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Associated Press/Photo by Jeff Chiu

Dispatches

News

Issue: "2013 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 14, 2013

Dream come true

“He wanted to be Batman,” said Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Bay Area director Patricia Wilson of 5-year-old leukemia patient Miles Scott. His wish grew into a citywide caper involving the San Francisco police chief and a flash mob to help the “Batkid,” shown here with Batman on Nov. 15, rescue a damsel and capture the Penguin. The San Francisco Chronicle joined in, printing a special edition of “Gotham City Chronicle” to cover the events.

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Wednesday, Nov. 13

Suspected Boko Haram members are detained by the Nigerian military.
Associated Press/Photo by Salisu Rabiu
Suspected Boko Haram members are detained by the Nigerian military.

Admitted late

The Obama administration finally designated Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram and splinter group Ansaru foreign terrorist organizations, a decision human rights observers said was long overdue. In the past few years Boko Haram militants have killed thousands of their countrymen, targeting Christians and seeking to force strict Sharia law across Nigeria. They nearly killed Nigerian Christian Habila Adamu last year, shooting him in the face with an AK-47 and leaving him for dead after he refused to renounce his faith. Adamu pleaded for an end to religious persecution in written testimony before a House subcommittee: “I am alive because God wants you to have a message.”

Hawaiian change  

With legislative approval on Tuesday and Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s signature on Wednesday, Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage. In 1990 the state helped launch the national same-sex marriage debate when two lesbians applied for a marriage license (and were denied). The Hawaii Supreme Court later ruled a state law protecting traditional marriage discriminated against the couple, but allowed the law to stand. Under the new law, same-sex weddings can begin Dec. 2.

Thursday, Nov. 14

Associated Press/Photo by Aaron Favila

Typhoon graveyard 

Officials laid bodies in the first mass grave in Tacloban, a city in the Philippines crippled by Typhoon Haiyan. Six days after the disaster, they were still struggling to reach survivors and count the dead. Some Filipinos had still not received emergency aid.

Obamacare Band-Aid 

Attempting to soothe the anger of Americans who lost their health insurance plans because of Obamacare, President Obama announced he would grant a one-year extension to private plans affected by the law. Obama’s move came a day after his administration revealed only 26,794 people had successfully signed up for new health plans using the government’s glitchy insurance marketplace website during October, its first month of operation. As a result of the botched Obamacare rollout, the president’s disapproval rating among voters rose to 57 percent in a November poll, the worst of Obama’s tenure.

Friday, Nov. 15

ImagineChina via AP

One-child tweak

Chinese Communist Party officials announced they would loosen a rule governing the nation’s one-child policy, allowing couples to have a second baby if one of the parents is an only child. Currently, a second child is legal if both parents are an only child, or in other special circumstances. The policy change should result in 1 million to 2 million additional births per year.

Western commentators said Beijing’s policy tweak would be too late to save China’s shrinking workforce from a demographic crisis. Nor would it end “gendercide” or forced abortions. In a separate policy change, Chinese officials also promised to abolish the nation’s “re-education through labor” camps, where political prisoners are often held without trial.

Biofuel backtrack 

For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed not raising but lowering the annual biofuel mandate. The agency argued that adding 18.2 billion gallons of mostly corn-based ethanol to the gasoline supply in 2014 would be unreasonable since gasoline demand has been lower than expected. The new target: 15.2 billion gallons.

Libyan turmoil

Militiamen occupying the Libyan capital of Tripoli fired into a crowd of reportedly unarmed Libyans protesting their presence. The resulting clashes left hundreds injured and 47 dead—violence that underscored the inability of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s government to take control of the nation.

Sunday, Nov. 17

Fred Zwicky/Journal Star/AP

Late twisters 

Midwest congregations took to church basements on Sunday morning as powerful storms and at least 67 tornadoes tore through several states, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky. The twisters killed eight people, mangled trees, flipped rail cars, downed power lines, and damaged or leveled more than 1,500 Illinois homes. Two of the tornadoes were the most powerful to occur so far north during November in more than 100 years.

Deep water tragedy 

A competition featuring the increasingly popular sport of free diving turned tragic in the Bahamas when deep-water diver Nicholas Mevoli died attempting to set an American record. Mevoli reached his goal of diving to 72 meters (236 feet) without fins or supplemental oxygen, but lost consciousness after returning to the surface, apparently suffering from burst blood vessels in his lungs. The Vertical Blue competition’s medical team was unable to revive him.

Monday, Nov. 18

Rob Ford
Aaron Harris/Reuters/Landov
Rob Ford

Crazy Canuck

The Toronto City Council voted to strip Mayor Rob Ford of executive power and 60 percent of his office budget but he defied their calls to resign. After a video had emerged showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine, Ford admitted to illegal drug use and heavy drinking, while denying allegations he made sexual proposals to a female staffer. He insisted he was cleaning up his behavior. The bombastic mayor accused City Council members—who gave his staff permission to defect to the deputy mayor—of a “coup d’état.”

Cooked-up jobs? 

Citing a U.S. Census Bureau employee and an unnamed source, New York Post columnist John Crudele charged the Bureau with fabricating household survey data used in government unemployment reports. The fake data, Crudele suggested, could have contributed to a sudden dip in the official unemployment rate just before Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection. The column sparked a congressional investigation.

Trouble magnet 

Florida police arrested George Zimmerman after his girlfriend called 911 and accused him of pointing a shotgun at her and shoving her out of the couple’s home in Apopka. Zimmerman, acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in July for killing African-American teenager Trayvon Martin, faces charges of domestic aggravated assault, domestic battery, and criminal mischief.

Tuesday, Nov. 19

Associated Press/Photo by Juan Antonio Labreche

Pro-life defeat 

In a contentious vote that amassed more ballots than the mayoral election, residents of Albuquerque rejected, 55 percent to 45 percent, what would have been the nation’s first citywide ban on late-term abortions. The defeat stung pro-life conservatives, who hoped outlawing abortions after 20 weeks of gestation would curtail business at Southwestern Women’s Options, one of the only U.S. facilities performing them.

Reaping the whirlwind 

JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay $13 billion, the largest company settlement in U.S. history, for its role in the 2008 financial crisis. In an agreement with the Justice Department, the nation’s largest bank admitted to knowingly selling toxic loans to investors, behavior U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said “helped sow the seeds of the mortgage meltdown.” Government officials have at least nine other ongoing probes into the bank. JPMorgan employees could still face criminal charges.

Wednesday, Nov. 20

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Midwest domino?

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn spared no fanfare when he signed a bill making the Land of Lincoln the 16th state to recognize same-sex marriage. For the ignoble occasion in Chicago, Quinn used the desk where Abraham Lincoln purportedly wrote his first inaugural address in 1861, shipped up from the former president’s historical Springfield office. The legislation permits gay marriages beginning June 1 of next year and has very few religious protections, according to the Chicago-based Thomas More Society.

Anglican shift 

Members of the Church of England’s General Synod voted overwhelmingly in favor of a proposal that would allow women to become bishops. The action was a dramatic reversal from a year before, when a similar proposal failed by six votes. The measure will need final approval in coming months. Anglican churches in the United States, Australia, and Canada already permit female bishops, and the Church of England already permits female priests.

Thursday, Nov. 21

Harry Reid
Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite
Harry Reid

Going nuclear 

Democrats in the U.S. Senate made good on long-standing threats by voting 52-48 to exercise the so-called nuclear option, ending the ability of a minority party to filibuster most presidential nominees. Use of the filibuster, a procedural tactic historically viewed as protecting the minority party, has increased sharply in recent years. Democrats used it to block the judicial and executive appointments of former President George W. Bush, and Republicans have used it to block those of President Obama. Under new chamber rules, Senators may close debate on a nominee with a simple majority vote, rather than the previous threshold of 60. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, angered by Republican efforts to stymie Obama’s appeals court appointments, said the change was necessary to fix a “broken” Congress. Republicans called it a power grab. For now, the rule change does not apply to Supreme Court nominees or to legislation.

Friday, Nov. 22

Associated Press/Photo by Ike Altgens

JFK remembered

Bagpipers in Washington, D.C., and Dublin played a solemn homage to John F. Kennedy, the first Irish-Catholic president, on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Kennedy was riding next to his wife Jacqueline in an open-air car as his motorcade drove through Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, when communist Lee Harvey Oswald shot him in the head from a window with an Italian bolt-action rifle. The murder stunned the nation, spawned conspiracy theories, and helped ensconce 46-year-old Kennedy as a near-mythic political hero. “In the Washington shop windows they displayed shrines to Kennedy with candles burning,” recalled retired Irish Commandant Leo Quinlan, who served in an Irish honor guard at the funeral, according to The Associated Press. “You could never forget any of that.”

Rebels unite 

As Syrian government forces pressed into rebel-occupied territory in the country’s ongoing civil war, six rebel groups announced they would form a new alliance, the Islamic Front. Their estimated 45,000 fighters declared a common goal of toppling President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and establishing “an Islamic state where the sovereignty of God Almighty alone will be our reference and ruler.” The alliance could overshadow the secular but weakened rebel movement, the Free Syrian Army.

Saturday, Nov. 23

Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster

Iranian deal 

Iran struck a deal with the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom that eases some of the economic sanctions against Iran while also limiting the Islamic nation’s nuclear development. The deal calls for Iran to neutralize or freeze—for six months—work that could lead to nuclear weapons while continuing to enrich uranium for civilian nuclear power. Under the deal, the six powers will ease about $7 billion in sanctions against Iran.

President Obama hailed the agreement as “a new path toward a world that is more secure—a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.” He said the deal was the “first step” and that continued concessions would be necessary for any further easing of sanctions. Israeli leaders condemned the deal, saying it requires Iran to take only easily reversible actions. “What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement, it’s a historic mistake,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters. “It’s not made the world a safer place. Like the agreement with North Korea in 2005, this agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place.”

Sunday, Nov. 24

Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal/AP

Change in the weather 

Winter weather came early for a part of the country not used to it—the Southwest. Heavy snow and sleet hit parts of New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, prompting the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to cancel about 300 flights on Nov. 24 and another 200 on Nov. 25. “This is not Texas weather, man,” driver Ron Taylor told KTVT. “This is Alaska, or Idaho.”

The same storm system headed east, bringing severe weather to places like Mississippi and Georgia. Freezing temperatures—lower than normal for this time of year—also hit the Northeast and Midwest.

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