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Dispatches

News

Issue: "Reaping a whirlwind," Aug. 24, 2013

BEATING THE HEAT: Swimmers overcrowd a water park pool in China’s Sichuan Province to cool down on a scorching day. 

A record heat wave has killed dozens in China since July and is threatening its important rice and cotton crops.

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Wednesday, July 24

Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images

Jailbreak

Al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for a violent prison break at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. The assault reportedly freed some 500 to 600 prisoners, including a number of top al-Qaeda operatives captured by the United States between 2007 and 2011. Aymenn al-Tamimi of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum lamented the damage: “A good deal of the progress achieved from 2006 onwards has essentially been undone now.”

Painful politics 

Former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner admitted his lewd text messages to women he met online lasted more than a year after he resigned from Congress in 2010. The New York City mayoral candidate insisted he would stay in the race, but his lead began to vanish.

Tragedy in Spain 

Seventy-nine passengers died when their train in northwestern Spain derailed in a curve and smashed into a concrete wall. Investigators said the train’s driver had been talking on the phone with supervisors and traveling 95 mph—nearly twice the speed limit. The dead included two Americans.

Thursday, July 25

Church abuse

More than 1,200 people signed an online petition denouncing sexual abuse in evangelical circles. The statement—published by the Christian group GRACE (an acronym for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment)—said churches sometimes respond to abuse allegations by “moving to protect her structures rather than her children.”

Solidarity 

Former President George H.W. Bush shaved his head to support a 2-year-old boy battling leukemia. Patrick—the son of one of Bush’s security guards—lost his hair during chemotherapy. Bush, 89, joined other members of his security detail who shaved their heads in solidarity. Bush and his wife, Barbara, lost their 4-year-old daughter to leukemia in 1953.

Friday, July 26

Snowden (second from left) leaves the Moscow airport with his Russian lawyer (third from left)
Russia24 via Associated Press Television
Snowden (second from left) leaves the Moscow airport with his Russian lawyer (third from left)

Pretty please

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder promised Russian authorities the United States wouldn’t seek the death penalty against NSA leaker Edward Snowden if he returned to face espionage charges related to leaking national security secrets. A week later, Snowden left the Moscow airport after Russian officials awarded him one-year asylum in the country. His attorney said Snowden had been learning about Russian culture by reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

Unaffordable care 

When a California-based call center opens in October to field questions about the Affordable Care Act, some workers will go without at least one benefit: healthcare. The Contra Costa Times reported about half the jobs at the Concord, Calif.–based call center are part-time, with no benefits. Some 7,000 applicants applied for the 200 jobs, and one employee told the newspaper it was ironic to inform people about healthcare while “we can’t afford it ourselves.”

Seeing green 

The National Park Service briefly closed the Lincoln Memorial after a vandal splattered green paint on the famous statue. A week later, authorities questioned a 58-year-old woman after charging her with a similar crime: splattering green paint on a pipe organ in Washington National Cathedral.

Saturday, July 27

STR/AFP/Getty Images

Chaos in Cairo

Egyptians endured one of their deadliest days of upheaval since the 2011 revolution: Clashes between security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi killed at least 72 people. The violence reportedly began after Egyptian police fired tear gas at Morsi supporters. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the military to exercise restraint in dealing with protesters, but also said he believed the military acted to restore democracy by replacing Morsi with a civilian government.

Monday, July 29

Pope Francis
Associated Press/Photo by L’Osservatore Romano
Pope Francis

Papal tour

On a return flight from his first international trip since assuming the papacy, Pope Francis answered a question about priests who are gay, but not sexually active. The pope responded: “Who am I to judge a gay person of good will who seeks the Lord?” Some media outlets declared a fundamental shift in papal thinking about homosexuality, but the pope underscored homosexual acts were sinful. The plane-bound press conference came a day after as many as 3 million people gathered for the pope’s mass in Rio de Janeiro after a week-long trip in Brazil (see "Papal homecoming" in this issue).

It’s a girl 

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and her husband, Daniel, announced the birth of their daughter, Abigail, months after doctors diagnosed the baby with a fatal disease. Doctors told the couple their infant would die moments after birth from a condition known as Potter’s sequence. The couple pursued a prenatal treatment thought to fight the condition, and Beutler delivered the 2-pound, 12-ounce baby on July 15. Abigail is the only known survivor of the disease. 

Crackdown 

The FBI announced the results of a three-day, nationwide crackdown on child prostitution: Agents arrested 150 suspects and rescued 105 children between the ages of 13 and 17. City breakdowns were notable: Agents made no arrests or rescues in New York City but 13 arrests and three rescues in Oklahoma City. Ron Hosko of the FBI noted: “This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere.”

Tuesday, July 30

Bradley Manning
Associated Press/Photo by Patrick Semansky
Bradley Manning

Manning guilty

A military judge convicted Army Pfc. Bradley Manning of violating the Espionage Act for leaking more than 700,000 State Department cables, terrorism assessments, combat logs, and videos. The website WikiLeaks published many of the government documents in 2010, and the leak constituted the largest breach of classified secrets in U.S. history. Manning, 25, faces up to 136 years in prison.

Violence in Nigeria 

As many as 24 people died in multiple explosions in a Christian quarter of Kano—a predominantly Muslim city in northern Nigeria. Officials blamed the attacks on Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. Less than a week earlier, Ayo Oritsejafor, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and urged the U.S. government to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization. The pastor also criticized President Barack Obama for not visiting Nigeria on his trip to Africa earlier this month: “America’s ambivalence on Nigeria is a stunning betrayal.”

Wednesday, July 31

Handout

Substandard ‘model’

North Carolina health officials closed an abortion center in Asheville, N.C., after investigators found 23 “egregious violations” of safety codes during a surprise inspection on July 18. Abortion advocates had hailed FemCare as a “model” abortion facility in the state, but officials said violations included thick dust on operating room equipment and an anesthesia tube held together with tape. FemCare became the 42nd abortion center to close this year—up from 24 in 2012.

Vocal minority 

A small band of former homosexuals gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court to demand recognition and equal protection under the Constitution. The dozen speakers from some 10 organizations said they worried about a growing intolerance of those who believe homosexuality is wrong. Former homosexual Christopher Doyle of Voice of the Voiceless told the crowd: “Anti-ex-gay extremists say that I do not exist—that we don’t exist.” Organizers had planned an evening reception at the Family Research Council but said they postponed the event after receiving email and phone threats from homosexual activists.

Thursday, August 1

Michelle Knight
Associated Press/Photo by Tony Dejak
Michelle Knight

Hard time

An Ohio judge sentenced sexual predator Ariel Castro to life in prison—plus 1,000 years—for kidnapping, raping, and imprisoning three young women in his Cleveland home for more than a decade. Castro accepted a plea deal to avoid the death penalty for allegedly causing victim Michelle Knight to miscarry pregnancies during her captivity. Knight, 32, spoke at the sentencing hearing, and told Castro: “You took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back. I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning.”

Losing intelligence 

Officials at Indiana’s Ball State University announced students would no longer learn about intelligent design perspectives in honors science classes. The decision came in the wake of fierce criticism of astronomy professor Eric Hedin’s honors class, “The Boundaries of Science.” Hedin included reading assignments by scientists and intelligent design proponents like Stephen Meyer and Michael Behe. The school’s president blasted intelligent design as a discredited theory. Hedin’s supporters included state Sen. Dennis Kruse. “I come from a Christian perspective and a conservative perspective,” said Kruse. “I’m under the impression academic freedom should be for everybody.”

Saturday and Sunday, August 3-4

Robert Mugabe
Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters/Landov
Robert Mugabe

Questionable win

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe—the often-ruthless dictator who has ruled the country since 1980—claimed victory in another round of controversial presidential elections. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted reports of “substantial electoral irregularities,” and said the United States didn’t find the results credible. Mugabe’s challenger Morgan Tsvangirai called the election “fraudulent and stolen,” and said it would plunge the country into chaos.

Firesale prices 

Boston Red Sox owner John Henry entered a deal to buy The Boston Globe for $70 million—a steep price cut from the $1.1 billion The New York Times paid for the Boston newspaper in 1993. Two days later, The Washington Post announced Amazon founder Jeff Bezos would buy its newspaper after 80 years of ownership by the Graham family. Analysts said Bezos’ digital expertise—and deep pockets—could help the paper survive declining revenues hitting hard at newspapers across the country.

Monday, August 5

You’re out

Major League Baseball officials suspended 13 players accused of using performance-enhancing drugs in connection with the now-shuttered Biogenesis clinic. New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said he would appeal his 211-game suspension that would keep him sidelined through the 2014 regular season (see "Before a fall" in this issue). (He’ll continue to play during the appeal process.) The dozen other players accepted their punishments and will likely return to the field by the beginning of next season.

Americans in Cairo

Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham arrived in Cairo to urge a peaceful resolution to rising conflict between Egypt’s military-backed government and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. Their arrival came days after military officials ordered security forces to break up mass demonstrations of pro-Morsi supporters. Ramez Atallah of the Egyptian Bible Society said pro-revolution Egyptians hoped for a peaceful resolution, despite their opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood: “Most of us yearn for a civil state run democratically.”

Tuesday, August 6

Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images

Fleeing Yemen

The U.S. State Department ordered embassy personnel to evacuate Yemen and urged any U.S. citizens living in the Arabian nation to leave. Officials said the same terror threat that led them to close embassies across the Middle East prompted the evacuations. A U.S. drone strike killed at least six suspected al-Qaeda militants on Aug. 7, and Yemeni authorities said they had foiled a plot to seize a port and kidnap or kill foreigners.

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