Fourteen years and one month after taking power, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez died of cancer at the age of 58 in a military hospital in Caracas. On state television, interim president Nicolas Maduro stated that Chávez’s cancer was the work of “the historical enemies of our homeland,” adding that Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, who died in a coma in 2004, was likewise “inoculated with an illness.” In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared a national day of mourning and said he had “no doubt that [Chávez] will return alongside Jesus Christ.” The mortician who embalmed Filipino president Ferdinand Marcos volunteered his services to Venezuelan authorities after they announced that Chávez’s corpse would be displayed in a glass case in the country’s Museo de la Revolución. “I was told they preserved Lenin using resin,” he said. “I would do it differently.” Outside Caracas’s military academy, mourners waited six hours to see Chávez’s body for five seconds. “This is a big joke,” said a resident of the city’s wealthy La Floresta district. “I feel ridiculous as a Venezuelan.” In Rio de Janeiro, a woman in a long skirt was leaving gift-wrapped human skulls at foreign consulates. Uhuru Kenyatta, who is facing charges of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court for allegedly inciting violence after the 2007 Kenyan presidential election, was elected president of Kenya. North Korea nullified the armistice it signed in 1953 with South Korea, and an investigation by the Guardian newspaper revealed James Steele, a top adviser to U.S. general David Petraeus while he was the commander of coalition forces during the Iraq War, to have trained paramilitary death squads in El Salvador, and alleged that both men knowingly allowed prisoners to be tortured in Iraq. “While this interview was going on with a Saudi jihadi with Jim Steele in the room,” said an American reporter, “there were these terrible screams, somebody shouting: ‘Allah, Allah, Allah!’ But it wasn’t religious ecstasy.” The United Nations counted the one millionth refugee from the Syrian civil war.
Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) protested Attorney General Eric Holder’s assertion that drone strikes against Americans on U.S. soil were “possible” with a 13-hour filibuster of John O. Brennan’s confirmation as director of the CIA. Paul began by reciting from an amended version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “ ‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen. ‘I won’t!’ said Alice. ‘Release the drones,’ said the Queen.” The following day, Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office to Brennan on a copy of the Constitution drafted in 1787, four years before the ratification of the Bill of Rights. A drone was spotted over New York City, and federal authorities approved the use of 58-inch-long surveillance helicopters over Arlington, Texas. Police in Bakersfield, California, began an inquiry into the death of an 87-year-old woman who experienced shortness of breath at her assisted-living community, prompting a nurse to dial 911 rather than administer CPR. “Is there anybody that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?” asked the dispatcher. “Not at this time,” said the nurse. A Philadelphia woman stole a police officer’s car while the officer was apprehending her boyfriend for helping her steal a different police car, and an Ada, Oklahoma, woman was arrested with a loaded .22-caliber revolver concealed inside her vagina and bags of “a crystal substance” between her buttocks. “Ms. Harris stated several times,” said the police report, “that she needed to go to the bathroom.”
A 350-pound African lion named Cous Cous killed an intern at the Cat Haven sanctuary in Fresno, California, and a lion attacked a couple in flagrante near Kariba, Zimbabwe, killing the woman but allowing the man to escape wearing only a condom. “They were doing it sideways,” said a witness. “The lion came from behind.” A French judge ordered the seizure of assets belonging to a former wife of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, after she failed to pay a $7.5 million bill for a six-month stay at the Shangri-La Hotel in Paris. Bolshoi Ballet dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko confessed to having hired a man to attack Sergei Filin, the company’s artistic director, but argued that his instructions had been misconstrued. “When he said, ‘OK, let me beat him up, hit him over the head,’ I agreed,” said Dmitrichenko. “It’s not true that I ordered him to throw acid.” Observers speculated that the attack was motivated by Filin’s failure to cast Dmitrichenko’s girlfriend in leading roles. “But,” said ballet teacher Marina Kondratyeva, “she was just plain fat.” A British inventor was accused of selling for as much as $40,000 bomb detectors adapted from $20 golf-ball finders, and an Indian subsidiary of the British confectioner Cadbury was found to have fabricated a chocolate factory in order to save $46 million in corporate taxes. In England, York University student James White was banned from owning a pet for eight years after telling a court he was drunk to “the point of madness” when he fried his roommate’s hamster. “What if I fucking fried it?” White had told police. “I fried it.”
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