informal, unboundaried, court-of-public-opinion trials in which evidence was heard for and against the murder victims, the defense and the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the Los Angeles Police Department, to say nothing of white and black America. History has freed us from suspense about Simpson’s verdict, so that the man himself (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is less the tragic hero he seemed in the mid-Nineties than a curiously minor character. He comes to the center of our attention only once, in Episode 2, at the end of the lengthy Ford Bronco chase scene — which in real life was followed by a surreal cavalcade of police cars and media helicopters, as well as an estimated 95 million live viewers — when Simpson repeatedly, and with apparent sincerity, apologizes for taking up so much of so many people’s time. It is an uncannily ordinary moment of social decorum, a sort of could-you-please-pass-the-salt gesture on a sinking Titanic, in which Simpson briefly becomes more than just an archetype.

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