Weekly Review — November 29, 2016, 4:01 pm

Weekly Review

Fidel Castro dies at 90, snow falls in Tokyo for the first time in 50 years, and scientists suggest that the speed of light has declined.

the magnificent bird of paradise.

the magnificent bird of paradise.

Fidel Castro, the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary who led Cuba from 1959 to 2011, died at age 90.[1] It was reported by his secret-service chief that during Castro’s tenure, he survived at least 634 assassination attempts, including plans by the CIA to kill him with poisonous milkshakes, toxic fountain pens, a scuba-diving suit covered with a fungus that causes skin disease, and a large seashell booby-trapped with explosives and planted on the ocean floor.[2] When Castro’s death was announced, Cuban exiles danced and banged pots in the streets of Miami, Russian president Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to Castro’s brother expressing his condolences for the loss of a “sincere and reliable friend,” and President-elect Donald Trump said that Castro was a “brutal dictator” from a “totalitarian island.”[3][4] Concrete barriers and metal barricades were installed around Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York Police Department officials reported that the city is spending more than a million dollars a day to protect Trump and his family, and it was announced that the Secret Service may have to rent a floor of Trump Tower to create a command post for its agents.[5][6][7][8] Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein filed a petition to begin a recount of votes in Wisconsin, and said she would file similar petitions in Michigan and Pennsylvania, a move that Trump described as a “scam.” “I won the popular vote,” said the president-elect, who did not win the popular vote.[9][10]

At least nine people were killed when Hurricane Otto passed near the border of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, the southernmost point a hurricane has made landfall since record-keeping began; snow fell in Tokyo in November for the first time in more than 50 years; wildfires in Israel prompted tens of thousands of residents to flee the city of Haifa; major flooding in South London led to the formation of a sinkhole that swallowed part of a bus; and the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that sea ice currently covers 552,000 fewer square miles of the Arctic than it did during the previous record low.[11][12][13][14][15][16] Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said that the president-elect believes climate change is a “bunch of bunk,” and senior advisers announced that Trump would be pulling all funding from NASA’s climate-change research projects, replacing them with programs to explore the rest of the solar system by the end of the century.[17][18] NASA announced a public competition to figure out what to do with astronaut excrement, and physicists in Canada and England suggested that light is slower than it used to be.[19][20][21]

A pet squirrel riding England’s Southeastern Railway with its owners got stuck beneath a seat, disrupting train service from Orpington, and a squirrel in Chicago jumped into the spokes of an alderman’s bicycle, causing the politician to fall and fracture his skull. “It was like a suicide bomber,” he said.[22] A man in Japan was arrested for stealing a prospective employer’s wallet during a job interview, and a court in Germany ruled that it is safe for a woman with breast implants to be a police officer.[23][24][25] Swedish biologists studying coercive mating in mosquitofish discovered that females’ brains get larger as males’ genitals get longer, and male Madagascar hissing cockroaches were found to attract mates with either their enlarged testicles or their enlarged horns.[26][27][28] Hundreds of Viagra pills were found in the office of the South Korean president, who is a woman; North Korean leader Kim Jong-un asked his country’s scientists to develop a cure for sexual dysfunction using snake extracts, mushrooms, and sea urchins; and snakes in the United States were reportedly succumbing en masse to a fungal skin disease.[29][30][31] In Texas, a man was arrested for handing out pornographic DVDs to trick-or-treaters on Halloween. “He wanted,” said a neighbor, “to give a little more.”[32]

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I first heard the name Barack Obama in the spring of 2004, while visiting my mother in Chicago. As we sat around the kitchen table early one spring morning, I noticed a handsome studio portrait among the pictures, lists, cards, and other totems of family life fastened to the refrigerator door. “Who’s the guy with the ears?” I asked, assuming he was some distant relative or family friend I didn’t know or else had forgotten. “Barack Obama,” she answered with a broad smile. “He’s running for Senate, but he’s going to be the first black president.”

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