Weekly Review — October 7, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

America’s first Ebola diagnosis, a pro-ICBM clothing exchange, and Joe Biden on being number two.

 ALL IN MY EYE.Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national, was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital with the first case of the Ebola virus diagnosed in the United States. The staff of the Dallas-area hospital drew criticism from health officials for having failed to screen Duncan for the virus when, days earlier, he showed up in the emergency room with Ebola-like symptoms and told a nurse he had recently arrived from Africa. The hospital first claimed that the information was not “fully communicated” to doctors, then attributed the error to its electronic-health-records software, then said that though the patient’s travel history was available to the full medical team Duncan had lied when asked if he had been in contact with anyone who had the virus.[1] Before leaving Monrovia Duncan had reportedly helped transport a woman who was infected with Ebola, a fact he later omitted from a Liberian airport questionnaire. Dallas County prosecutors considered pressing aggravated-assault charges and the Liberia Airport Authority vowed to prosecute Duncan upon his return. “We wish him,” said an airport official, “a speedy recovery.”[2][3][4][5] The Islamic State posted a video to YouTube that purports to show the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning, the group’s fourth such killing of a Western hostage.[6][7] In the video, a masked man warns President Obama that if U.S. air strikes continue in Syria, the Islamic State will continue to strike what was variously heard as “the next of your people” and “the necks of your people.” The parents of American aid worker Peter Kassig, a convert to Islam who changed his name to Abdul-Rahman and who also appears in the video, responded with a plea for their son’s release. “We have no more control over the U.S. government,” Ed Kassig says to his son’s captors, “than you have over the break of dawn.”[8] Vice President Joe Biden apologized to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for suggesting, in a speech at Harvard, that their governments were “so determined to take down [Syrian President Bashar] Assad” that they financed Al Qaeda militants in Syria. In his speech, Biden said that international order “is literally fraying at the seams” and joked with an audience member who identified himself as the vice president of Harvard’s student body. “Ain’t that a bitch?” Biden said. “I mean, the vice president thing.”[9][10][11]

Police in Hong Kong arrested 19 people—eight of whom are believed to have ties to organized crime—for attacking participants in pro-democracy protests, and the Chinese government subjected 10,000 pigeons to anal security checks before releasing the birds in celebration of the country’s National Day.[12] U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned amid an investigation into the agency’s failure to apprehend Omar J. Gonzalez, an armed intruder who jumped a White House fence and entered the mansion through an unlocked door.[13][14] The investigation revealed that at least two officers present that day recognized Gonzalez from an earlier incident in which he was found near the White House fence with a hatchet tucked into his pants; that President Obama shared an elevator last month with an armed security contractor who has three felony assault and battery convictions; and that Pierson, who once worked as a costumed character at Walt Disney World, told two agency supervisors that the Secret Service needed to be more like the theme park. “We need to be more friendly,” Pierson said, “inviting.”[15] Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that he had been denied a loan to refinance his mortgage, and a Florida teen was hit by a truck while walking down Easy Street.[16][17][18] Pro-Russian activists in Moscow reportedly staged a “top swap” in which they exchanged T-shirts with Western slogans for shirts printed with pictures of intercontinental ballistic missiles and slogans like This rocket isn’t scared of sanctions.[19][20] In Ukraine, a Kiev heating-supply vendor reported selling 15 times more water heaters than usual because of fears that Russia will stop gas shipments during the winter. What to some is war, to others is profit,” he said.[21] A statue of Vladimir Lenin was toppled in the Ukranian city of Kharkiv, where one looter offered to sell the fragment containing Lenin’s nose and mustache to anyone willing to provide a battalion of Ukrainian soldiers with winter underwear, and another posted a Facebook auction for Lenin’s ear. “You can hear Donbas through it,” the seller wrote. “Make me an offer.”[22]

In Germany, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia launched a campaign against pickpocketing at a press conference where he was pickpocketed by a magician.[23] In Berlin, three armed men disguised as senior citizens used wheelchairs and walkers to approach an armored van that they robbed at gunpoint, and Hamburg’s Thalia Theatre staged the opening performance of Charles Manson: Summer of Hate—The Musical.”[24] Heavy-metal band Slipknot announced plans to burn oil drums filled with camel dung throughout Knotfest, its three-day music festival, because the culture has to have a smell, and a University of Chicago survey of 3,000 adults found that 39% of those whose sense of smell ranked “poorest” in a scientist-administered sniff test were dead within five years.[25][26] The U.S. National Institutes of Health awarded a $466,642 grant to a study that will examine why obese adolescent girls have fewer dating experiences than their non-obese peers, students at Devils Lake High School in North Dakota protested a ban on skinny jeans, and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un had reportedly become so heavy that his ankles fractured under his own weight.[27][28] In Tokyo, 265-pound Shinichiro Imanishi argued with a man over a chair at a ramen shop, stomped the man to death, and then calmly resumed eating his noodles. “I will go to jail,” Imanishi explained to his fellow diners. “This will be my last supper.”[29][30][31]

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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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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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