Weekly Review — August 25, 2016, 4:38 pm

Weekly Review

The Olympic Games end, 500 civilians are killed in Syria, and a study finds that humans are concerned about hurting robots’ feelings

HarpersMagazine-1853-12-bootsThe 2016 Summer Olympic Games concluded, just days after the Nigerian team’s uniforms arrived in host city Rio de Janeiro.[1][2] At the closing ceremony, gymnast Simone Biles, who won four gold medals, carried the flag for the United States, and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe emerged from a green pipe dressed as Mario and accepted the Olympic torch.[3][4] Japanese pole vaulter Hiroki Ogita was eliminated when his penis dislodged the crossbar during a qualifying round, and two Mongolian wrestling coaches stripped off their clothes in protest of a penalty that cost their athlete the bronze medal.[5][6] Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt won his ninth gold medal, and Bahamian runner Shaunae Miller dove over the finish line in the women’s 400-meter race.[7][8]* Officials from the U.S. State Department conceded that a $400 million payment to Iran was delayed for several hours to retain leverage in negotiations over the release of three American prisoners.[9] Russia began launching airstrikes over Syria from an Iranian air base, the first permitted use of Iranian territory by a foreign power since 1979.[10] Five hundred Syrian civilians were reportedly killed within a single week, including 45 in airstrikes in rebel-held areas of Aleppo.[11] Iraq hanged 36 prisoners for their role in the massacre of up to 1,700 men in 2014.[12] The United Nations acknowledged that its peacekeeping mission in Haiti had inadvertently spread cholera throughout the country when it released infected waste into a river, triggering a six-year epidemic that has killed more than 10,000 people, and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte threatened to leave the United Nations after it criticized his war on drugs, in which as many as 1,800 suspected traffickers have been killed since July 1.[13][14][15] In Turkey, 11 people were killed and 300 injured by a series of car bombs, and 50 people were killed by a 14-year-old who detonated an explosive vest at a wedding. “We live,” said a bystander and Kurdish activist, “in a ring of fire.”[16][17]

Fears emerged in New York that incidences of flying cockroaches, which entomologists have linked to higher temperatures, would increase after the National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warning, and 13 people died and thousands were left homeless after heavy rains caused flooding in Louisiana.[18][19] NASA announced that July was the hottest month on record, residents of an Alaskan island voted to relocate their village to the mainland, and the first luxury cruise through the Northwest Passage, once unnavigable because of icebergs, departed from Seward, Alaska.[20][21][22] The U.S. Department of Justice announced plans to phase out the use of private prisons after a recent report found that they had more contraband-, safety-, and security-related incidents, and more frequent lockdowns, than state-operated facilities. “You get,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, “what you pay for.”[23][24][25] A 12-year-old boy was placed in charge of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Jefferson County, Colorado, by his mother, an official campaign coordinator. “You have a responsibility to your children,” she said, “to teach them.”[26] Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned after it was reported that he received $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments from former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, for whom Manafort consulted, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation removed a statue of a naked Trump from Union Square. “NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection,” said a spokesperson, “no matter how small.”[27][28][29]

A study found that humans are concerned about hurting robots’ feelings, and manufacturers of the Roomba, an autonomous vacuum, issued a warning about operating the product unattended in spaces where pets live so as to avoid the unintentional spreading of feces. “Quite honestly,” said a company spokesperson, “we see this a lot.”[30][31] A paraglider died after crashing into a Mormon church in Utah, and three people were killed after their throats were slashed by glass-covered kite strings used during an Independence Day kite competition in India.[32][33] McDonald’s removed a device that tracked physical activity from its Happy Meals, a Texas man rode his horse into a Taco Bell, and PETA called for a permanent public memorial for chickens who died from falling off a truck outside a KFC.[34][35][36] In Australia, police searched for four men who allegedly dumped three saltwater crocodiles in a school office building in the town of Humpty Doo, and a woman in Canberra was mauled by a wombat while walking her dogs. “They just hate everybody,” said a wildlife-services spokesperson, “and everything.”[37][38] A traffic jam developed in Insjön, Sweden, when a couple wearing rubber pig masks began having sex by the side of the road.[39] The pacu fish, often sold as “vegetarian piranha” and known for its remarkably human-looking teeth, was discovered in two Michigan lakes.[40] A baby born during a Cebu Pacific flight was granted 1 million air miles.[41] Archaeologists in Tayma, Saudi Arabia, dug up a 90,000-year-old middle finger.[42]

*An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Shaunae Miller as a Jamaican runner. She is from the Bahamas.

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