This week was a somber one, with a major earthquake hitting Italy and an American captain held hostage by Somali pirates. But it also had its share of the weird. Fishermen catch one of the rarest fish in the world … and then eat it, and Harold and Kumar go to the White House (well, Kumar anyway). These are the stories that made the first week of April 2009 a memorable one.
Somali Pirates Strike Again
Somali pirates are back at it. This time, they’re holding captive the captain of the Alabama, an American cargo ship. The ship’s crew were able to seize control of the Alabama from the pirates, but they continue to hold the ship’s captain, Richard Philips. U.S. warships have entered the area, and the Somali pirates have issued stern warnings that they will defend themselves if attacked. However, it is believed that the pirates will probably release Philips in exchange for safe passage.
This marks the first time that an American citizen has been taken hostage by the numerous pirates patrolling the Somali coast, which raises a new foreign policy issue for President Barack Obama. Turns out pirates aren’t as fun and carefree as Johnny Depp has led us to believe.
Israeli Sun Prayer
Tens of thousands of Jewish faithful gathered at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem this week for a ceremony practiced only once every 28 years. The Birkat Hakhama is a prayer said every 28 years when Jewish theology holds that the sun returns to the place it held at the creation of the universe. This year’s Birkat Hakhama is of particular significance because it coincides with the start of Passover.
The worst earthquake in three decades hit Italy on Monday, with a magnitude of 6.3. The quake left at least 289 dead, and many survivors criticizing the shoddy construction of many of the houses which simply collapsed. The government is investigating the incident and the poor building codes which may have led to many of the deaths. The quake also left more than 17,000 homeless and living in makeshift tent cities. Funeral services were held on Friday for those who perished in the quake, while rescuers were still digging bodies from the rubble. The state memorial service began with a recorded message from Pope Benedict, saying, “In these dramatic hours when a fearful tragedy has blighted this land, I feel spiritually present in your midst and share your anguish.”
Kumar Becomes a White House Liaison
Actor Kal Penn of House (and Harold & Kumar) fame was made an assistant director of the Office of Public Liaison to reach out to Asian and Pacific Islander constituents. Penn campaigned for President Obama during the elections, and will now serve the administration in an official role. This comes after Penn’s character on House committed suicide, which should free up his time a bit. The salary for the role has typically been between $41,000 and $90,000 a year. It’s not exactly Hollywood money, but it should still buy a lot of White Castle burgers.
Megamouth Shark Caught and Eaten by Fisherman
Fishermen in the Philippines caught a megamouth shark, one of the rarest fish in the world. There have only been 40 recorded megamouth sharks since the discovery of the species in 1976. The downside of this story is that the fishermen went on to eat the shark. Oops! Like the hilarious whale shark, megamouth sharks are slow, docile filter feeders. Their gentle nature probably makes them even more delicious. Scientists have now urged fishermen in the area to report any sightings of the sharks immediately, and to please, please not eat them. We’re not sure how megamouth sharks taste, but we’re guessing somewhat like Yangtze River dolphin.
Ethan Hawke Angers Toby Keith
Actor Ethan Hawke drew ire from country singer Toby Keith with an article in Rolling Stone. The piece, a profile of singer Kris Kristofferson, told a story about a backstage confrontation between Keith and Kristofferson where Keith told Kristofferson not to utter any liberal political sentiments onstage. Though the piece didn’t call Keith by name, it strongly insinuated that the singer was the instigator of the altercation. Keith claims the argument never happened, and has said Hawke didn’t call him by name out of cowardice. “I don’t know Ethan Hawke. Ethan Hawke wanted to do some kind of superficial Rolling Stone article. And he did everything he could to make his story the greatest story ever in Rolling Stone,” Keith said. “And it was a fictitious (expletive) lie.” Hawke’s not exactly the biggest guy. He seemed to get worked over by pretty much everyone he encountered in Training Day. Our money’s on Toby Keith. According to “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” he has some very particular plans for his boot and other people’s body parts.