Weekly Review — June 3, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Three brutal crimes against women in Asia, a controversial Taliban prisoner swap, and a human-skin heist in Connecticut

Early Lessons in Self-government (March 1876)

Early Lessons in Self-government (March 1876)

In Uttar Pradesh, India, police fired water cannons at hundreds of women gheraoing the office of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to protest the alleged rape and murder by five men from Yadav’s caste of two teenage Dalit girls, who were attacked on their way to relieve themselves in a field and hanged from a mango tree. “You’re not facing any danger,” said Yadav to reporters inquiring about the deaths. “What’s it to you?”[1][2][3][4] In Kelantan State, Malaysia, police detained 13 men suspected of participating in the gang-rape by 38 men of a 15-year-old girl, and in Lahore, Pakistan, police arrested five men and sought two others believed to be responsible for the murder of Farzana Parveen, a pregnant 25-year-old woman who was bludgeoned en route to a courthouse to contest a case filed by her family against her husband, Muhammad Iqbal, whom she had married without the family’s consent. “She was the best wife anyone could ask for,” said Iqbal, who killed his first wife in order to be with Parveen.[5][6][7] A court in Niger convicted a man of slavery because he had taken an unofficial, fifth wife.[8] More than 1,000 migrants rushed razor-wire barriers in an attempt to get into the Spanish North African territory of Melilla, and an Australian school apologized after a teacher shaved the armpits of a 14-year-old girl as part of a classroom life-skills demonstration. “It’s not to say that shaving armpits needs to occur,” said the school’s principal. “It’s an option.”[9][10] Mahbod Moghadam, a co-founder of the annotation service Rap Genius, was fired for posting such comments as “MY GUESS: his sister is smokin hot” and “This is an artful sentence, beautifully written” on the manifesto of Elliot Rodger, who wrote of wanting to “punish all females for the crime of depriving me of sex” before murdering six people in Isla Vista, California, on May 23.[11][12][13][14] The writer Maya Angelou, best known for her 1969 memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, died in North Carolina at age 86. “A fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman,” said President Barack Obama. “Rest in peace, phenomenal woman,” said Beyoncé.[15][16][17]

Obama announced a timetable for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, with the current force of 32,000 scheduled to drop to 9,800 by the end of 2014, to roughly 5,000 by the end of 2015, and to a vestigial force of less than 1,000 by the end of 2016. “This is how wars end in the twenty-first century,” said Obama. “Afghanistan will not be a perfect place.”[18] Eric Shinseki resigned as secretary of veteran affairs after the agency’s inspector general reported widespread fraud in VA clinics and confirmed that a VA facility in Phoenix had placed 1,700 veterans on an unofficial wait list in order to conceal treatment delays.[19][20] Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the only American prisoner of war in Afghanistan, was released after five years in captivity to a U.S. special-forces team near the border with Pakistan, following an agreement to exchange him for five Taliban detainees held at Guantánamo Bay. The deal was brokered by Qatar, where the freed Afghan detainees will be required to stay for a year. “I’m your father, Bowe,” said Bergdahl’s father, in Pashto. “Thanks to God,” said Mullah Omar. “[Qatar] enabled us to have confidence that these prisoners will be carefully watched,” said national security adviser Susan Rice.[21][22][23] It was reported that 31 FIFA officials had been paid a total of $5 million by a Qatari lobbyist in exchange for their support of the country’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup, and that North Korean scientists had developed a sports drink made from mushrooms.[24][25] The Obama Administration proposed an Environmental Protection Agency regulation that would establish the country’s first official limit on carbon emissions, targeting a 30 percent reduction by 2030 in carbon pollution from power plants compared with 2005 levels. “Today’s proposal from the EPA could singlehandedly eliminate [our] competitive advantage,” said the CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.[26][27] A Norwegian man found a tree stump whose rings resemble the face in The Scream, and Sweden’s ATMs all broke down simultaneously.[28][29]

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A Connecticut man was charged with stealing more than $350,000 worth of human skin. “To take this into the criminal arena,” said his lawyer, “is a bit draconian.”[30] A vampire grave was reportedly unearthed in the Polish town of Kamien Pomorski, and the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Intelligencer Journal apologized to readers for publishing a profile of a witch who was later revealed to have been arrested for prostitution. “Everyone,” said the witch to the reporter, “is born with psychic abilities.”[31][32][33] A Ukrainian TV personality punched Brad Pitt in the face at the Hollywood premiere of Maleficent.[34] The surviving Beastie Boys testified against Monster.[35] The actor Macaulay Culkin’s band, The Pizza Underground, was booed offstage in Nottingham, and doctors reported stimulating a passion for the music of Johnny Cash in a 60-year-old Dutchman. “It has a certain rhythm,” said a neurosurgeon.[36][37] NASA scientists confirmed the value of the Love number, which measures the stiffness of the moon, and revealed that the lunar surface bulges in concert with the motion of the earth.[38] A Cornish man was sentenced to five years in prison for threatening to kill a family who tried to stop him from entering their farm and rolling around naked in cow dung, and a male pheasant accused of terrorizing visitors to Wood Farm in Hail Weston found a mate. “I sincerely hope he will settle down now,” said the farm’s owner. “As long as he’s not henpecked.”[39]


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Ten years ago, a week after his sixtieth birthday, and six months after his first appointment with an oncologist, my father died. That afternoon, I went to my parents’ bedroom to clear up the remains of the lunch my mother had brought him not long before he collapsed. A copy of Yiyun Li’s novel The Vagrants, which he’d asked me for after I reviewed it in a newspaper, was open on his bedside table. He had gotten about halfway through it. The Vagrants isn’t what you’d call a consoling book—it centers on a young woman’s unjust execution in a provincial Chinese town in 1979—and I had mixed feelings about it being the last thing he’d read. Perhaps an adolescent part of me had been happy to let him have it out of a need to see him as a more fearless reader than he might have wanted to be just then. Still, my father had read Proust and Robert Musil while working as a real estate agent. There was comfort, of a sort, for me, and maybe him, in his refusal of comfort reading.

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