Weekly Review — December 30, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The United States ends the war in Afghanistan, Putin cancels Christmas for Russian ministers, and a woman in Japan is indicted on charges of obscenity for building a kayak that looks like her vagina

The United States and NATO formally ended their thirteen-year war in Afghanistan, the longest combat mission in American history, during which 2,224 U.S. soldiers and about 20,000 Afghan civilians were killed. At a ceremony in Kabul, General John Campbell rolled up the flag of the International Security Assistance Force and unfurled the flag of Resolute Support, the ongoing non-combat international mission in Afghanistan. “We are safer,” President Barack Obama said during a Christmas Day speech at the Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Marine Corps base. “[Afghanistan’s] not going to be a source of terrorist attacks again.”[1][2][3][4] Afghan militants fired a rocket near a volleyball match in Wardak province, killing two children and injuring five others; U.S.-led coalition forces launched 19 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and 20 against targets in Iraq; and in Sweden, an attacker threw a firebomb into a mosque, wounding five worshippers.[5][6][7] Tens of thousands of people attended a funeral in New York City for police officer Rafael Ramos, who was shot and killed on duty with his partner Wenjian Liu. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio asked the public to cease marching in “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations, which protest police killings of African Americans, during the funeral; pro-police demonstrations across the country adopted the slogan “Blue Lives Matter”; and a plane hired by a group of current and retired police officers flew a banner over the Hudson River that read, “de Blasio, our backs have turned to you.”[8][9][10][11][12]

An AirAsia plane carrying 162 people went missing en route from Indonesia to Singapore after radioing air traffic control about bad weather over the Java Sea.[13] Spain awarded €2.2 billion in prizes for El Gordo, the world’s largest lottery, during a four-hour televised draw in which winning ticket numbers were sung by a choir of schoolchildren; two people were arrested for grabbing banknotes off a street in Hong Kong after three cashboxes containing about $2 million fell out of a transport van. “They looked like schoolkids,” said a witness, “who knew they were being naughty.”[14][15] Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would supply Ukraine with coal, and canceled Christmas holidays for Russian government ministers; Pope Francis gave a Christmas address in which he accused cardinals, bishops, and priests in the curia of gossiping and believing themselves to be immortal; authorities in Wenzhou, China, banned schools in the region from holding Christmas parties; and Chinese students at Modern College of Northwest University, where celebrating Christmas was forbidden, were required instead to watch a film about Confucius.[16][17][18][19][20] A Colorado man who was recently released from jail for stealing his neighbors’ Halloween decorations was arrested for stealing $2,000 worth of his neighbors’ Christmas decorations. “Every morning he’d go out for a walk,” said his wife, who was also arrested, “and then there was just more stuff in the yard.”[21]

A Jesus statue was stolen from a church Nativity scene in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and replaced with a severed pig’s head; a Sycamore, Ohio, man was ordered by township officials to dismantle his zombie-themed Nativity scene; and a woman was arrested in the Florida state capitol’s “free speech zone” for ripping apart a Satanic Temple holiday display depicting an angel falling into a pit of fire.[22][23][24] Sony Pictures reversed its decision to cancel screenings of The Interview, a comedy about a plot to assassinate the leader of North Korea. A theater in Vermont announced it would give free popcorn to anyone who brought a copy of the U.S. Constitution to the movie. “I’m proud to be an American,” said one of the theater’s owners, “on the front line against terrorism.”[25][26][27] A Japanese artist arrested in July was indicted on charges of obscenity for using a 3-D printer to build a kayak shaped like her vagina, and a man in Washington State who tried to escape from police in a stolen kayak was intercepted by another man in a kayak. “If you’re going to steal a kayak,” the apprehender said of the thief, “you want to be sure to steal the paddle too.”[28][29]

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