Weekly Review

Weekly Review — September 3, 2015, 12:01 am

Weekly Review

The Syrian government carried out air strikes and barrel bombings against rebels in the Damascus suburb of Douma, killing at least 150 civilians; Syrian rebels accused the Islamic State of using mustard gas on children; the head of an international gay-rights organization told the United Nations that the Islamic State has shot, stoned, beheaded, or pushed from tall buildings at least 30 gay, lesbian, and transgender people; and a study in Germany found that civil wars, political uprisings, and the spread of the Islamic State have improved air quality in the Middle East. “Negative NO2 trends,” the scientists wrote, “are associated with humanitarian catastrophes.” Read more…

Weekly Review — August 25, 2015, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter announced he would begin radiation therapy for brain cancer and said he hoped to see the eradication of the guinea worm before he dies. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump held a rally that drew at least 20,000 people in Mobile, Alabama; and poll found that 81 percent of North Carolina voters are unsure how they feel about Deez Nuts, a 15-year-old presidential candidate. “Anyone,” said Deez Nuts, “can run.”

Weekly Review — August 18, 2015, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

In Mississippi, a suit was filed challenging a state law that forbids adoption by same-sex couples; in Ohio, a judicial-conduct board announced that judges who perform marriages must wed same-sex couples; and the clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, who stopped issuing all marriage licenses when same-sex unions became legal, did not show up for work after receiving a court order to resume issuing licenses. Read more…

Weekly Review — August 11, 2015, 12:34 pm

Weekly Review

The Islamic State captured at least 230 people in the Syrian town of al-Qaryatayn and threatened to behead a man for protesting the arrests of Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated women in Egypt. Nineteen girls held hostage by the group in Mosul, Iraq, were executed for refusing to have sex with soldiers, and the United Nations confirmed the authenticity of an Islamic State pamphlet listing the prices of its sex slaves. “The girls get peddled,” said one U.N. official, “like barrels of petrol.” Read more…

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“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
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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.

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The Prisoner of Sex·

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“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
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“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
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“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.

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