Weekly Review — June 17, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

ISIS launches a major offensive in Iraq, the 2014 World Cup begins, and Florida keeps on being Florida

An American Mastiff.

An American Mastiff.

Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and stole $450 million from its central bank, then captured Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, and other cities as they advanced toward Baghdad and consolidated territory near the Syrian border. Iraqi soldiers abandoned government checkpoints and sold their service weapons, and the military bombed one of its own bases in an attempt to keep militants from seizing more arms. As many as 500,000 residents fled Mosul, and ISIS fighters posted photos online of what they claimed were the mass executions of 1,700 soldiers in Iraq’s northern Saladin Province.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] President Barack Obama announced that the United States would send an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf and deploy about 275 soldiers to provide support for embassy and military personnel, and Iran sent two units from its elite Revolutionary Guard to help fight militants. “We have to turn to the heavyweights,” said an Iraqi cabinet minister. “Iraq has not emerged from the fog at any point after Saddam.” “To just go in and burn up more resources on a place that seems bent on destruction? We had an opportunity there,” said Howard McKeon (R., Calif.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “We blew it.”[8][9][10] Five American Special Operations personnel and at least one Afghan soldier were killed by a U.S. Air Force bomber that accidentally struck their position in Afghanistan’s southern Zabul Province.[11] Syrian president Bashar al-Assad issued a decree granting amnesty for all crimes except terrorism, announced the release of an equestrian who had been imprisoned for 21 years after winning a race against Bashar’s brother Bassel, and reportedly ordered the bombing of northern Syrian ISIS strongholds in coordination with the government of Iraq. [12][13][14] Former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford urged the United States to provide arms to moderate forces fighting Assad’s government. “More hesitation and unwillingness,” said Ford, “simply hasten the day when American forces will have to intervene.”[15]

Al Shabab militants killed 48 people in an assault on the Kenyan coastal town of Mpeketoni.[16] In Ukraine, security services thwarted an assassination attempt on President Petro Poroshenko; pro-Russian rebels shot down a military aircraft, killing 49 soldiers; and the Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom stopped supplying natural gas over what it claimed was an unpaid $2 billion bill. “This is not about gas,” said Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk. “This is a general plan for the destruction of Ukraine.”[17][18] Organizers of an event at the University of Reading claimed that software designed by Russian and Ukrainian programmers had become the first to pass the Turing test, by convincing more than 30 percent of its interrogators during a series of keyboard conversations that it was actually a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy.[19] The Canadian Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot request private information from Internet service providers without a warrant, and YouTube denied the Egyptian government’s request to remove a video of a woman being sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square during a celebration for the inauguration of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.[20][21] Guccifer, the Romanian hacker who leaked images of paintings by former president George W. Bush, was sentenced to four years in prison for breaching the email accounts of world leaders.[22] A 10-year-old Sacramento boy graduated from high school, and a California superior-court judge eliminated the state’s tenure and seniority system for public-school teachers.[23][24] A mother of seven died in a Pennsylvania jail cell while serving a 48-hour sentence related to an unpaid $2,000 bill for her children’s truancy.[25] A 15-year-old Oregon boy brought an AR-15 rifle in a guitar case to his high school and shot and killed another student before killing himself, and the Oklahoma-based manufacturer of the Bodyguard Blanket, a $1,000 bulletproof cover designed to protect children in the event of a school shooting, revealed that sales in the product’s first ten days had been “very spirited.”[26][27][28] Pope Francis announced that he would no longer use the bulletproof Popemobile. “Let’s face it,” said Francis, “I don’t have much to lose.”[29]

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In Brazil, the 2014 World Cup began; doctors, housing advocates, and transit employees went on strike to protest the government’s overspending on the games; and a police officer was filmed firing a live round on demonstrators in Rio de Janeiro.[30][31][32] Two macaws, three Gentoo penguins, and a loggerhead turtle accurately forecast a victory for Brazil in its opening game against Croatia, and the Chinese government barred panda cubs at a Chengdu zoo from offering match predictions.[33][34][35] House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced that he would step down from his position after he lost the Republican primary for his seat by 11 percentage points to Tea Party–backed candidate Dave Brat.[36][37] The Minnesota Republican Party denied knowing that its state Supreme Court candidate, Michelle MacDonald, had a DUI case pending. “When I was being interviewed,” said MacDonald, “they were saying this is a good thing.”[38] A Massachusetts law firm that specializes in processing foreclosures was evicted for failing to pay its rent.[39] In Fresno, California, a burglary defendant was stabbed to death by his sister’s boyfriend hours after being mistakenly freed by a jury that had checked the wrong box on a court form.[40] Florida authorities discovered 23 grams of marijuana hidden in the rolls of a 450-pound man’s stomach fat, confirmed that a woman named Crystal Metheney had fired a BB gun into a car carrying three children last month, and arrested a man who had attempted to solicit a prostitute without money. “You got food?” the undercover agent had asked. “I’ll give you a blow job for a salad.”[41][42][43][44]


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In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.

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