Weekly Review — September 23, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Scotland rejects independence, Sierra Leone issues a three-day lockdown, and Iran lashes its citizens for doing a “Happy” dance

Early Lessons in Self-government (March 1876)

Early Lessons in Self-government (March 1876)

Nearly 85 percent of Scots voted in a referendum to decide whether their country should leave the United Kingdom. In response to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?,” 2,001,926 voters selected “No” and 1,617,989 selected “Yes.” In Edinburgh, on the day of the vote, a bagpiper from Las Vegas led a procession of 150 Yes voters to a poll station, shooting flames from the top of his instrument. “They’re being led up the garden path,” said economist Ronald MacDonald. Following the vote, Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister and the leader of the Scottish National Party, announced that he would resign, and British leaders reiterated a promise they’d made in the days leading up to the vote to devolve unspecified new powers to the United Kingdom’s four component territories. In celebration of their win, No supporters sang “If you hate Alex Salmond, clap your hands” and wrote OBEY YOUR QUEEN on the streets of Glasgow. “Scots,” said Queen Elizabeth II, “are able to express strongly held opinions.”[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] An estimated 310,000 people marched in Manhattan, and 270,000 more marched in 165 other countries, to advocate for global action on climate change in advance of a summit scheduled to start Tuesday at the United Nations. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, former U.S. vice-president Al Gore, and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio joined the march in Manhattan, which began on Central Park West. At 12:58 p.m., demonstrators observed a moment of silence, and then began a rumpus using instruments, whistles, and other noisemakers. “There is no Plan B,” said Ban, “because there is no Planet B.”[8][9][10] The Global Carbon Project reported that emissions of greenhouse gases in 2013 had jumped 2.3 percent worldwide and 2.9 percent in the United States, and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that August 2014 was the hottest August on record worldwide, and that 2014 was on track to be the hottest year on record.[11] Tropical storm Fung-Wong hit the Philippines.[12] Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba held the largest-ever initial public offering, raising $25 billion from the sale of its stock, and an Indian TV-news anchor was suspended for referring on-air to Chinese president Xi Jinping as Eleven Jinping.[13][14]

Following a week of fighting that killed 340 people in Sana’a, militants with the Houthi, a Zaidi Shia group, signed a peace deal with the Yemeni government, then entrenched its control of the city by seizing equipment from military headquarters and raiding the home of a rival general. Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah resolved Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election by signing a power-sharing deal under which Ghani became president and Abdullah became chief executive.[15][16][17] President Barack Obama announced that the United States would send as many as 3,000 troops to West Africa, to assist with efforts to control the Ebola epidemic there, and the government of Sierra Leone ordered everyone in the country to stay home for three days so that health workers could safely dispose of corpses.[18][19] Five doctors in Guinea contracted the disease while performing a Caesarean section on an infected pregnant woman, and the World Health Organization said that a black-market trade in the blood of Ebola survivors had begun.[20][21] German prosecutors charged Oscar Groening, a 93-year-old former guard at the Auschwitz death camp, with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder.[22] Approximately 130,000 Kurds fled to Turkey in the span of four days after militants from the Islamic State (IS) took control of dozens of Syrian border villages. “All they can do,” said a refugee, “is cut off heads.”[23][24] France bombarded an IS logistics depot in northeastern Iraq; IS called on its followers to begin attacking citizens from nations that had joined the coalition to defeat it; and militants from the Caliphate Soldiers kidnapped a French citizen in Algeria and threatened to kill him if France continued its attacks.[25][26][27] Eight hundred Australian police officers participated in raids that led to the detention of six people who allegedly plotted to kidnap and publicly behead people in Brisbane and Sydney, and to drape their bodies in IS flags.[28][29] Turkey said that it had freed, without paying ransom or exchanging prisoners, 49 hostages seized by IS on June 11 from the Turkish consulate in Mosul, Iraq. “Sounds a bit too good to be true,” said a former Turkish diplomat.[30] Six Iranians were sentenced to 91 lashes and up to a year in prison for posting a video online that showed them dancing to Pharrell Williams’s “Happy.”[31] The Internet counted its billionth website.[32]

ESPN published a report offering evidence that executives from the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens had seen security-camera footage of running back Ray Rice assaulting his now-wife, Janay, in an elevator in February, contrary to their public claims; that they had then lobbied NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Rice for no more than two games; and that Goodell had levied the brief suspension even after Rice had confessed to knocking Janay out. At a press conference with Goodell in New York City, radio writer Benjy Bronk was escorted from the event by security for approaching the podium while the commissioner spoke. “Don’t take me to an elevator!” said Bronk.[33][34][35] In a suburb of Salt Lake City, two sister-wives dressed like ninjas were subdued by a man with a sword after they broke into the home of a child whom their husband had allegedly abused.[36] Martin Miller of Bay City, Michigan, was charged with choking a homeless man with whom he and his wife had participated in a threesome, following a fight that began when Miller threw ground beef the man had cooked into a tub where his wife was bathing.[37] A British baker was fined $1,175 for headbutting a sausage-roll-making machine.[38] Two Siberian women were crushed to death by a truckload of potatoes.[39] An Australian veterinarian removed a tumor from the head of a goldfish named George, and a four-year-old Norwegian girl in the town of Honningsvag sleepwalked from her home to a fish factory.[40][41] A Florida massage therapist revealed that she had had surgery to implant a third breast. “I got it because I wanted to make myself unattractive to men,” she said. “If this doesn’t work, I’m through.”[42]*

* Update: After this Weekly Review was published, the story about the Florida massage therapist was found to have been a hoax.

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In 1973, when Barry Singer was a fifteen-year-old student at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the vice principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, stopped him in a stairwell. Claiming he wanted to check his tzitzit—the strings attached to Singer’s prayer shawl—Finkelstein, Singer says, pushed the boy over the third-floor banister, in full view of his classmates, and reached down his pants. “If he’s not wearing tzitzit,” Finkelstein told the surrounding children, “he’s going over the stairs!”

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About fifteen years ago, my roommate and I developed a classification system for TV and movies. Each title was slotted into one of four categories: Good-Good; Bad-Good; Good-Bad; Bad-Bad. The first qualifier was qualitative, while the second represented a high-low binary, the title’s aspiration toward capital-A Art or lack thereof.

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For time ylost, this know ye,
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I spent thirty-eight years in prison and have been a free man for just under two. After killing a man named Thomas Allen Fellowes in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight in 1980, when I was nineteen years old, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Former California governor Jerry Brown commuted my sentence and I was released in 2017, five days before Christmas. The law in California, like in most states, grants the governor the right to alter sentences. After many years of advocating for the reformation of the prison system into one that encourages rehabilitation, I had my life restored to me.

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