Weekly Review, by Anthony Lydgate | Harper's Magazine

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[Weekly Review]

Weekly Review


Turmoil in Gaza, Republican hand-wringing, and a narcoleptic goat named Voldemort

The Israeli military began Operation Pillar of Defense, in what it claimed was a response to ongoing rocket attacks launched from Gaza. “We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead,” tweeted the Israeli Defense Forces. “Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves),” tweeted the Al Qassam Brigades. Hackers launched 44 million cyberattacks on Israeli government websites, and Hamas for the first time fired on targets in Jerusalem, where civil-defense sirens went off on Friday. “I thought, ‘Is that for Shabbat?’ ” said West Jerusalem resident Judy Axelrod, who took refuge in a YMCA. Israeli officials claimed that Iron Dome, an American-financed missile-defense system, had successfully intercepted 80 to 90 percent of the rockets bound for densely populated areas, and a Hamas official claimed that a ceasefire being negotiated in Egypt was 90 percent complete. Three Israelis and more than 100 Palestinians had died by Monday morning.[1][2][3][4][5][6] Turkey, which along with the European Union and several Gulf states officially recognized Syria’s rebel coalition as the country’s legitimate government, was expected to request that NATO provide batteries of Patriot missiles to protect its border from attacks by the Assad regime, whose forces were shelling rebel positions near Damascus. “Huge, random destruction,” said an opposition activist.[7][8][9] Lexicographers declared omnishambles, meaning “a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations,” English word of the year.[10]

Climatologists announced that October was the 332nd month in a row with hotter-than-average temperatures.[11] The New York City Buildings Department condemned 200 houses because of structural damage that occurred during Hurricane Sandy, and the Long Island Power Authority, whose trustees spent 39 seconds discussing preparations for the storm before it arrived, had yet to restore electricity to thousands of residents. “I think my children could do a better job managing that company than their current staff does,” said a woman whose 17-year-old parrot died from the cold.[12][13] In a settlement with the U.S. government over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of April 2010, BP pleaded guilty to 11 counts of felony manslaughter and agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines and penalties.[14][15] Divers in the Gulf of Mexico recovered the body of an oil worker who died in a rig fire on Friday.[16] Former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour said that the Republican Party was in need of a “very serious proctology exam,” and conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist said Mitt Romney had lost the presidential election because he was a “poopy-head.”[17][18] In a conference call with donors, Romney suggested that Barack Obama had been reelected for “giving away free stuff,” including contraception to college-age women and immigration reform to Hispanics.[19] Charlie Webster, the chairman of the Maine Republican Party, was criticized for suggesting that the presence of dozens of black voters in rural parts of the state was a sign of voting irregularities. “I play basketball every Sunday with a black guy,” said Webster in defending himself. “The Republican Party needs quite a bit of reform,” said a man with a Romney–Ryan face tattoo.[20][21] An ABC News affiliate in Denver misreported the title of All In, Paula Broadwell’s biography of General David Petraeus, as All Up In My Snatch, and a Taliban official expressed amusement at the affair between Petraeus and Broadwell, which led Petraeus to resign as CIA director. “What a bastard!” said the official. “From a Pashtun point of view, Petraeus should be shot by relatives from his mistress’s family.”[22][23][24]

A Utah paperboy was knocked off his bike and treed by a narcoleptic goat named Voldemort, and a federal judge ruled that an Iranian man’s table-tennis skills did not constitute the kind of “extraordinary ability” necessary to obtain a work visa.[25][26] Hostess, the maker of the Twinkie, ceased baking Friday, announced it would enter bankruptcy proceedings, then began mediation talks with its second-largest employee union. “The people who are running this company are not interested in making bread,” said a bun bagger. “They are just interested in the money.”[27][28][29] Galapagos Islands conservationists planned to eradicate 180 million invasive rats living on the seven-square-mile islet of Pinzon. “This is a very expensive but totally necessary war,” said one official.[30] A paper published in the journal ZooKeys described the anatomy of Illacme plenipes, a recently rediscovered species of millipede that can have as many as 750 legs. “It would only need to add a few more segments to get an even 1,000,” said entomologist Paul Marek, “which would be fantastic.”[31] Twenty-eight women broke the Guinness world record for most people in a Mini Cooper at one time. “What differentiates us from animals,” said a Guinness editor, “is that we do things that are distracting and fun.”[32] Researchers found that bored captive minks will entertain themselves with leather gloves.[33] A Canadian man who for the past 12 years has been in a vegetative state imagined playing tennis in order to convey to neurologists that he knew of the existence of his niece, born five years after his injury, and imagined walking through his house to convey to them that he was not in physical pain.[34] Novelist Philip Roth announced his retirement. “Writing is frustration,” said Roth, who is helping his ex-girlfriend’s eight-year-old daughter write a novella, “not to mention humiliation.”[35]

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