Harpers Weekly

When I have time, I like reading Harper’s Weekly news digest.
Here’s this week’s:

Weekly Review

Mahmoud Abbas went before the United Nations General
Assembly in support of Palestine’s bid for UN
membership, saying his was a “defenseless people, armed
only with their dreams, courage, hope, and slogans.”
“Yeah,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
during his UN address. “Hopes, dreams, and 10,000
missiles.” Abbas returned to cheering crowds in
Ramallah, though some Palestinians were skeptical of his
quest. “We are not against a peaceful solution, but we
don’t believe it,” said one West Bank resident. In what
it called an expression of Islamic mercy, Iran released
a pair of American hikers detained in the country for
two years. In exchange, it received $1 million in bail
money, posted by Oman. After decades of contentious
litigation that saw seven of nine eyewitnesses recant
their testimony, Troy Davis was executed in
Georgia. “The question is not whether you can avoid
errors,” said a former prosecutor about Davis’s
case. “The only realistic question in an adult mind is
which set of errors you’re going to accept.” As the
Occupy Wall Street protest in New York’s Zuccotti Park
entered its second week, police used Tasers and pepper
spray to control the crowd, corralling some activists
behind orange netting and taking others away in
handcuffs. Brookfield Office Properties, which owns the
park, sent men in suits to pass out fliers laying out
rules against tarps and sleeping bags, prompting the
protesters to chant “Don’t take the papers” then accuse
the men of littering when they left the leaflets on park
benches and tables.

Neutrinos blasted from Switzerland arrived in Italy
sixty billionths of a second earlier than expected,
apparently outpacing the speed of photons and
threatening to upend Einstein’s theory of
relativity. Physicists advised caution. “The constancy
of the speed of light essentially underpins our
understanding of space and time and causality,” said
Oxford University’s head of particle theory. “If we do
not have causality, we are buggered.” At a Republican
presidential debate on Thursday, Michele Bachmann
pledged to sign the “mother of all repeal bills” to
abolish the Department of Education, and Rick Santorum
called President Barack Obama “the new King George III.”
In honor of Pope Benedict XVI’s controversial visit to
Germany, a Berlin beermaker brewed an organic pilsner
and “ensouled” it by playing Gregorian chants from a
boom box on the eve of the new moon. Government
officials announced the seizure in New York’s Chinatown
of 6,000 units of illegally imported pesticides,
including vials of a Chinese rat poison, labeled “The
cat be unemployed,” that contained the powerful
anticoagulant brodifacoum in concentrations sixty times
the legal limit. Some of the chemicals, according to
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, smelled “like
cookies or other objects that would attract the human
touch.”

The Department of Justice admitted it had paid too much
for muffins, the Pentagon struggled to meet the “huge
gaseous helium requirements” of its blimps, an Arkansan
archivist discovered a moon rock among Bill Clinton’s
gubernatorial papers, and Chinese panda breeders noticed
that Atlanta-born Mei Lan, previously thought to be a
female, had testes. “If it wasn’t a giant panda,” said
Zoo Atlanta’s mammal curator, “this just would have been
a paperwork change.” In Fife, Scotland, the presence of
a single red squirrel threatened to scuttle a new
housing development. “One red squirrel should not stand
in the way of mankind’s march of progress,” said a
councillor. Authorities in Edinburgh revealed that a
violin case, a potato peeler, and a quill pen had been
used this year as weapons on city streets, and in
Somalia, the Islamist militant group al-Shabab handed
out grenades and Kalashnikovs as prizes in a children’s
trivia game. An American car club broke a world record
by parading fifty-one hearses in Hell, Michigan. Citing
evidence of a “live fast and die young” mentality among
cephalopods, marine biologists reported that deep-sea
squid shoot packets of sperm indiscriminately at members
of both sexes. “In the deep, dark habitat where
O. deletron lives,” wrote the scientists, “potential
mates are few and far between.” In California,
researchers implicated bottlenose dolphins in a recent
rash of porpoise killings, but couldn’t determine
whether the mammals were venting sexual frustration or
merely practicing infanticide. “We call them
‘porpitrators,'” said cetologist Thomas Jefferson.

– Anthony Lydgate

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