Weekly Review — January 14, 2015, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Boko Haram raids 16 villages in Nigeria, a bomb is detonated outside an NAACP office in Colorado, and a Muslim cleric bans snowmen.

WeeklyReviewCrocAvitarTwo Muslim extremists in Paris shot and killed 12 people in an attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper that published cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad. French police killed the two suspects after the militants took hostages at a printing shop; a third man who claimed allegiance with them held up a kosher grocery store, killing four, before being shot by police.[1][2][3][4] Ten thousand French troops and 5,000 police officers were deployed throughout the country to protect “sensitive sites”; 1.5 million people protested in Paris; the anti-Islam group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West held a rally attended by 25,000 people in Dresden, Germany; and Charlie Hebdo announced that it would print 3 million copies of its next issue, which will feature a cartoon of Muhammad crying below the words “all is forgiven.”[5][6][7] Hundreds of members of the extremist group Boko Haram, which killed 10,000 Nigerians in 2014, raided 16 villages, murdering as many as 2,000 people. “Dead bodies litter the bushes,” said a local government official.[8][9] In Nigeria, two young girls who were estimated to be 10 years old blew themselves up in a crowded market, killing at least four people, and a 10-year-old girl detonated a bomb she was wearing in another market, killing 20 people.[10][11] A suicide bomber killed 12 people near Baghdad when he drove a car filled with explosives into a group of Shiite militiamen and Iraqi soldiers; a police officer in Istanbul died after a suicide bomber walked into a police station and detonated explosives concealed under her coat. “It’s snowing,” said a tea seller who witnessed the attack, “So there was nothing suspicious about her big coat.”[12][13]

The FBI and Justice Department recommended that felony charges be brought against retired U.S. general David Petraeus for allegedly sharing classified documents with his former mistress.[14] FBI investigators were unable to definitively determine the motive of an attacker who detonated a bomb outside the NAACP office in Colorado Springs.[15] A 77-year-old man told a court he tried to blow up an antique grenade on a bus in Zhejiang, China, because he was upset with the driver for previously having failed to stop in the proper location.[16] A court in Cairo acquitted 26 men who were arrested at a bathhouse last month on charges of debauchery and “indecent public acts.”[17] Russia barred transgender people from getting driving licenses; Britain announced that, to improve diversity, its armed forces will begin asking recruits if they are gay.[18][19][20] Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he would not attend an event in Poland marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army.[21] Cuba freed 53 political prisoners at the United States’ behest; Cuban state media reported that Fidel Castro, who had not been heard from for three months, broke his silence by writing a four-page letter to soccer star Diego Maradona to discuss global oil consumption and quash rumors of his death.[22][23]

In India, at least 23 people died from consuming a batch of bootleg liquor; 69 people died in Mozambique after drinking homemade beer suspected to be contaminated with crocodile bile; and an analysis of a 700-year-old fecal sample revealed that a patron of Dante, who was also an Italian warlord, died from ingesting a poisonous “brew or foxglove decoction.”[24][25][26] Two nine-year-old students in Elba, New York, were suspended for plotting, with a third student, to poison their teacher by coating her personal belongings with hand sanitizer.[27] Researchers published a method for developing antibiotics from bacteria in dirt.[28] A man had a heart attack while parading a statue of Jesus down the street in Manila in anticipation of the arrival of Pope Francis.[29] Spike Lee announced that he would sell his latest film online, ahead of its theatrical release. “I’m hyped,” said Lee, “to get my new joint, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, out to the world.”[30] The former highest-ranking U.S. cardinal blamed “radical feminists” for the Catholic Church’s pervasive child molestation. “The Church,” he said, “has largely ignored the serious needs of men.”[31] In Saudi Arabia, a Muslim cleric issued a ruling that forbids Sunnis from building snowmen. “It is imitating the infidels,” one supporter said. “It promotes lustiness and eroticism.”[32]

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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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My father decided that he would end his life by throwing himself from the top of the parking garage at the Nashville airport, which he later told me had seemed like the best combination of convenience—that is, he could get there easily and unnoticed—and sufficiency—that is, he was pretty sure it was tall enough to do the job. I never asked him which other venues he considered and rejected before settling on this plan. He probably did not actually use the word “best.” It was Mother’s Day, 2013.

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