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Associated Press/Photo by Jacquelyn Martin

Dispatches

News

Issue: "Bright or rotten idea?," Oct. 5, 2013

SHOOTING RAMPAGE: An officer guards the gate at the Washington Navy Yard the day after a gunman opened fire on office workers in the cafeteria and in the hallways, killing 12.

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Wednesday Sept. 4

DC Comics/Associated Press

Storytelling

Two writers announced they would leave DC Comics because they can’t pursue a storyline celebrating Batwoman as a lesbian. They have already written her as gay. In fact, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) named Batwoman the outstanding comic book in 2012. What these two writers are protesting is DC’s insistence that they can’t go too far in pursuing story lines that would highlight her homosexuality. 

Pot proliferation 

Marijuana use among Americans continues to rise, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. According to the survey, 7.3 percent of Americans 12 or older admit to using marijuana regularly last year, up from 7 percent in 2011 and 5.8 percent in 2007. The report, released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, found that the use of other illegal drugs is also growing. Admitted heroin users, for instance, numbered 669,000 in 2012, compared to 620,000 in 2011 and 373,000 in 2007. Overall, the survey found that 9.2 percent of the U.S. population, or 24 million Americans, used illegal drugs last year.

Thursday, Sept. 5

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/MCT/Newscom

Pretend pigskin

The National Football League kicked off the 2013 season (see p. 62) with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens losing to the Denver Broncos 49-27. But it’s possible that more football fans tuned in to ESPN’s Fantasy Football draft, held the night before. Fantasy football has become a multibillion dollar industry, with a growing number of players paying fees to play in leagues that offer cash awards for winning. But it has also become a multibillion dollar distraction. One study by Challenger, Gray and Christmas Inc. estimates businesses will lose more than $1 billion a week during the season because of fantasy football play in the workplace.

Der kommissar’s in town 

More than 100 police officers raided two communities belonging to an unorthodox Christian sect in the German state of Bavaria because, officials said, of evidence of “significant and ongoing child abuse by the members” of the sect. The police took custody of 40 children and later placed them in foster homes. Officials didn’t offer details of the alleged abuse, but the sect, known as The Twelve Tribes, advocates the spanking of disobedient children though “not in anger, nor with our hand or fist.” The sect also operates a school that had its license expire in July. Homeschooling is illegal in Germany, and police the week before had taken four children from a homeschooling family in Darmstadt.

Friday, Sept. 6

Malala Yousafzai
Associated Press/Photo by Peter Dejong
Malala Yousafzai

Peace prize winner

Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani activist who survived a Taliban attack last year, received the International Children’s Peace Prize from a Dutch children’s rights organization. Yousafzai survived a gunshot wound to her head and now attends school in England, where she continues to speak out against the barriers keeping girls from attending school. She said she accepted the prize in the historic Knights’ Hall in The Hague “on behalf of all of the children in the world who are trying to go to school, and all of those parents who are overcoming fear and intimidation—or cultural opposition—to give their sons and daughters the chance of an education.”

Saturday, Sept. 7

Tony Abbott
Associated Press/Photo by Rick Rycroft
Tony Abbott

A right turn down under

Tony Abbott and the center-right Liberal-National Party won a convincing victory in Australia’s national elections. Abbott’s coalition won at least 88 seats in the 150-seat parliament. Though more conservative than Labor Party’s Kevin Rudd, the prime minister he will replace, Abbott would be considered moderate by American standards. He is a devout Roman Catholic and opposes gay marriage, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research, but said abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare” in Australia. Abbott promised to repeal Australia’s carbon tax. Two days later, Norway voted in a center-right coalition, led by the Conservative Party’s Ema Solberg, that advocated more business-friendly policies.

Japan rising 

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics helped restore Japan’s national pride less than 20 years after the end of World War II. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) gave Tokyo a chance to do that again after 20 years of economic stagnation and 2011’s devastating tsunami by selecting Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics. Tokyo promoted itself as the “safe choice” against rivals Istanbul, deemed too close to Syria, and Madrid, hard hit by Europe’s economic crisis.

Monday, Sept. 9

Associated Press/Photo by Peter Dejong

Certified original

Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum announced it has conclusively decided a painting brought in by a private collector for evaluation is in fact one of the Impressionist master’s missing pieces. Vincent Van Gogh mentioned “Sunset at Montmajour” in letters to his brother and listed it in an 1890 inventory of his work. But the painting disappeared around the beginning of the 20th century. The museum declined to name the family who now owns the painting but did say members first brought it in for evaluation in 1991. Experts spent two years verifying the painting’s authenticity using a scientific analysis of the canvas and paint pigments. They match those the artist used for other works created in the late 1880s, including “The Sunflowers” and “The Yellow House.”

Tuesday, Sept. 10

NOAA/AFP/Newscom

A cooler globe?

This was supposed to be an above average hurricane season, in part because of rising ocean temperatures. So far, though, it hasn’t turned out that way this year. Humberto, upgraded from tropical storm to hurricane today, is the first Atlantic hurricane of the year, and that is one of the latest dates for a first hurricane on record. And about those rising temperatures: It turns out they may not be rising after all. New research suggests global warming is taking a breather, and we may have actually been in a short era of global cooling during the past 10 to 20 years.  

It’s up to you, New York 

New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, running an anti-Bloomberg campaign with the theme “a tale of two cities,” came from behind to win the Democratic primary for mayor of New York. Joe Lhota got the GOP nod. De Blasio promises to increase taxes to fund education and to repeal and replace the city’s controversial—but effective—“stop and frisk” policy. He came from far back in the polls and benefited from the meltdown of both Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer, both of whom had hoped for political comebacks. Lhota ran the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority under current Mayor Michael Bloomberg and was deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani.

Lawmaker control 

Two Colorado lawmakers who favor tighter gun control measures were turned out of office in a recall vote. The Democrats had the strong support of gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg, whose gun control organization contributed about $300,000 to keep John Morse and Angela Giron in office. The National Rifle Association got involved on the other side, matching Bloomberg’s contribution. The recall election will likely shake up the Colorado legislature, as Morse was the senate’s president. He lost by just 343 votes in a swing district. Angela Giron lost by a bigger margin in a largely blue-collar district that normally favors Democrats.

Mixed message

President Obama addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House and made two arguments with regard to attacking Syria—move forward and hold back. The president defended his call for military strikes against Syria over the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons while also asking Congress to postpone a vote on authorizing those strikes. The speech capped a chaotic two weeks in which Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 30 aggressively called for strikes, Obama on Aug. 31 said he would seek congressional approval that he said he didn’t need, and public support for the strikes plummeted. Russian President Vladimir Putin then proposed a deal (based on a previous Kerry hypothetical statement) in which Syria would turn over its chemical weapons and the United States wouldn’t attack. Obama’s Sept. 10 address embraced that option as congressional opposition to an attack on Syria grew. (For more on Syria, see "Who stands with Syria's Christians?" and "Dodgy business.")

Friday, Sept. 13

Trouble in Tanzania

An elderly Catholic priest was the victim of an acid attack on the island of Zanzibar, a part of the East African nation of Tanzania. According to the BBC, Amselmo Mwangamba received burns to his face, chest, and arms. Last month, an attack against two British women dominated U.K. headlines. Assailants attacked Mwangamba as he left an internet café in Stone Town, also the scene of the attack on the British women. According to World Watch Monitor, tensions are high between the island’s majority Muslim and Christian inhabitants. 

Alliance dissolves 

Central African Republic President Michel Djotodia took power in an August coup staged by a group called Seleka, a loose alliance made up of five rebel organizations. However, the Seleka have become increasingly violent and lawless, including, according to the UN, engaging “in sexual violence and grave violations against children.” So Djotodia on Sept. 13 issued a decree dissolving the Seleka. It is not clear what impact the order will have, since Djotodia has little ability to enforce his decrees. Christian aid groups, including Wycliffe Associates, have withdrawn personnel from the country.

Saturday & Sunday, Sept. 14-15

Steve Young
Mathew Imaging/WireImage/Getty Images
Steve Young

Mormon moves

Former NFL great Steve Young was one of the keynote speakers at a three-day conference in Salt Lake City exploring how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) deals with homosexuality. The 32nd annual Affirmation International Conference attracted about 300 people. Young and his wife said in a statement they are happy to “lend their voices to the healing work of making our families, our society and our church more welcoming places for our LGBT brothers and sisters.’’ Officially the LDS church says marriage is between a man and a woman and that same-sex relationships are sinful, but the church was a quiet force behind the new Boy Scouts policy to allow into the program homosexual boys.

Colorado rains 

More than a week of relentless rains washed out roads and isolated residents over a large portion of north central Colorado. Through Sept. 15, the Colorado National Guard had rescued more than 12,000 people, but at least 1,000 more awaited rescue. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order declaring 14 counties disaster areas. The Department of Transportation made $5 million available in emergency relief funds to help rebuild roads and bridges. Flooding has claimed at least eight lives.  

Monday, Sept. 16

Associated Press/Photo by Jacquelyn Martin

Mass shooting

The FBI identified the assailant in the shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard as Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old military contractor from Texas. Authorities believe he is the gunman who shot at least 24 people. At least 12 of them died. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, authorities were not sure if Alexis acted alone. They encouraged all D.C. residents to stay inside with their doors locked, and Washington Mayor Vincent Gray asked citizens for any information they may have about the shooter. President Barack Obama called the shooting a “cowardly act” targeting military and civilians serving their country.

A new view 

Former Survivor contestant and The View co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck moved to the popular morning show Fox and Friends, which she says “feels like home” for her. She replaces Gretchen Carlson, in part of a Fox News Channel shake-up. Carlson will anchor an afternoon program for Fox beginning sometime this fall. She fills an hour previously held by Megyn Kelly, who moves to prime time.

Tuesday, Sept. 17

Marco Secchi/Getty

Concordia upright

The Costa Concordia, a cruise ship that ran aground in January 2012, killing 32 people, is now upright and resting on an undersea platform off the coast of Italy. That’s the latest development in what will likely be one of the world’s most complex and expensive salvage operations in history. The Concordia is a 950-foot long ship that carried 4,000 passengers and crew before coming too close to shore last year. Jagged rocks tore a hole in its side. The ship will now be fitted with a series of huge “water wings” and floated to a shipyard where it can be dismantled.

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