The Al Qaeda–affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) took control of the Iraqi city of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi following an attempt by Iraqi forces to break up a camp established over a year ago in Ramadi by Sunnis protesting the country’s Shia-majority government. Some tribal militias in the region initially fought the Iraqi army, then struck a deal with the government and began fighting ISIS; other militias allied with the Iraqi army defected to fight alongside ISIS; Iraq regained control of some of Ramadi; and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on “the people of Fallujah and its tribes to expel the terrorists.” “This is a fight,” said U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, “that belongs to the Iraqis.” A coalition of forces opposed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, including the tribal Awakening Movement and the Al Qaeda–affiliated Nusra Front, launched an offensive against ISIS positions in northern Syria. “This is Guantánamo!” shouted a prisoner from the Islamic Tahweed Brigade after being freed from an ISIS prison in Raqqa. Julian Assange’s father defended a WikiLeaks Party tea with Assad in Damascus as “a matter of good manners.” Palestine’s ambassador to the Czech Republic, Jamal al-Jamal, was killed in Prague by a booby-trapped safe; the head of Al Qaeda in Lebanon, Majid al-Majid, died of kidney failure in Beirut; and ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed four people in the Beirut neighborhood of Haret Hreik. “I think we are witnessing a turning point, and it could be one of the worst in all our history,” said Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury. “The West is not there.” The Associated Press revealed Al Qaeda to be modeling its bookkeeping practices on those of a multinational corporation, and to have documented such expenses as $1.60 for mustard, $200 for a “trip for spreading propaganda,” and $3,720 for 20 barrels of diesel to fuel a power station in Timbuktu. “Entrusting Brother Abou Bakr with guarding, selling, and looking after the barley next to the river,” read one receipt, “$3.” “Mohamed al-Ansari,” read another, “34 boubous.”
As the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, Dubai set off 500,000 fireworks, 100,000 Ukrainians sang their national anthem in Kiev to express their desire for integration with the European Union, and Latvia adopted the euro. “We’ve got adult diapers,” said a 14-year-old who lined up at 10 A.M. to attend celebrations in New York City’s Times Square. “We’re wearing them right now.” Seattle student Beautiful Existence completed a year of eating only food from Starbucks, and Hawaii’s transportation department changed a policy limiting names on driver’s licenses to 35 characters and issued a card bearing the full name of Janice Keihanaikukauakahihulihe‘ekahaunaele, whose surname translates roughly to “one who would stand up and get people to focus in one direction when there was chaos and confusion, and help them emerge from disorder.” Hery Martial Rakotoarimanana Rajaonarimampianina was elected president of Madagascar. Walmart recalled donkey meat sold in China under the label “Five Spice” because it was contaminated with fox meat, Chinese police seized three tons of crystal meth in the village of Boshe, and Iraq War veteran Sean Azzariti, of Denver, made the first legal recreational cannabis purchase in the United States. “Today I was fortunate enough to be the first recreational cannabis purchase in the world,” tweeted Azzariti, who bought a pot truffle and an eighth of Bubba Kush. Bill Clinton swore in Bill de Blasio as the 109th mayor of New York City.
Frostquakes struck Ontario, and a polar vortex of Arctic air struck the Canadian Prairies and the central and eastern United States, causing temperatures in the Minnesota towns of Babbitt and Brimson to reach –40° F, and in Embarrass to reach –37° F. “I told Embarrass to call back and do better,” said a National Weather Service forecaster in Duluth. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star was dispatched to Antarctica to free the icebound Russian research ship Akademik Shokaiskyly and the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon, which became trapped after evacuating passengers on the Russian vessel. The United States transferred the final three Uighur prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay to Slovakia. “They are persons,” said the Slovakian interior ministry, “who have been neither suspected nor accused of the crime of terrorism.” Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is under indictment by the International Criminal Court for genocide, flew to Juba to try to broker a peace deal in South Sudan, where rebels killed an army general who was en route to recapture the city of Bor. John Kerry left Jerusalem after four days of failed negotiations to restart the Israel–Palestine peace process, and Israeli settler communities released a video in which an actor portraying Kerry offers a porcupine to a man who has run out of toilet paper. “Are your workmates mocking you?” Kerry asks a man in a tutu. “We have a solution for you: a resignation letter eloquently articulated on chrome paper, with passionfruit and mango scent.” A quarter of surveyed British men who had made New Year’s resolutions to lose weight said they gave up by January 2, scientists debated whether an increase observed in the mass of earth when extrapolated from GPS satellite orbits was due to dark matter around the equator, and an Indian Trail, North Carolina, plumber named David Waddell submitted his resignation from city council in Klingon script. “ [Perhaps today],” wrote Waddell, “ [is a good day to resign.]”
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