Weekly Review — August 30, 2016, 5:32 pm

Weekly Review

An earthquake kills 290 people in Italy, Egypt’s police use Grindr, and a dog is elected mayor of a town in Minnesota for the second time.

HarpersWeb-WeeklyReview-RP-LargeAt least 290 people were killed and hundreds more were injured when a 6.2-magnitude earthquake destroyed four medieval hill towns in central Italy, including the town of Amatrice, which was preparing for its 50th annual spaghetti festival.[1] Rescue crews and firefighters searched for survivors in the rubble, and Italian restaurants in New York City pledged to donate the proceeds from sales of pasta all’amatriciana. “The future,” said one resident of Amatrice, “is finished.”[2] The Turkish military sent warplanes and tanks across the border into Syria, in a campaign dubbed Operation Euphrates Shield, to target Islamic State and Kurdish fighters, and thousands of Syrian rebels and civilians were forced to evacuate the Damascus suburb of Daraya, which had been under siege by government forces for four years.[3][4] Anti-immigration activists in Prague caused panic among tourists when they entered the Old Town Square leading a camel and a goat, carrying fake submachine guns, and shouting “Allahu akbar!”[5] WikiLeaks was criticized for outing gay Saudi Arabians by releasing a large trove of Saudi government data, Egyptian police used the gay dating app Grindr to entrap members of the country’s LGBT community, and Pyongyang launched a Netflix-like service called Manbang.[6][7][8] An Indian minister recommended that foreign women not wear skirts when visiting the country.[9] Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy called for a nationwide ban on burkinis, and France’s highest administrative court suspended the town of Villeneuve-Loubet’s ban on the swimwear after photos circulated of police standing over a woman on a beach while she removed her clothing.[10][11]

Astrophysicists announced the discovery of Proxima b, an Earth-sized exoplanet 4.3 light-years away. “We could finally have something like a real conversation,” said one researcher, “with an alien.”[12] The pharmaceutical company Mylan faced backlash on social media after raising the price of a double pack of EpiPens, an injection device that treats severe allergic reactions, from less than $100 in 2007 to more than $600 this year.[13] Scientists at UCLA woke a 25-year-old man from a coma by using ultrasound technology to stimulate neurons in his thalamus.[14] The Food and Drug Administration ordered blood banks in the United States to begin screening for the Zika virus, and Singapore released thousands of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia bacteria to combat dengue. “The biggest drawback,” said one infectious-disease expert, “is we don’t really know what’s going to happen.”[15][16] It was reported that the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro were the lowest-rated and least-watched Olympics since 2000.[17] Russia seized the assets of Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Russian athlete who exposed the country’s national doping scheme, and a flight carrying members of the Russian Olympic team was delayed by four and a half hours after the delegation’s giant matryoshka doll became stuck in an airport terminal gate.[18][19] A U.S. court ruled that the grocery chain Trader Joe’s could proceed with its lawsuit against a Canadian store called Pirate Joe’s, which resold its merchandise, and Citigroup and AT&T agreed to end a legal dispute about who had the right to use the phrase “THANKYOU” when corresponding with customers.[20][21] The National Labor Relations Board voted to allow graduate students at private universities to unionize, the University of Chicago sent a letter notifying students that the school does not support safe spaces, and it was reported that SUNY Binghamton had offered its residential advisers a course called “Stop White People.”[22][23][24] Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto was found to have plagiarized his undergraduate thesis.[25]

In New Jersey, a newspaper published two obituaries of the same man, one by his wife and one by a woman claiming to be his girlfriend.[26] A minor-league baseball player hit a grand slam, smashing the windshield of his own truck, which was parked outside the stadium. KFC released an “Extra Crispy” sunscreen that smells like fried chicken, and Colonel Sanders’s nephew may have accidentally leaked the company’s secret spice blend to a reporter.[27][28] A family in Turkey got food poisoning at a dinner they organized to celebrate their recovery from food poisoning.[29] A study found that ramen noodles have replaced cigarettes as the most popular form of currency in U.S. prisons. [30] A Domino’s in New Zealand completed the world’s first pizza delivery by drone, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture bought 11 million pounds of cheese to support American dairy farmers.[31][32] A dog named Duke was elected mayor of a town in Minnesota for the third time, and a Canadian animal-rights activist appeared in court to defend her practice of giving water to pigs on their way to slaughter. “Nutritionally,” said her lawyer, “it’s the moral high ground.”[33][34]

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