Weekly Review — July 22, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The “mystery” of who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17; the theater of war in Gaza; and ritual crime in Iceland

“His Majesty Frank Penguin, King of the Brutes” (January 1857)

“His Majesty Frank Penguin, King of the Brutes” (January 1857)

One day after U.S. president Barack Obama imposed new economic sanctions on Russia as punishment for providing weapons and fighters to separatist militias in eastern Ukraine, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over Ukraine with a Russian-made SA-11 missile system, killing all 298 people on board.[1][2][3] Armed separatists took possession of the plane’s black boxes, blocked European investigators from entering the crash site, and withheld the victims’ bodies before allowing three Dutch forensics experts access to the refrigerated rail cars where the bodies were being stored.[4][5][6][7] The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that five Ukrainian air-defense systems were within firing range of the plane, and Ukraine released a recording, subsequently authenticated by U.S. analysts, of militia leader Igor Bezler confirming responsibility for the attack. “Of course, the state over whose territory it happened is responsible for this terrible tragedy,” said Russian president Vladimir Putin. “Tomorrow the Ukrainians are going to say that I shot this plane down with my gun,” said a coal miner fighting with the separatists. “We have just shot down a plane,” said Bezler in the recording. “It was 100 percent a passenger aircraft. . . . Fuck.”[8][9][10][11][12][13] In Libya, at least 47 people died in fighting between rival militias for control of Tripoli International Airport.[14] Boko Haram killed at least 100 people in a dawn attack on the northeastern Nigerian town of Damboa.[15] Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul left or converted under threat from the Islamic States of Iraq and the Levant, and Iraqi forces preparing to raise victory flags over government buildings in Tikrit following days of bombardment were ambushed and routed by ISIL militants. “The doors of hell opened,” said a wounded Iraqi soldier. “Suicide bombers were throwing themselves from the windows and detonated themselves in the air.”[16][17] A 76-yard-deep crater appeared at the End of the World.[18]

Israeli forces entered Gaza and began a ground operation focused on destroying tunnels used by militants from Hamas. The death toll since the conflict began two weeks ago reached at least 556 Palestinians and 27 Israelis, including more than 60 Palestinian soldiers and civilians and 13 Israeli soldiers who were killed during a battle in the Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City on Sunday. “They are targeting whole families,” said a surgeon at Shifa Hospital. “Civilian casualties are unintended by us, but intended by Hamas,” said Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause.”[19][20][21][22][23] In the border town of Sderot, Israelis gathered on a hilltop to eat popcorn and cheer strikes on Palestinian towns below.[24][25] Bashar al-Assad was sworn in for a third seven-year term as president of Syria, and former Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega, who has been imprisoned in three countries on drug-trafficking and murder charges, filed suit against the makers of the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops II for depicting him as “a kidnapper, murderer, and enemy of the state.”[26][27] Australia repealed its two-year-old tax on heavy carbon-dioxide emitters, becoming the first developed nation to reverse such legislation. “A useless destructive tax,” said Prime Minister Tony Abbott, “is finally gone.”[28][29] Paleontologists reported discovering the fossilized remains of a four-winged dinosaur in China’s Liaoning Province and the fossilized brain of a predatory 520-million-year-old shrimp in Yunnan Province.[30][31] A waitress in Chengdu ate a cockroach in response to a complaint by a customer who had discovered the bug in his salad. “You will always find cockroaches in the food,” she told him. “It is very normal.”[32] A three-year-old Filipina girl awoke at her own funeral.[33]

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Police in Bangalore said that a six-year-old girl complaining of stomach pains had been raped at school two weeks prior by a security guard and a gym teacher.[34][35] A survey of scientists who conduct field research found that 64 percent of 666 mostly female students who were polled had experienced sexual harassment at a worksite. “People are being told,” said the study’s lead author, “ ‘What happens in the field stays in the field.’ ”[36] The corpses of 55 catsharks and smoothhounds were discovered on Pwll Du beach in Wales, and a great white shark washed up on Australia’s Coronation Beach with a sea lion stuck in its throat.[37][38] British economists correlated the happiness of a country’s population with its genetic resemblance to Danes.[39] A Reykjavík burglar was arrested for the fourteenth time in 14 days, and French police chased a thief carrying 100,000 euros in gold coins through the Paris Metro.[40][41] The Japanese artist Rokudenashiko was arrested for distributing 3D-printer schematics of her vagina in exchange for donations intended for the construction of a kayak.[42] The state of California approved outdoor-watering restrictions carrying fines of up to $500, and a California couple who had been under-watering their lawn were ordered by the city of Glendora to restore their green grass under threat of a $500 fine.[43] A water mite discovered in Puerto Rico’s Mona Passage was named Litarachna lopezae in honor of Jennifer Lopez, and a Seattle man burned down his own house while trying to kill a spider with a makeshift blowtorch. “I’m pretty sure,” said a fire-department spokesperson, “the spider did not survive.”[44][45]


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I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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