At the opening ceremony of the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, an 11-year-old recited the Cyrillic alphabet and guided an 18-segment presentation of Russian history that skipped the gulags and the Stalinist purges, a choir from the ministry of internal affairs performed the Daft Punk song “Get Lucky,” and one of five lighted snowflakes that descended from the stadium roof failed to open up into an Olympic ring. Russian state TV aired taped footage of the five rings joining properly, and of President Vladimir Putin seated next to a Persian leopard that later attacked two journalists at a Black Sea animal sanctuary. Foreign reporters complained of hotel rooms lacking doorknobs, locks, heat, working toilets, and floors. “We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall, and then leave the room for the whole day,” said deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak. “My hotel has no water,” tweeted a Chicago Tribune reporter. “If restored, the front desk says, ‘do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous.’ ” Crew on a Pegasus Airlines flight to Turkey fooled a passenger who had threatened to detonate a nonexistent bomb with his phone unless the aircraft was diverted to Sochi into believing that they’d landed there instead of Istanbul. Russian authorities detained 37 people protesting the occupation of the Caucasus, 23 gay-rights activists, two environmental activists, and the leader of a group against arbitrary prosecutions, and blocked the delivery of Greek yogurt to American athletes. “Human rights,” said an activist in St. Petersburg, “are generally violated in Russia.” Workers in Sochi were euthanizing stray dogs and painting brown grass green.
American officials blamed Russia for disseminating a leaked recording of a phone call between assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in which Nuland said “Fuck the E.U.” “Pretty impressive tradecraft,” said Nuland of the bugging. Human Rights Watch released a report showing that Iraq was illegally holding and abusing thousands of female prisoners, the Canadian electro-industrial band Skinny Puppy billed the U.S. government $666,000 for allegedly using their music to torture Guantánamo detainees, and Al Qaeda officially cut ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. “Nothing says hard-core,” said an American scholar of militant Islam, “like being cast out by Al Qaeda.” North of Baghdad, 22 ISIS members died during a suicide-bombing training class when the instructor accidentally detonated a belt packed with explosives. The United States and Libya destroyed the final two tons of Muammar Qaddafi’s 26.3-ton chemical-weapons stockpile. The Syrian government missed a deadline to relinquish its stockpile of chemical weapons and continued to barrel-bomb Aleppo but agreed to a ceasefire allowing hundreds of civilian residents of Homs to evacuate. Aid trucks entering Homs turned back under fire from roadside bombs and mortar shells, for which government and antigovernment forces blamed each other. In advance of international talks about its nuclear program, Iran agreed to discuss its plans to construct exploding bridge wire detonators, which are most often used in atomic weapons, and Iranian foreign minister Mohamad Javad Zarif highlighted the need for mutual trust between the negotiating parties. “Believe me, you do not possess the monopoly on mistrust—there is a lot of mistrust in Iran,” said Zarif. “We should watch very carefully,” said Israel’s defense minister, addressing the conference after Zarif, “how this regime is going to manipulate, to deceive.”
The deaf Japanese composer Mamoru Samuragochi was found to have had his compositions ghostwritten and was accused of not being deaf. In Milwaukee, a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that had been stolen by burglars who shot its owner with a stun gun following a performance was recovered unharmed. In Washington, Utah, a cat named Quiver survived being shot through the head by an arrow. Vice President Joe Biden compared New York City’s La Guardia Airport to “some third world country,” and the ruins of a prehistoric village were found in downtown Miami. Salvadoran fisherman José Salvador Alvarenga, who washed up on the Marshall Islands, 8,000 miles from the coast of Mexico, reportedly told officials he had left 13 months earlier on a shark-fishing expedition then been cast adrift, surviving on fish, birds, and turtle blood. “The hardest thing I had to do to survive was to drink my own urine,” said Alvarenga, whose teenaged colleague died of starvation four months into their journey and had to be thrown overboard. “He was not really thin compared to other survivors in the past,” said Marshall Islands foreign-affairs secretary Gee Bing. “I may have some doubts.” The Mexican walking fish, the axolotl, was feared extinct, and officials at Heathrow Airport in London seized 13 endangered San Salvador rock iguanas that had been stuffed into socks for transport from the Bahamas to Düsseldorf. The Copenhagen Zoo killed a healthy young giraffe named Marius to prevent him from inbreeding, then skinned him and fed him to lions in front of a group of schoolchildren. “We have given children a huge understanding of the anatomy of a giraffe,” said zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro. Moscow’s park-squirrel population was reportedly dwindling because poachers were selling them as pets. “We should gather people together and pelt the person who does that,” said a Muscovite woman, “with snow.”
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