Weekly Review — July 30, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Egypt teeters precariously, cat zombies and zonkeys live, and a hexapus dies

EARLY LESSONS IN SELF-GOVERNMENT (March 1876)

EARLY LESSONS IN SELF-GOVERNMENT (March 1876)

In Cairo, security forces loyal to General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi opened fire on supporters of deposed Egyptian president and Muslim Brotherhood party leader Mohamed Morsi, killing at least 83 people. Police detained 73 protesters and two Islamist political leaders, and the Muslim Brotherhood called for a million people to march in Cairo on Tuesday. Egyptian officers, said interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim, “have never and will never shoot a bullet on any Egyptian.”[1][2][3][4] In a suburb of Tunis, two gunmen assassinated People’s Party leader Mohamed Brahmi in front of his wife and children.[5] In Benghazi, Libya, more than 1,000 prisoners escaped the Kuafiya prison and pro-democracy activist Abdelsalam al-Mismari was shot and killed as he left a mosque.[6] Syrian government forces killed 19 children and 10 adults in a missile attack on Aleppo, and the United Nations announced that more than 100,000 people have now died in the Syrian civil war. “It is thus imperative,” said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “to have a peace conference in Geneva.”[7][8] The Obama Administration announced plans to repatriate two Algerian prisoners being held at Guantánamo Bay.[9] Neuroscientists at MIT gave mice false memories of having had their feet shocked inside a box.[10] George H. W. Bush shaved his head.[11] Attorney general Eric Holder announced that the United States would not seek the death penalty against Edward Snowden for leaking information about the National Security Agency’s spying programs, and the NSA asked a reporter from ProPublica to modify a Freedom of Information Act request because it has “no central method to search an email.”[12][13] Turkey exonerated a kestrel accused of spying for Israel, and Indian scientists confirmed that bright lights detected over Indian airspace and suspected of being Chinese drones were in fact Jupiter and Venus.[14][15]

Spanish authorities filed 79 charges of negligent homicide against the driver of a train that crashed while reportedly traveling 121 mph along a tight curve near Santiago de Compostela.[16] Pope Francis celebrated World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro by donning a ceremonial headdress given him by a shirtless man from the Pataxo tribe, visiting the impoverished Varginha favela, and speaking on Copacabana Beach before crowds estimated at 1.5 million and 3 million. “Possessions, money, and power can give a momentary thrill, the illusion of being happy, but they end up possessing us,” said the Pope. “I’m pretty surprised that people who call themselves Christians would throw away all this food,” said a bottle-picker.[17][18][19][20] A New York Times investigation found that U.S. investment banks were causing consumer-price increases by stockpiling such commodities as aluminum, coffee, cotton, oil, and wheat, and that Goldman Sachs was shuffling aluminum among warehouses outside Detroit in order to delay the metal’s entry to market. “It’s a merry-go-round of metal,” said a forklift operator.[21] Parisian gendarmes seized 60 tons of tin Eiffel Tower replicas, and a gunman stole $136 million worth of jewels from the Cannes hotel featured in the Alfred Hitchcock film To Catch a Thief.[22][23] A wrongful-death lawsuit was filed against a Michigan man who wrote “Kill Kathie Kill Kathie Kill Kathie!!!!!” on a chore list before killing his wife, and a man believed to have killed five seniors in Shunan, Japan, was arrested on a mountain near his home, where police found a haiku in a window that read “Setting a fire/ smoke gives delight/ to a country fellow.”[24][25] The London Fire Brigade speculated that the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey might be responsible for a rise since 2010 in emergency calls from people needing to be freed from restraints.[26]

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New Jersey hospitals were preparing for a 20 percent increase in births, anticipated because of a rise in conceptions during October’s Hurricane Sandy. “People just love hurricanes and sex,” said an economics professor.[27] Virginia E. Johnson, co-author of the pioneering 1966 book Human Sexual Response, died at 88, and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner was revealed to have exchanged graphic messages and photographs on the Internet under the pseudonym Carlos Danger following his resignation from Congress for similar activities in 2011. “He’s really not a changed man,” said the editor who broke the story. “He’s Carlos Danger.”[28][29] A Greek teenager shot himself in the foot to impress a girl.[30] Peahens were found to evaluate peacocks by the width and motion, not the ornamentation, of their trains.[31] Officials in Los Angeles closed three campgrounds after diagnosing a squirrel with plague, and six feral cats knocked down a woman in Belfort, France, and pierced one of her arteries. “Cats are not new zombies of the apocalypse,” said a veterinarian.[32][33] A zonkey named Ippo was born in Florence, an albino African hedgehog gave birth to triplets in a Moscow zoo, and Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, named their newborn son George Alexander Louis.[34][35][36] A spectator threw a banana at Cécile Kyenge, Italy’s first black cabinet minister, while she spoke at a rally, and an American family vacationing in Greece caught the second hexapus ever seen in the wild, then ate it with tomato and lemon. “It tasted just like a normal octopus,” said the father, “but now I feel really bad.”[37][38]


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In 1989 I published a book about a plutonium-producing nuclear complex in En­gland, on the coast of the Irish Sea. The plant is called Sellafield now. In 1957, when it was the site of the most serious nuclear accident then known to have occurred, the plant was called Windscale. While working on the book, I learned from reports in the British press that in the course of normal functioning it released significant quantities of waste—plutonium and other transuranic elements—into the environment and the adjacent sea. There were reports of high cancer rates. The plant had always been wholly owned by the British government. I believe at some point the government bought it from itself. Privatization was very well thought of at the time, and no buyer could be found for this vast monument to dinosaur modernism.

Back then, I shared the American assumption that such things were dealt with responsibly, or at least rationally, at least in the West outside the United States. Windscale/Sellafield is by no means the anomaly I thought it was then. But the fact that a government entrusted with the well-being of a crowded island would visit this endless, silent disaster on its own people was striking to me, and I spent almost a decade trying to understand it. I learned immediately that the motives were economic. What of all this noxious efflux they did not spill they sold into a global market.

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Early in the morning on June 28, 1969, New York police raided the Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street, the city’s most popular gay bar. The police had raided Stonewall frequently since its opening two years before, but the local precinct usually tipped off the management and arrived in the early evening. This time they came unannounced, during peak hours. They swept through the bar, checking I.D.s and arresting anyone wearing attire that was not “appropriate to one’s gender,” carrying out the law of the time. Eyewitness accounts differ on what turned the unruly scene explosive. Whatever the inciting event, patrons and a growing crowd on the street began throwing coins, bottles, and bricks at the police, who were forced to retreat into the bar and call in the riot squad.

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Left to the tender mercies of the state, a group of veterans and their families continue to reside in a shut-down town

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The squat warehouse at Miami’s 5th Street Terminal was nearly obscured by merchandise: used car engines; tangles of coat hangers; bicycles bound together with cellophane; stacks of wheelbarrows; cases of Powerade and bottled water; a bag of sprouting onions atop a secondhand Whirlpool refrigerator; and, above all, mattresses—shrink-wrapped and bare, spotless and streaked with dust, heaped in every corner of the lot—twins, queens, kings. All this and more was bound for Port-de-Paix, a remote city in northwestern Haiti.

When I first arrived at the warehouse on a sunny morning last May, a dozen pickup trucks and U-Hauls were waiting outside, piled high with used furniture. Nearby, rows of vehicles awaiting export were crammed together along a dirt strip separating the street from the shipyard, where a stately blue cargo vessel was being loaded with goods.

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My father decided that he would end his life by throwing himself from the top of the parking garage at the Nashville airport, which he later told me had seemed like the best combination of convenience—that is, he could get there easily and unnoticed—and sufficiency—that is, he was pretty sure it was tall enough to do the job. I never asked him which other venues he considered and rejected before settling on this plan. He probably did not actually use the word “best.” It was Mother’s Day, 2013.

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Gene Simmons of the band Kiss addressed Department of Defense personnel in the Pentagon Briefing Room.

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