[Weekly Review] | September 24, 2013, by Jacob Z. Gross | Harper's Magazine

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[Weekly Review]

Weekly Review


Deadly terrorist attacks in Nairobi and Peshawar, House Republicans attempt to defund Obamacare, and a bookless library opens in San Antonio

An American Mastiff.

An American Mastiff.

In Nairobi, two groups of gunmen stormed the upscale Westgate shopping mall on Saturday and killed at least 62 people, then took some shoppers hostage and began a standoff with Kenyan security forces that continued into Monday night. The assailants, who were believed to belong to the Somali terrorist organization Al Shabab, reportedly told Muslims to flee while other shoppers hid in ventilation shafts and behind mannequins. The International Criminal Court excused Kenyan vice president William Ruto from his trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity so he could help resolve the hostage crisis, while Kenyan forces launched a rescue mission on Sunday night, with operations continuing through Monday amid government reports that 11 soldiers had been wounded, that the gunmen were a “multinational collection,” and that all hostages had been freed. “We have ashamed and defeated our attackers,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose nephew was among the dead. “Let us continue to wage a relentless moral war.”[1][2][3][4] A wing of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed 78 worshippers at a church in Peshawar, and the Pakistani government released one of the founders of the Afghan Taliban from prison.[5][6][7] Iran freed more than 90 political prisoners, announced that its sole Jewish parliamentarian would attend the United Nations General Assembly, and said that it was not pursuing a nuclear-weapons program. “We consider war a weakness,” said Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. “He will smile all the way to the bomb,” said Israel’s intelligence minister.[8][9][10][11] A Chinese court sentenced former Communist Party official Bo Xilai to life in prison for corruption and abuse of power. “I could suffer even greater miseries,” said Bo, who is expected to appeal the sentence. “I will wait quietly in the prison.”[12][13] A federal judge ordered the retrial of five former New Orleans police officers convicted of civil-rights violations related to the 2005 deaths of two black men after it was revealed that a prosecutor had commented anonymously about the case on a newspaper website, and a Texas appeals court overturned the conviction of former House majority leader Tom DeLay for illegally funneling money to Republican candidates. “This was an outrageous criminalization,” said DeLay, “of politics.”[14][15]

House Republicans passed a bill cutting $40 billion from the federal food-stamp program, passed another bill that would fund the U.S. government until December only if all spending for the Affordable Care Act were eliminated, and threatened to allow the country to begin defaulting on its debts when its borrowing authority runs out in mid-October. “If we don’t raise the debt ceiling,” said President Barack Obama, “America becomes a deadbeat.”[16][17][18] Citing the ongoing federal budget sequestration, a Brooklyn judge rejected a request to sequester the jury in a murder trial.[19] Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi announced that he would not relinquish his senate seat despite a conviction for tax fraud earlier this year and a police investigation into his alleged solicitation of underage prostitutes. “Berlusconi is on trial for living with women,” said Russian president Vladimir Putin. “If he were homosexual, nobody would dare touch him.”[20][21] Italian lawmakers staged a same-sex kiss-in during a parliamentary session, and Pope Francis said in an interview that the Catholic church’s pastoral ministry needed to soften its preaching about the evils of homosexuality and abortion. “The moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards,” said Francis, “losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”[22][23] Sweden’s National Food Agency confirmed that the anal secretions with which beavers mark their territory can be used as vanilla flavoring in baked goods.[24]


Former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden claimed that terrorists prefer Gmail and defended the right of the United States to police the Internet. “We built it,” said Hayden. “It was quintessentially American.”[25] Brazilian hackers seeking to attack the NSA embedded the message “Stop spying on us” on several websites belonging to NASA.[26] Facebook apologized for permitting an online-dating site to run an ad featuring the photograph of a girl who committed suicide after she was gang-raped then taunted on Facebook, and Coca-Cola apologized to the family of an autistic girl after her sister discovered the words YOU RETARD printed under a bottle cap.[27][28] A bookless library opened in San Antonio, a former Amazon executive was killed by a van delivering Amazon orders, and Randolph County, North Carolina, banned Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man from its schools. “It was a hard read,” said board of education chairman Tommy McDonald.[29][30][31] A Florida man was arrested after he beat his daughter to the rhythm of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”[32] The French senate passed a bill banning child beauty pageants, in an attempt to combat the hypersexualization of minors, and Norwegian social anthropologists credited school-supervised “positive touching” with improving the sociability of young boys.[33][34] Several University of Alabama sororities accepted their first minority students after systematic segregation in the Greek system was revealed by the school’s student newspaper, the Crimson White.[35] Leith, North Dakota, was considering a plan to condemn the home of neo-Nazi Paul Craig Cobb in order to prevent him from building a white-supremacist colony in the town. “Legal paperwork is being drafted,” said a commander of the American National Socialist Movement, “to ensure the civil rights of Mr. Cobb.”[36]

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