Weekly Review — September 16, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Obama announces air strikes in Iraq; a monsoon superfloods India; and California nudists cover up for the Man

Saluting the Town (Weekly)

President Obama announced an open-ended military mission in Iraq and Syria led by retired General John Allen, which will include airstrikes, Pentagon training of militants, and the deployment of 475 additional military advisers, intended to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State (IS). Obama invited Congress to approve the action, but insisted it didn’t need to, citing the 2001 authorization of military force permitting attacks on Al Qaeda, which he once disavowed. “But I do think it’s important for Congress to understand what the plan is, to have buy-in, to debate it,” Obama said on Meet the Press prior to his address. “Very clever,” said a former official who served in George W. Bush’s Justice Department. Nearly 40 countries, including 10 Arab nations, pledged to join an anti-IS coalition, while Russia, Syria, and Iran condemned the plan.[1][2][3][4][5] The United States and the European Union issued new sanctions against Russia, including travel and asset freezes on 24 Russian officials, for the country’s support of separatists in eastern Ukraine. “The less our officials and corporate executives travel abroad,” Vladimir Putin said of the sanctions, “the better.” Amid a ceasefire in Ukraine, government forces traded 31 pro-Russian separatists for 36 Ukrainian soldiers in rebel-captured Donetsk, and residents of Luhansk, which has little electricity and running water and is covered in trash and pockmarked by road craters and incinerated buildings, celebrated “city day” with a mourning service outside the Lady of Sorrows Church.[6][7][8][9] In New Delhi, which was suffering a water shortage, residents purchased illegally siphoned well water from 2,000 mafia-owned tankers throughout the city.[10] A monsoon “superflood” of the Jhelum and Chenab Rivers killed more than 400 people in 2,100 villages and cities in Indian-administered Kashmir and eastern Pakistan, and the Indian army evacuated 22,000 people, including residents of Srinagar, where the water rose 18 feet. Villagers angry at relief delays heckled soldiers and beat a rescue official, who had to be airlifted to safety. “India,” said Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the leader of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, who accused India of diverting dam water into Pakistan, “has dropped a water bomb on Pakistan.”[11][12][13]

The Nigerian military conducted an air and ground assault on Boko Haram–held towns in Adamawa state, wounding Lieutenant Colonel Adeboye Obasanjo, the son of a former Nigerian president, and causing tens of thousands of residents to flee to nearby towns including Yola, where 200 people had taken refuge in a five-bedroom house.[14][15] A spreading ebola outbreak in western Africa was harming the continent’s tourism industry. “Ebola is associated with primates and Uganda is associated with primates,” said a Ugandan tour operator. “In the minds of many travelers, Africa is one country.”[16] A 24-year-old male orangutan that correctly predicted the winning teams of seven consecutive Super Bowl matches died of complications from breast cancer.[17] The NFL extended indefinitely its two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice after the release of a video showing him punching his then-fiancée in an elevator, which league officials had viewed five months earlier; the Minnesota Vikings reinstated running back Adrian Peterson following his indictment for beating his son with a tree branch; and Tubby Reddy, the head of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Commission, said Oscar Pistorius’s “culpable homicide” conviction for shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year would not prevent the paralympian runner from continuing to compete for South Africa.[18][19][20] In Utah, an elementary school teacher was injured when a gun she was carrying went off in the school’s faculty bathroom and exploded a toilet, and police shot to death a 22-year-old African-American man walking with a bladeless samurai sword in a convenience store parking lot. “I’m glad that the officers took action,” said a bystander. “From what I’ve heard, it could have been a lot worse.”[21][22]

A man in California was arrested for killing his girlfriend’s dog and feeding it to her, and a New Jersey man was sentenced to 50 years in prison after he stabbed his wife 84 times then covered her face with a pig mask.[23][24] An 83-year-old demented woman in Buffalo, New York, pleaded not guilty to beating to death her 89-year-old demented husband, and a judge questioned the validity of a legally incapacitated 96-year-old woman’s marriage to a 95-year-old man she met waiting in line for lottery tickets. “Anybody who wants to get married must have a little dementia,” said the woman’s daughter.[25][26] The cofounder of a Maine retirement home for circus elephants was killed when one of the animals stepped on him.[27] Police searching the home of a man suspected of possessing child pornography found 50 frozen cat carcasses, 35 live cats, and piles of cat feces. “All I saw,” said a 12-year-old neighbor of visits to the man’s house, “was just cats in little diapers.”[28] A 14-year-old Pennsylvania boy was charged with desecration for photographing himself miming receiving fellatio from a Jesus statue owned by the charity Love in the Name of Christ.[29] California rangers stormed a drought-plagued Los Gatos nudist colony suspected of siphoning water from a public waterfall for a skinny-dipping pool. “I discreetly turned my fanny pack,” said Errol Strider, a 70-year-old nudist, of his interaction with the rangers, “to a front pack.”[30]

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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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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.

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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.

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