In celebration of the new year, Miami dropped a 35-foot orange, Atlanta dropped an 800-pound peach, Flagstaff, Arizona, dropped a six-foot pinecone, and Port Clinton, Ohio, dropped a 600-pound sculpture of a walleye fish. About 600,000 people gathered across Rome, where 83.5 percent of the city’s police force called in sick to protest a proposed plan to pay low-performing officers less. The Pope sent a New Year’s video message to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that congratulated the city on its 450-year anniversary. Dubai hung 70,000 lights on the world’s tallest building, breaking the Guinness World Record for largest LED-illuminated facade, and American model and actress Tara Reid posted a nude photo of herself from Mexico. In Japan, nine people choked to death on the traditional New Year’s rice-cake mochi; fake money thrown from a window in Shanghai during festivities was said by some witnesses to have caused a stampede that killed 36 people and injured dozens more; an artillery shell killed 28 attendees of a wedding celebration in Afghanistan, where the United States officially turned over combat duties to the Afghan army; and a fortune-teller in Lebanon, who correctly foretold that Lebanon’s prime minister would resign in 2013, predicted that, in 2015, Gaza would be attacked, black people and white people would fight one another in the United States, and musicians would gain worldwide fame for covering Michael Jackson’s hits.
Palestine’s application for statehood, which would have required Israel to withdraw forces from Gaza and the West Bank by 2017, was denied by the U.N. Security Council; Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas applied for entry to the International Criminal Court to seek war-crimes prosecution of Israelis; Israel announced it would withhold from the Palestinian Authority $127 million in taxes it collected on behalf of the territories; and it was reported that HarperCollins, citing “local preferences,” had omitted Israel from an atlas distributed to schools across the Middle East. Ben Ammi Ben-Israel, the Chicago-born leader of the African Hebrew movement that brought hundreds of non-Jewish African Americans to Israel, died in a hospital in Beersheba. “We came here offering ‘shalom,’ ” Ben-Israel told reporters in 1971, but found “Jim Crow policies similar to what we left behind.” Following the deaths of two NYPD officers shot in retaliation for police killings of unarmed African Americans, a memo circulated among officers calling for the department to make only “absolutely necessary” arrests, and crime enforcement in the city for minor offenses dropped 90 percent compared to the same week the previous year. “I would point out,” said NYPD commissioner William Bratton, “[that] it has not had an impact on the city’s safety at all.” The department reported that 328 murders were committed in New York City in 2014, the lowest figure since at least 1963, when police began keeping track. The Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which has yet to be contained, killed 8,004 people last year. Wildlife epidemiologists published a study hypothesizing that the outbreak may have originated from bats living in a hollow tree trunk in the Guinean district of Guéckédou. Although no living bats carried a trace of the virus in their feces or blood, the study’s lead scientist announced that the researchers had killed all those they captured out of fears locals would say, “Look at those white people releasing bad bats.”
An Iowa woman was cited for mailing three pounds of cow dung to her neighbors through the website poopsenders.com; a cow named Molly B that successfully broke out of a slaughterhouse in 2006 was given a new home in Montana; and a man in Devon, England, euthanized over half of Britain’s only herd of “Nazi cows,” originally bred by the Third Reich, because they were too aggressive. “Since they have gone,” the farmer said, “peace reigns supreme.” PETA sent vegan caviar to Russian president Vladimir Putin and criticized Sarah Palin for a photo the former vice-presidential candidate posted online of her six-year-old son, Trig, standing on her dog. “Chill,” Palin wrote in response on her Facebook page. Two frozen dogs were found in a garbage bag in Canada, a man walking his dog in Rhode Island found another dog nearly frozen to death in the street, and 275 dogs went missing following fireworks celebrations in Brisbane, Australia. A police chief in Georgia accidentally shot his wife while she was sleeping on New Year’s Day, and a man claiming to be a “400-year-old Indian” smeared ash on his face, stole a Buick, and wished the car’s owners a Happy New Year. A British tabloid alleged that a Hollywood special-effects studio was planning to recreate Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Jackson as holograms, and it was reported that Jackson’s son Prince was planning to record an album with Justin Bieber. “It’s not as if he can turn to his family,” said a Jackson family acquaintance. “They’ve never really had time for Prince, Paris, or Blanket.”
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