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[Weekly Review]

Weekly Review


Kurdish and Shia forces battle ISIL in Iraq; a ceasefire takes hold in Gaza; and Barack Obama’s audacious taupe

“Air" (from William Blake)Aided by U.S. air strikes, a force composed of Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Shia militiamen recaptured the northern town of Amerli from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and a separate Kurdish and Shia force recaptured the town of Sulaiman Bek. Seven Western nations joined the United States in pledging to arm the peshmerga, Germany sent the Kurds sausages and granola bars, and Italy restricted the airspace over Vatican City following reports that ISIL planned to kill the pope. U.S. security officials said they had identified nearly a dozen of the more than 100 Americans believed to have traveled from the United States to fight with radical Islamist groups in Syria. ISIL released a video purporting to show the corpses of more than 150 soldiers it had massacred in northeastern Syria, and a computer taken earlier this year from an ISIL hideout was revealed to have contained manuals for stealing cars, building bombs, and deploying the bubonic plague. “Best,” read a document on biological warfare, “to do it next to the air-conditioning.”[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8] An Ebola outbreak that had killed more than 1,550 people in West Africa reached Senegal, and British Airways and Air France suspended regular service to Freetown and Monrovia. In Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered the dismissal of ministers and senior officials who left the country during the outbreak without returning, and lifted a quarantine on an affected Monrovian slum following 10 days of clashes between citizens and police. “We are free!” chanted the crowds.[9][10][11][12][13] In the Syrian Golan Heights, Islamist forces seized the Quneitra border crossing with Israel, and the Nusra Front kidnapped 44 United Nations peacekeepers from Fiji and encircled encampments containing 72 Filipino peacekeepers, all of whom later escaped, 40 of them by sneaking out of their camp under cover of darkness. “We may call it,” said General Gregorio Pio Catapang, “the greatest escape.”[14]

After 50 days of fighting, Israel and Hamas agreed to an open-ended ceasefire that effectively restored the terms established following hostilities in 2012. “We have defeated them,” said a Hamas spokesman. Five days later, Israel claimed nearly 1,000 acres inside the Jewish settlement area in the West Bank where Hamas kidnapped three IDF soldiers in June.[15][16] A U.S. official said at least 1,000 Russian troops had crossed the Ukrainian border to fight alongside pro-Russian separatists, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko claimed the number was closer to 15,000, and the leader of separatist forces in Donetsk estimated the number to be over 3,000. A Russian defense official asserted that 10 Russian soldiers captured in Ukraine had traveled there “by accident.”[17][18][19][20] Talks to resolve Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election collapsed, Pakistani police killed three protesters demanding the removal of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and police in Hong Kong pepper-sprayed demonstrators after China refused to allow open elections in the territory.[21][22][23] In Ferguson, Missouri, a group of residents sued the town’s police department for civil-rights violations allegedly committed during clashes after a white officer killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Mother Jones reported that an officer had allowed a police dog to urinate on an impromptu memorial for Brown days after his death, and the Oprah Winfrey Network aired a program in which a “spiritual life coach” attempted to heal the people of Ferguson. “Don’t affirm what you don’t want,” said the coach to protesters with signs reading “Don’t shoot!”[24][25][26]


A crew member from the reality show Cops died after being shot by police in Omaha, Nebraska, while filming a shootout with a suspect armed with an Airsoft BB pistol.[27] The day after a 9-year-old New Jersey girl accidentally killed her instructor with an Uzi at an Arizona shooting range, the National Rifle Association tweeted, then deleted, a link to an article on how “children can have fun at the shooting range.”[28][29] Police in Austin, Texas, were attempting to trace the origins of a human skull that had been donated to Goodwill, and neuroscientists at MIT reported using laser beams to change the bad memories of mice into pleasant ones.[30][31] A plague of locusts descended on the Malagasy capital of Antananarivo. “We are going to give them to the chickens to eat,” said a 13-year-old boy as he gathered locusts. “If the chickens don’t die, we’ll eat them.”[32] Volcanic eruptions took place on Papua New Guinea’s Mount Tavurvur and Iceland’s Bárðarbunga.[33][34] The Japanese government asked residents to stockpile toilet paper in case an earthquake strikes the country’s primary toilet-paper-producing region.[35] The Spanish clothing brand Zara apologized for selling a children’s black-and-white striped shirt, adorned with a gold star, that resembled outfits worn by Jewish prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, and President Obama was criticized for telling reporters inquiring about possible U.S. plans to bomb ISIL positions in Syria, “We don’t have a strategy yet,” and for wearing a tan suit to the press conference. “The president stands squarely behind,” said White House press secretary Jay Earnest, “his summer suit.”[36][37][38]

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November 2014

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