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Dmitry Korotaev/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images

Dispatches

News

Issue: "2013 News of the Year," Jan. 11, 2014

DEC. 15: Ukrainian protesters in Kiev demand the resignation of President Victor Yanukovych, whose refusal of the association agreement with the European Union sparked mass demonstrations.

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Thursday, December 12

Robert Levinson
Levinson Family/AFP/Newscom
Robert Levinson

Spy business

An American missing and believed to be held captive in Iran was secretly working for the CIA when he disappeared in 2007, an Associated Press investigation discovered. U.S. officials had previously maintained that the American, Robert Levinson, was in Iran as a private citizen on private business. Instead, CIA analysts—who lacked the authority to send Levinson to Iran—sent him there to gather intelligence about Iran’s government. The CIA fired three analysts and disciplined seven others as a result of Levinson’s mission.

Left behind 

Naghmeh Abedini, wife of an American pastor imprisoned in Iran, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that she “felt abandoned” when she learned that U.S. negotiators had not sought her husband’s release during recent negotiations with Iran over that country’s nuclear program. “I had anticipated that I would battle the Iranian government to release my husband. I didn’t expect to battle with my own government,” said Naghmeh. Iranian officials arrested her husband, Saeed Abedini, while he was in Iran to open a government-authorized orphanage in 2012.

Friday, December 13

Associated Press/Photo by Robert F. Bukaty

Conscience victory

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn, N.Y., issued a permanent injunction against Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate as applied to religious nonprofits. Cogan’s ruling held that the requirement that religious nonprofits’ insurance policies must include coverage for contraceptives violates the religious freedom of four Catholic schools and health systems in New York City. “The government,” wrote Cogan, “has failed to show that the mandate is the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling governmental interest.” Other courts have issued preliminary injunctions against the mandate, but Cogan’s was the first permanent injunction, or final ruling. The Supreme Court in March will hear a case against the application of the mandate to for-profit companies.

Another school shooting 

Karl Pierson, an 18-year-old senior at Arapahoe High School in Littleton, Colo., entered the school with a shotgun, three Molotov bombs, and a machete, hunting for a teacher against whom he held a grudge. He shot Claire Davis, 17, in the head, before he was cornered in the library and took his own life. Pierson’s rampage lasted only 80 seconds as school officials rushed the shooter and locked down the school using a rehearsed “active shooter protocol,” undoubtedly saving many lives. Davis remains in critical condition from the state’s third mass shooting in the last seven years.

All in the family 

Korea analysts were puzzled as North Korea announced the execution of Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of dictator Kim Jong-un and a powerful figure in the Workers’ Party, on charges of treason. A special military tribunal found Jang guilty of moral corruption and of trying to overthrow the state “by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods.” Victor Cha, a former White House adviser on Asia, said the execution may suggest instability in the regime: “If he has to go as high as purging and then executing Jang, it tells you that everything’s not normal.”

Saturday & Sunday, Dec. 14-15

ImagineChina/Associated Press

To the moon

For the first time in 37 years a lunar craft made a soft landing on the moon, and this time the vessel was Chinese. The vehicle will survey the moon’s structure and search for natural resources as it spends a year on the moon, Chinese officials said. They expect the landing to give China international recognition as a world power, as only the United States and the former Soviet Union had previously landed a vessel on the moon. The country hopes to develop technologies for deep space exploration in the future.

Man knows not his time 

Harold Camping expected and famously predicted that the end would come in September 1994 and May 2011, but in reality he had to wait until Dec. 15, 2013. Camping, founder of the Family Radio Network, died Dec. 15 at the age of 92. Camping first said the Rapture would come in 1994. When that didn’t pan out, he revised his timetable to 2011, which again proved false. Camping also attracted controversy for arguing that Christians should abandon organized churches and instead listen to radio.

Monday, Dec. 16

President Obama and Thamsanqa Jantjie
Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci
President Obama and Thamsanqa Jantjie

Bad signs 

The South African government suffered international embarrassment when press reports revealed the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s funeral was a fake. Turns out that was the least of Thamsanqa Jantjie’s problems: The Associated Press on Dec. 16 reported the imposter was involved in the 2003 burning death of a man who had stolen a television. Jantjie, who claims to have schizophrenia, never faced punishment because authorities deemed him unfit to stand trial. He admitted to Sunday Times of Johannesburg that he was involved in the “mob justice” killing.

Going to jail 

An Ohio judge sentenced a former Army captain to 28 years in prison for running a fake charity that raked in about $100 million from 2002 to 2010. Prosecutors charged John Donald Cody, who claimed to be “Commander Bobby Thompson,” with theft and money laundering while operating the Florida-based U.S. Navy Veterans Association. Cody, a Harvard-trained lawyer, offered no apology and no explanation for where the funds went, but he used at least part of the money to become a major campaign donor: He produced photos with former President George W. Bush, House Speaker John Boehner, and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Permission granted 

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada granted preliminary permission for Trinity Western University to open the country’s first Christian law school. The Council of Canadian Law Deans and the Canadian Bar Association had opposed the law program (see “Cold Canadian Front,” July 27) because Trinity Western’s community covenant confines students and employees to sex within traditional marriage. The Federation found there is “no public interest reason” not to grant preliminary approval for the law school, but Trinity Western still needs authorization from the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education before it can move forward.

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