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Diana Nyad
Andrew Innerarity/Reuters/Landov
Diana Nyad

Dispatches

News

Issue: "50 years after the bomb," Sept. 21, 2013

SEPTEMBER 2: U.S. long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, walks to dry sand, completing her 53-hour swim from Cuba as she arrives in Key West, Fla., on Sept. 2. Nyad is the first person to swim from Cuba without a shark cage.

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Wednesday, August 21

STR/AFP/Getty Images

Back to work

Four State Department employees returned to work eight months after being put on leave for their responses to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. “Clearly, things could have been done better,” a State Department spokeswoman said of the attack that killed four Americans. “[But] we have to let the facts lead where they may, and these are people with real lives and real careers, and we can’t just take action that’s not warranted against them just to make us all feel better.” Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who oversees the House investigation on Benghazi, called the move a charade of musical chairs in which no one is held accountable and no one misses a day on the payroll. 

Thursday, August 22

Bradley Manning
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Bradley Manning

Confined and confused

One day after a military judge sentenced him to 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents, Army private Bradley Manning made an announcement: He’s actually a female named “Chelsea” living in a male body: “Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.” Manning wanted the military to pay for a sex change, but the Army said it will only provide psychiatric help—not surgery or hormone therapy.

Against choice

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against Elaine Huguenin, a Christian photographer who declined to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony because of her religious beliefs. The high court upheld a 2008 New Mexico Human Rights Commission decision that found Huguenin discriminated against Vanessa Willock based on her sexual orientation and ordered the photographer to pay $6,637.94 in legal fees. Huguenin’s counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, may appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Shipped out 

Citing the effects of Obamacare, UPS announced it will cut all employee spouses who have healthcare insurance through their own employers. The shipping company estimates the move will shave about 15,000 spouses from health insurance rolls and said 35 percent of other businesses are doing the same. Company officials said they will do what it takes to take care of their employees, but they can no longer afford to provide for extra dependents.

Friday, August 23

Hosni Mubarak
Associated Press/Photo by Amr Nabil
Hosni Mubarak

Out of jail

Egyptian authorities released the country’s former leader, Hosni Mubarak, 85, after he spent more than two years in prison without being found guilty of a crime. The aging leader awaits a retrial on charges that he was involved in killing protestors during the country’s 2011 uprising. Until then, Egypt’s interim prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, placed Mubarak under house arrest. 

Death warrant 

A military panel found Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan, 42, guilty of premeditated murder for his 2009 shooting spree that killed 13 and injured 31 at a Texas Army post. Hasan, a Muslim, said he “switched sides” and wanted to protect other Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military panel gave Hasan the death penalty, putting him on track to be the first member of the military put to death in more than 50 years.

Creeping along 

Japanese experts revealed large quantities of radioactive water are creeping toward the Pacific Ocean two and a half years after a massive earthquake crippled the Fukushima nuclear power station. The finding is potentially much more serious than the news earlier in the week that an above-ground storage tank has leaked 300 tons of contaminated water. Experts are unsure what kind of danger the radioactive water—deep below the Fukushima site—would pose to the environment if it makes it to the Pacific.

Saturday, August 24

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Disaster declared

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in response to a massive fire burning along the edge of Yosemite National Park. The declaration eased regulations on firefighters who were allowed to use all available tools to fight the blaze that started one week earlier and grew to cover more than 350 square miles. Brown also declared a state of emergency for San Francisco, which lies across the state but gets 85 percent of its water supply from a reservoir near Yosemite.

Monday, August 26

Victims receive treatment after an alleged poisonous gas attack near Damascus
Local Committee of Irbeen/AP
Victims receive treatment after an alleged poisonous gas attack near Damascus

Crossing lines

A UN inspection team through sniper fire finally reached the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb, five days after the Aug. 21 attack. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked that analysis of the samples collected at the site be expedited and promised to report findings to all members. Ahead of the UN report U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government for the attacks, and said sarin gas had killed 1,429 people, including over 400 children. He called the attack a “moral obscenity” and promised a U.S. response. Russia, which backs the Assad regime, said military intervention would cause “catastrophic consequences” for the region (see "Crisis begets crisis"). 

Justice denied

An Iranian court rejected pastor Saeed Abedini’s appeal for a shortened sentence, increasing the likelihood he will serve eight years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison. Abedini, 33, is an American citizen who was arrested last year while visiting Iran to set up a government-approved orphanage. Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, called the court’s decision “devastating” for her and her two children. Abedini’s legal counsel said the ruling amounts to a death sentence unless the Tehran Supreme Court intervenes. 

Tuesday, August 27

Associated Press/Photo by LM Otero

Outbreak

Health officials in Texas linked a measles outbreak to a church 20 miles north of Fort Worth. A visitor to Eagle Mountain International Church who had been overseas apparently sparked the outbreak, leading to 21 confirmed measles cases. Most of the people affected, ranging in age from 4 months to 44 years old, had never been immunized, leading senior pastor Terri Pearsons, daughter of televangelist Kenneth Copeland, to urge members to “go in faith” and get immunized. 

Friends with benefits 

Many companies are cutting healthcare benefits as Obamacare implementation arrives, but a retail giant is expanding them: Walmart will soon offer benefits to same-sex partners of employees. The retailer reportedly denied making any political or moral statement with the move, calling it “a business decision” in light of the June Supreme Court decree striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Wednesday, August 28

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Golden memories

President Obama and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter spoke at the 50th anniversary celebration of the 1963 March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Many speakers pointed to Trayvon Martin as evidence of existing racial problems: Martin, Obama, and King were all popular faces on rally paraphernalia.

Special appointment 

President Obama named outgoing Ethiopian ambassador Donald Booth as his third special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan. U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., said the appointment is “long overdue,” but Booth seems like a “very capable person.”

Brain gain

Scientists reported they’ve found a key clue to what causes memory loss in aging adults. The findings indicate a certain gene often quits working in older adults, and it occurs in a different part of the brain from where Alzheimer’s disease develops, making the two problems unrelated. Scientists believe a protein named RbAp48 may treat common memory loss. 

Thursday, August 29

Associated Press/Photo by Noah Berger

Liberty losses

Two wins for homosexual activists meant twin losses for liberty: The IRS announced it would treat same-sex couples with marriage licenses as married for tax purposes—even if they live in states that don’t allow gay unions—and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s controversial ban on so-called reparative therapy for minors. The 9th Circuit, in a 3-0 ruling, said California’s ban doesn’t infringe on the free speech rights of therapists who want to help minors overcome unwanted homosexual feelings. Pastors can still offer conversion therapy as long as they don’t have a license. 

Christians killed 

Islamist gunmen killed five Christians and wounded four others—including a pregnant woman—in a roadside ambush near the Nigerian city of Jos. The attackers stopped a minibus carrying members of the Church of Christ in Nations congregation, had them lie down on the side of the road, and then started shooting. All of the victims were between the ages of 20 and 40.

Friday, August 30

Associated Press/Photo by Ahn Young-Joon

Not welcome

North Korea rescinded its invitation for a U.S. envoy to visit imprisoned American citizen Kenneth Bae. Bob King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, had been scheduled to travel from Tokyo to Pyongyang to seek Bae’s release. North Korea, which blamed the U.S. for the cancellation, accused Bae, a Christian, of subversion and sentenced him in April to 15 years of hard labor. Bae has since lost 50 pounds and was hospitalized with a variety of health problems.

Down and out 

Disgraced San Diego Mayor Bob Filner left office one week after announcing his resignation and only nine months into a four-year term. Filner, a former five-term Democratic congressman, faced a string of sexual harassment accusations from more than a dozen women. Filner denied the charges but also voluntarily spent two weeks in a sex rehab facility in August. He said a “lynch mob mentality” had forced him to resign. 

Monday, September 2

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Black budgets

Government secrets are still emerging from former CIA analyst Edward Snowden’s leaks: The Washington Post revealed details of a $52.6 billion “black budget” for the 16 U.S. spy agencies. The 178-page document showed, among other things, the National Security Agency recently launched “offensive cyber operations” against computer networks in other countries. The black budget, never before subjected to public scrutiny, has more than doubled since 2004. The United States has spent more than $500 billion on intelligence since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Big deals

Four companies announced two communications deals: Microsoft is acquiring Nokia, once the No. 1 cellphone company in the United States, for $7 billion, and Verizon Communications reached a $130 billion agreement to buy Vodafone’s 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless. The Verizon agreement, which ends a contentious relationship between U.S. and British companies, uses cash and stocks to create the third largest corporate deal in history. 

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