On Tuesday, American state governments opened online health-care marketplaces for uninsured citizens in accordance with the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Nearly 5 million people visited healthcare.gov in its first 24 hours, causing most of the 36 exchanges being administered by the federal government to crash. On the same day, a U.S. government shutdown went into effect after the Senate rejected a spending bill passed by House Republicans that would have delayed by a year the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that citizens obtain health coverage. An estimated 800,000 federal workers were furloughed, and 1.3 million others were asked to work without compensation. The National Zoo’s giant-panda cam was shut down, the Ku Klux Klan was forced to cancel a rally at Gettysburg, a National Weather Service employee issued a forecast containing the acrostic PLEASEPAYUS, and Curiosity went into protective mode on Mars. “It’s very hard from a distance to figure out who has lost their minds,” said Senator Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.). “Lemmings with suicide vests,” said Congressman Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) of his party colleagues. Congressman Randy Neugebauer (R., Tx.), who said he would help shut down the government for “as long as it takes” to halt the funding of the Affordable Care Act, berated a newly unpaid National Parks Service ranger who had been forced to deny U.S. military veterans access to the World War II memorial in Washington D.C., and the New York Times traced the Republicans’ defunding strategy to a blueprint drafted by conservative groups shortly after President Barack Obama began his second term. “Obamacare is a train wreck,” read a social-media talking point provided to Republican lawmakers. “#trainwreck,” tweeted Speaker of the House John Boehner, thrice.
The Pentagon was revealed to have awarded 94 contracts worth $5 billion on the eve of the shutdown, purchasing such goods as cots, Finnish hand grenades, and robot submarines. Military-thriller author Tom Clancy died at 66, and General Vo Nguyen Giap, who led the North Vietnamese resistance against France and the United States, died at 102. “Any forces that wish to impose their will on other nations,” Vo once told reporters, “will certainly face failure.” In the Somali town of Barawe, Navy SEALs staged an unsuccessful raid to capture an Al Shabab coordinator, and in Tripoli, Delta Force commandos captured a militant under indictment for participating in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. At least 211 people died when a boat containing Eritrean, Ghanaian, and Somali migrants capsized off the Italian island of Lampedusa. “The Mediterranean cannot remain a huge cemetery under the open skies,” said French foreign minister Laurent Fabius. At least 53 people were killed during protests against Egypt’s ruling military junta. International inspectors began destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, and the country’s deputy prime minister told the United Nations that his government’s enemies supported “sexual jihad.” The Palestinian Authority’s supreme fatwa council consented to online dating. The Olympic flame died in Russia, and a woman was killed and a man lost his legs after they were run over while having sex on railroad tracks in Zaporozhye, Ukraine. “We wanted,” said the man, “to experience an extreme sensation.”
Canada opened its medical-marijuana market to large-scale producers, and the FBI shut down the online drug marketplace Silk Road, arrested its alleged operator, Dread Pirate Roberts, and seized 26,000 of his bitcoins. A Brazilian smuggler was crushed by a half-ton of marijuana, a Swedish man was crushed by a half-ton of bacon, and a Spanish man was crushed by five and a half tons of grapes. Conor P. Fudge was charged for a burglary at Iowa City’s Cold Stone Creamery. In the United Kingdom, where an appellate court ended Cadbury’s monopoly on the color purple, Lord Sugar was investigated for racism. Consumer-genomics company 23andMe received a patent for a calculator that could allow people to select the genetic traits of their future children, Canadian researchers developed a fecal-transplant pill that cures C. difficile infections, and three American researchers were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering that the cargo-transport systems of living cells are similar in organisms as diverse as man and yeast. Norwegian politicians agreed to legalize Segways and professional boxing, and a Norwegian health charity installed birdhouses stuffed with condoms in Oslo’s Ekeberg Forest. “The hole is plugged,” said a spokesman, “so that no birds can come inside.” The Gambia withdrew from the Commonwealth, and two tourists and a local man were burned to death by a mob on the isle of Nosy Be in Madagascar. “We’ve got nothing against foreigners; you can come visit,” said a Malagasy man from Hell-Ville.
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