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Associated Press/Photo by Manu Brabo

Dispatches

News

Issue: "Back to School," Sept. 7, 2013

Egyptian violence

A supporter of ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi shoots a slingshot against Egyptian security forces during clashes in Cairo Aug. 14. Egyptian police in riot gear swept in with armored vehicles and bulldozers to clear two sprawling encampments of Morsi supporters, showering protesters with tear gas as the sound of gunfire rang out. See related story.

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Wednesday, August 7

Kyodo via AP Images

Nairobi blaze

A massive fire destroyed the international terminal at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. There were no reported casualties. The cause of the fire remained unclear, but it broke out on the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The airport, one of the busiest in Africa, closed for a day and then slowly resumed flights through the domestic terminal. The fire is likely to have economic ramifications: The country is at the peak of its tourist season, and the airport is a hub, among many things, for the country’s substantial export of flowers to Europe.

Dinner for one 

In a high profile snub, President Barack Obama canceled his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin scheduled ahead of the September G-20 summit in St. Petersburg. The cancellation appeared directly tied to Putin’s one-year asylum offer to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, but the White House said that was just one barrier among many between the two leaders–including being on opposing sides of the Syrian war. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Obama was “absolutely right” to cancel the meeting: “There’s nothing to talk about.”

Bush unclogged 

Former President George W. Bush was discharged from a Dallas, Texas, hospital after a successful heart operation. Doctors inserted a stent after finding one of his arteries clogged. The 67-year-old Bush’s lifestyle isn’t to blame: He’s known for his relentless exercise and low resting heart rate. 

Thursday, August 8

Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images

Cholera culprits

A Yale University report said UN peacekeepers were responsible for the sweeping cholera outbreak in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake that killed 8,000 and sickened 640,000. The UN has denied responsibility for the epidemic. The report offers detailed evidence otherwise, showing that UN peacekeepers set up camp by a river, which they contaminated with sewage. The river fed into Haiti’s main sources of drinking water. Until the peacekeepers came, Haiti had had no cases of cholera for 150 years. Soon after the peacekeepers’ arrival from Nepal (where cholera is more common), Haitians began to show symptoms of the disease.

Friday, August 9

Albert Pujols
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Albert Pujols

Accusation denied

Former St. Louis Cardinal and sports radio talker Jack Clark lost his job after saying on air that Albert Pujols–a former Cardinal and current Los Angeles Angel–had used performance enhancing drugs. Pujols, denying the accusations, said he planned to sue Clark, and added, “My faith in Jesus Christ, and my respect for this game are too important to me. I would never be able to look my wife or kids in the eye if I had done what this man is accusing me of.” Pujols’ former Cardinals teammates came to his defense as well.

Calling from prison 

The Federal Communications Commission ruled 2-1 that phone companies could not charge extra-high rates for prisoners making phone calls. A handful of phone companies have contracts with prisons and charge prisoners up to $17 for a 15-minute phone call, a higher rate than many international phone calls. Prisons themselves receive some of the phone revenue, pulling in at least $104 million last year. The FCC vote capped phone rates for prisoners at 25 cents a minute. Justice Fellowship, Prison Fellowship’s advocacy arm, hailed the ruling, saying the exorbitant phone call rates have divided prisoners from their families and spiritual mentors. 

Saturday, August 10

Donnie McClurkin
Donald Traill/Invision/AP
Donnie McClurkin

Singer silenced

Grammy-winning gospel singer Donnie McClurkin said he was disinvited from a concert he was supposed to headline commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech because of his position on homosexuality. McClurkin, who has said that he struggled with homosexuality, wrote in 2002, “I am delivered and I know God can deliver others, too.” Gay activists in Washington, D.C., pressed D.C. mayor Vincent Gray against McClurkin’s appearance, and McClurkin said the mayor’s office called the night before the Aug. 10 concert to ask him not to attend. Local pastors called Gray to reconsider, to no avail. “Quite unfortunate that today a black artist is uninvited from a civil rights movement depicting the love, the unity, the peace, the tolerance,” McClurkin said in a video statement. “It’s bullying, it’s discrimination, it’s intolerance.”

Sunday, August 11

Associated Press/Photo by Hani Mohammed

 Grand reopening

Most U.S. diplomatic outposts reopened on August 11 in the Middle East and North Africa after precautionary closings based on intelligence that terrorist threats were imminent. The Obama administration was not specific about what the threats were, but during the closures it stepped up drone strikes in Yemen. Yemen reported U.S. drone strikes against dozens of suspected al-Qaeda militants in the space of two weeks. The U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, remained closed as well as the U.S. consulate in Lahore, Pakistan.

In the hospital

Kenneth Bae, an American sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea in May, was transferred to a hospital after his health plummeted at the camp. Bae, a Christian who spent time in North Korea as a tour operator, may have been conducting missionary activities. The state said he plotted to undermine the regime through religion. Labor camps can often be a death sentence; Bae’s family said he has lost 50 pounds and is struggling with diabetes, kidney stones, loss of vision, back pain, and high blood pressure. The U.S. government has repeatedly urged North Korea to release him.

Monday, August 12

Deficit drops

The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal deficit, though still enormous, has shrunk considerably. As of July 2013 the federal deficit stands at $607.4 billion, a big drop from this time last year, when the deficit reached $973.8 billion. Economists credited the drop in the deficit to federal cuts under sequestration, higher taxes, and economic growth–although entitlement spending has continued to grow. The government also has had the windfall of billions in repayments from the now-profitable mortgage investors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Super tubes 

Elon Musk–the entrepreneur behind Paypal and the space company SpaceX–unveiled a proposal for a supersonic form of transportation dubbed the Hyperloop. Musk has lambasted California’s plans for a $70 billion, high-speed rail system. He says for a fraction of the cost the Hyperloop could transport passengers at 800 miles per hour from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The Hyperloop technology is still in its early stages but the basic idea Musk outlined involves pods shooting through elevated vacuum-sealed tubes. The satirical newspaper The Onion posted a headline: “New Super-Fast Transport System Powered By Passengers’ Screams.” 

Wednesday, August 14

Jesse Jackson Jr.
Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Image
Jesse Jackson Jr.

Time to serve

Former Chicago congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., and his wife Sandra were sentenced to serve prison terms for their misuse of campaign funds. The Jacksons spent $750,000 in campaign donations on themselves, including mounted elk heads, cashmere capes, and a $43,000 Rolex watch. He was sentenced to 30 months, she to one year. Jackson had been a rising Democratic star.

Motion denied 

The California Supreme Court, in two sentences, felled Proposition 8, the voter-passed constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The state’s highest court denied a motion from Prop 8 proponents to preserve the measure, thus allowing gay marriages to continue statewide. The state Supreme Court was the last hope for the amendment’s defenders. The court gave no explanation for its dismissal, and so the dismissal did not reflect any position by the court on the constitutionality of Prop 8. The state, which has declined to defend Prop 8, had ordered clerks to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

Thursday, August 15

Andes discovery

Smithsonian zoologists announced the discovery of a new species of mammal, the first such discovery in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years. The brown, furry olinguito takes his place as the smallest member of the raccoon family. Olinguitos live in the Andes Mountains and eat fruits and insects. Scientists had captured and seen olinguitos for years without knowing what they were exactly.  

Big blundering brother

The Washington Post published more leaks from Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency analyst, showing that the NSA had broken privacy rules thousands of times a year in collecting data. The Post published the agency’s internal audit showing that most of the privacy breaches were unintentional. In one instance the agency accidentally collected phone records from Washington, D.C. (area code 202), instead of Egypt (country code 20). “We’re a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line,” a senior NSA official told the Post.

Saturday and Sunday, August 17-18

Obama with his daughter Malia
Rick Friedman/Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP
Obama with his daughter Malia

Back to work

The Obamas returned to the White House after a week’s vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. The first family has chosen the island for summer getaways, though the Obamas skipped their vacation last year during the campaign. The president stayed out of the public eye except to make a statement on the violence in Egypt. He returned to Washington facing not only the devolving situation in the Middle East but another federal budget ultimatum Sept. 30.

Detained 

British authorities detained Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald’s live-in partner David Miranda as he was passing through London’s Heathrow Airport. Miranda was returning to Brazil after meeting with a U.S. filmmaker in Berlin who has access to leaked documents from former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden. Greenwald had said publicly Miranda has helped him with information for his stories on the NSA. British law enforcement only had the authority to detain and question Miranda for up to nine hours, at which point they released him, but without his cellphone, laptop, and other items. The White House denied involvement in the detention but said the British had informed U.S. officials of their plans.

Silenced 

For the first time in 1,600 years, priests did not hold Sunday mass in the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram monastery near Minya, Egypt. Muslim Brotherhood supporters torched and destroyed the monastery, one of the oldest in the world, in a string of attacks on churches in the country (see "Egypt burns"). Vandals turned a remaining church in the complex into a mosque, a priest said.

Monday, August 19

Bob Filner
Associated Press/Photo by Gregory Bull
Bob Filner

Misbehaving?

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, facing a battery of sexual harassment allegations and calls for his resignation, returned to work after two weeks of behavior therapy. Filner, a Democrat, has not admitted to the allegations from 16 women and has refused to step aside despite a recent poll showing 80 percent of city residents think he should. Some San Diegans are collecting signatures in an effort to hold a recall election.

Big foot 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, signed legislation banning so-called gay conversion therapy for minors in the state, only the second state to do so after California. The law, which the state legislature passed in June, forbids counseling minors about changing their sexual orientation or sexual behaviors (but allows counseling about changing genders). Family groups said the ban was a violation of parental rights. Christie acknowledged those concerns: “Government should tread carefully into this area and I do so here reluctantly.” Christie reiterated what he has said in previous interviews, that he does not believe homosexuality is a sin, while acknowledging his view runs counter to his Catholic faith.

Tuesday, August 20

Pervez Musharraf
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Pervez Musharraf

Days in court 

A Pakistani court charged former president Pervez Musharraf with the 2007 assassination of opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the first time any of the nation’s generals have been charged with a crime. The court also indicted four extremists and two police officers in the assassination. Bhutto had been a lone top Muslim advocate for the country’s Christian minority, speaking out against the nation’s harsh blasphemy laws. The initial investigation into the combination bombing-shooting assassination was late and haphazard, and Musharraf’s lawyers said the charges were “baseless.” The man whom Musharraf ousted in a 1999 coup, Nawaz Sharif, now leads Pakistan again.

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