Weekly Review — April 28, 2015, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The Calbuco volcano erupts in Chile, the country of Liberland is founded, and a woman is convicted of killing her handymen and feeding them to pigs 

his majesty frank penguin, king of the brutes

his majesty frank penguin, king of the brutes

A magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, killing at least 4,000 people and leveling four World Heritage sites, including the 200-foot-tall Dharahara Tower. In villages outside Kathmandu, 80 percent of homes collapsed. On Mount Everest, an avalanche triggered by the quake killed at least 18 climbers and support workers. Tens of thousands throughout the Kathmandu Valley slept in tents, and on roads, parks, and golf courses.[1][2][3][4][5][6] Flash flooding hit Sydney and surrounding towns, killing at least 8 people and prompting authorities to declare 12 natural-disaster zones in New South Wales; and two eruptions of the Calbuco volcano in southern Chile buried the nearby town of Ensenada in as much as 20 inches of ash. A plume of ash continued to billow from the volcano, which had been dormant for 42 years, and scientists warned that it could erupt again. “This hurts a bit,” said an Ensenada resident, “but there’s nothing to do against nature.”[7][8][9][10] In Yerevan, Armenia, Russian president Vladimir Putin gathered with international leaders to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian genocide in which Ottoman Turks killed 1.5 million people. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied the massacre ever happened, and the country’s deputy prime minister criticized Russia’s participation in the ceremony. “They should look at their own past,” he said.[11] President Barack Obama announced that a CIA-ordered drone strike carried out in January against a purported Al Qaeda compound in Pakistan killed an American development worker and an Italian aid worker who were being held there as hostages, and that a separate drone strike the same month killed two American Al Qaeda operatives who had not been targeted. “This is a president,” said California Representative Adam B. Schiff, “who won a Nobel Peace Prize.”[12][13][14][15][16]

Three Czech libertarians received 200,000 applications for citizenship of Liberland, a three-square-mile microstate they recently established between Serbia and Croatia whose economy will be based on a digital cryptocurrency and whose national anthem will be composed by a straightedge rapper. “We have an Egyptian plumber and a German data-management professional,” said a man processing applications in Prague.[17] Nine people convicted of drug crimes, including two Australians, four Nigerians, a Brazilian, a Filipino, and an Indonesian, were scheduled for mass execution by firing squad in Java.[18] In Colorado, a man took his 2012 Dell XPS 410 into an alley and shot it eight times.[19] A robot known as Random Darknet Shopper that was confiscated by Swiss police for purchasing ten ecstasy pills online was cleared of charges.[20] In Japan, a man was arrested for using a drone to carry radioactive sand from the site of the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima to the roof of the prime minister’s office; in Switzerland, the national post service announced that it will test drones for mail delivery; and a man in Tennessee used a drone to accompany his eight-year-old daughter on her walk to school. “Daddy,” he said, “is always watching.”[21][22][23][24]

It was reported that an embryonic twin was discovered inside the brain of an Indiana woman undergoing surgery for a tumor, and an Australian wellness blogger who claimed to have survived terminal brain cancer by eliminating gluten and sugar from her diet admitted that she was never sick.[25][26] A Swedish petting zoo closed to prevent lambs and goats from spreading an eczema-like skin disease to children; a farmer in Miti Mingi, Kenya, reported that his cow was killing and eating sheep; and a 66-year-old Oregon woman was convicted of shooting two handymen and feeding them to her pigs.[27][28][29] The New England Aquarium announced it would be providing its African penguins with igloo-style “honeymoon suites” to encourage mating, Denmark outlawed bestiality, China’s Ministry of Culture banned burlesque dancers and strippers from performing at funerals, and the town of Tisdale, Saskatchewan, proposed changing its current motto, “The Land of Rape and Honey.” “Honey production,” noted a town survey, “has decreased significantly.” [30][31][32][33][34]


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I.

That year, the year of the Ghost Ship fire, I lived in a shack. I’d found the place just as September’s Indian summer was giving way to a wet October. There was no plumbing or running water to wash my hands or brush my teeth before sleep. Electricity came from an extension cord that snaked through a yard of coyote mint and monkey flower and up into a hole I’d drilled in my floorboards. The structure was smaller than a cell at San Quentin—a tiny house or a huge coffin, depending on how you looked at it—four by eight and ten feet tall, so cramped it fit little but a mattress, my suit jackets and ties, a space heater, some novels, and the mason jar I peed in.

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The writer and filmmaker Virginie Despentes lives in a nondescript modern building in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris. I know it well: it has a Bricorama—like a French Home Depot—on the ground floor, where we sometimes had cause to shop back when we lived in the neighborhood. The people who work there seemed to hate their jobs more than most; they were often absent from the sales floor. In the elevator to Despentes’s apartment, I marvel that while I was trying to get someone to help me find bathroom grout she was right upstairs, with her partner, Tania, a Spanish tattoo artist who goes by the name La Rata, like someone out of one of Despentes’s novels.

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That night at the window, looking out at the street full of snow, big flakes falling through the streetlight, I listened to what Anna was saying. She was speaking of a man named Karl. We both knew him as a casual acquaintance—thin and lanky like Ichabod Crane, with long hair—operating a restaurant down in the village whimsically called the Gist Mill, with wood paneling, a large painting of an old gristmill on a river on one wall, tin ceilings, and a row of teller cages from its previous life as a bank. Karl used to run along the river, starting at his apartment in town and turning back about two miles down the path. He had been going through the divorce—this was a couple of years ago, of course, Anna said—and was trying to run through his pain.

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