[Weekly Review] | Weekly Review, by Jesse Barron | Harper's Magazine

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[Weekly Review]

Weekly Review


Inauguration week politics, Aramaic vowel preservation, and Canadian foreskin awareness

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term as president of the United States. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office using a Bible that once belonged to King, and Beyoncé lip-synched “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The president attended a public ball at which guests were served pretzels, mixed nuts, and Cheez-Its, then went to an afterparty in the East Room of the White House, where he led a conga line and competed in a dance-off to the song “Gangnam Style” against singers Janelle Monáe and Usher. “Today has been dubbed . . . ‘Blue Monday,’ the most depressing day of the year,” said Fox News host Steve Doocy. “It has to do with drab weather, holiday bills, and resolutions that we have not met.”[1][2][3][4][5][6] Reince Priebus, who installed in his office the empty chair Clint Eastwood addressed as if it were Obama at the Republican National Convention, was elected to a second term as Republican National Committee chairman at the party’s winter gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina. In an address to attendees, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal asserted that “a handful of good websites” could replace most of the federal bureaucracy. “We must stop being the stupid party,” he said.[7][8][9] New Mexico state representative Cathrynn N. Brown introduced a bill classifying fetuses conceived through rape as “evidence” and abortion of those fetuses as “tampering,” a measure she explained would prevent rapists from compelling their victims to have abortions.[10] The Mississippi Department of Health announced that it would revoke the license of the state’s only abortion clinic over its failure to comply with a newly passed law requiring providers to have hospital admitting privileges, which have been denied the clinic’s doctors by seven hospitals in Jackson. “We were last on civil rights,” said anti-abortion lobbyist Terri Herring, “but we can be first on human rights.”[11][12] A Catholic hospital in Canon City, Colorado, successfully defended itself against a wrongful-death lawsuit over its failure to perform a Caesarean section to save the unborn twins of a dying pregnant woman by arguing that a fetus is not a person. “They’re acting like harlots,” said Catholic League president Bill Donohue. “They should be stripped of their Catholicity.”[13][14]

In Santa Maria, Brazil, 231 people died in a nightclub fire after pyrotechnics set off by country band Gurizada Fandangueira set alight soundproofing panels on the ceiling. The band’s accordion player was killed when he re-entered the burning club to save his instrument, and an investigation determined that the club had no fire alarm, fire escape, or sprinklers, and had only one exit.[15][16] In Mali, French-led troops regained control of the cities of Gao and Timbuktu from Islamist forces. Before fleeing Timbuktu, militants set fire to the Ahmed Baba Institute, which houses manuscripts dating to the twelfth century. “They are bandits,” said institute employee Ali Baba.[17][18] Exxon Mobil overtook Apple to again become the world’s most valuable company, and an Australian company announced the discovery of up to 233 billion barrels of oil beneath the outback.[19][20] Putrid fumes from a gas leak at a factory in Rouen, France, drifted to Paris and the English coast. “Put some Vicks on a tissue,” tweeted the Hastings police, “or carry a scented pomander.”[21][22][23] Twenty-seven tons of caramelized goat cheese burned for five days after catching fire in Brattli Tunnel in Tysfjord, Norway, and an Australian judge exonerated a goat for eating flowers outside the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art.[24][25] The USS Guardian, a U.S. navy minesweeper, struck the Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines, damaging 10,000 square feet of coral. “Just the fact that you allow it to touch ground,” said Filipino transportation secretary Joseph Abaya, “is a mortal sin.”[26][27]


It was reported that University of Cambridge linguist Geoffrey Khan and tax preparer Elias Bet-shmuel were recording members of the Assyrian community in suburban Chicago, who are among the last speakers of Aramaic, in an attempt to preserve the language’s dialects before it dies out. “I’m getting very excited about some vowels here,” said Khan. “I’m getting excited about the kadeh [pastry],” said Bet-shmuel.[28] Two employees at a cold-storage facility in Georgia stole $65,000 worth of chicken wings, which tend to be scarcest during Super Bowl week. “Chicken companies are not able to produce wings,” said a National Chicken Council spokesman of possible wing shortages, “without the rest of the chicken.”[29][30] In Trinidad and Tobago, a security guard was charged with carrying an unlicensed firearm after he accidentally shot off his penis.[31][32] Activists from the Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project (CAN-FAP) protested Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of an antiwrinkle cream containing cells from the foreskins of infants; the sheriff of Woolwich, Maine, revealed the theft of a rare porcelain Oprah doll; and the leader of a gang of Colorado laundry-detergent thieves was sentenced to 30 months in prison.[33][34][35] In New York City, the subject of the 2007 documentary Crazy Love reported the death of his wife, whom he married in 1974 after serving a 14-year prison term for hiring hit men to blind her with lye. “This,” said Burton Pugach, “was a very fairy-tale romance.”[36]

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