The First Week Of 2014 Saw Polar Vortexes, Protests, And Vigilante Militias

The News and Politics team here at Literally, Darling is excited to introduce the inaugural weekly news roundup, intended to fill in all the gaps that keep holding you back at Trivia Night. Here you’ll find information needed to astound your friends and bewilder your colleagues with your grasp on current events. “How do you have the time to stay so on top of what’s going on?” they will ask, hearts all aflutter. But don’t worry, your secret is safe with us.

Here’s what’s been going on since the new year:

U.S. weather is being crazy. Temperatures in the Midwest hit lows around -40, causing snow days, cancelled flights, and loss of power across the region. The system of arctic horror began moving east on Tuesday. The scientific name for the cold snap is “polar vortex,” which is fittingly terrifying.

H1N1 is back and widespread. The Centers for Disease Control reported an increase in cases of the “swine flu,” with 25 states now seeing infection. It is being called a widespread outbreak, and as of late December the disease had killed six children.

Sasheer Zamata joins SNL cast. She will be the first black female on the cast since Maya Rudolph left in 2007. The iconic show came under fire recently for the lack of diversity of the cast, particularly the female members.

Donate your Bitcoins to this Texas campaign. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) will begin accepting Bitcoin donations for his Senate campaign. Let’s be honest, it was only a matter of time before campaigns tapped into the burgeoning Bitcoin wealth.

Janet Yellen confirmed as Federal Reserve Chair. Yellen is the first woman to hold the post, replacing Ben Bernanke at the end of his second four-year term on Jan. 31.

New York set to relax marijuana laws. Under a new executive action, a limited number of hospitals would be able to dispense medical marijuana to patients with certain diseases including glaucoma and cancer. The announcement came during the same week that marijuana became available for recreational use in Colorado.

New IRS ruling to put an end to automatic gratuities. As of Jan. 1, 2014, a new IRS ruling states that automatically added gratuities to larger parties at restaurants must now be considered wages instead of tips. Rather than the 18 percent tip going directly to the server in cash at the end of the night, these gratuities now have to go through payroll so the money can be properly taxed. What does this mean for the workers in the server industry? More paperwork for the company, which in turn is causing a lot of restaurant owners to put an end to auto-grats altogether.

California admits undocumented immigrant to Bar Exam. The California Supreme Court has ruled that Sergio Garcia, who was brought to the US at 17 months old, will be allowed to become a licensed lawyer. The decision follows Garcia’s four-year struggle to be admitted to the Bar and raises questions about other undocumented immigrants still petitioning for their licenses in New York and Florida.

New York Times article urges clemency for Edward Snowden. The Guardian has also thrown its support behind Snowden, who is currently in Russia following his leak of NSA surveillance information to journalist Glenn Greenwald. Reactions to the NYT editorial have been mixed in the U.S. Senate, where some view Snowden as a traitor. Find more on the varying perspectives on Snowden’s actions here.

Al-Qaeda has retaken Fallujah. Once the scene of intense fighting between U.S. troops and insurgent elements in Iraq, Fallujah has again been taken by an al-Qaeda affiliated band of militants. Iraq has increasingly spiraled into chaos and violence since the US. withdrawal of troops.

Car bomb detonated in Beirut. The Hezbollah stronghold in southern Lebanon saw the second car bomb in one week on Jan. 2, coming days after a Dec. 27 explosion killed five. The attack was claimed by an al-Qaeda affiliate called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is currently engaged in fighting the Assad government in Syria.

Crackdown in Cambodia. The Cambodian government responded to growing garment worker protests by evicting protesters from a public square in the capital city of Phnom Penh and banning public assembly. Workers are calling for an increase in minimum wage, and recent protests have lead to clashes with police and security forces.

Two Explosions in Volgograd. Volgograd, a city on Russia’s River Volga, was the scene of back to back suicide bombings. The attacks were one day apart and killed a total of 34 people, with many others injured. The tragedy has left many questioning the security of Sochi, where this year’s Winter Olympics will be held.

Displaced persons in CAR reach 935,000. According to the U.N., the ongoing violence in Central African Republic has lead to the displacement of 935,000 people. Aid groups are struggling to supply much needed shelter, food, and medical attention.

Protests in Israel draw more than 10,000. African migrants seeking asylum in Israel held a three day protest in response to what many call unfair treatment at the hands of the government. Israel has been criticized recently for deportation and detention of those seeking asylum.

Peace talks resume in South Sudan. Talks between the government and rebels were put on hold as fresh fighting broke out in the capital city of Juba, but continued Wednesday morning. Find more on the growing conflict here.

Vigilante justice against Mexican drug cartels. Paracuaro, in central Mexico, became the ninth town to see vigilante uprisings in response to drug cartel violence, disarming police forces believed to be allied with the powerful cartels. One town, Ayutla de los Libres, has been under militia control for one year.

Violence continues in Bangladesh in wake of elections. The Jan. 4 boycotted elections saw 127 polling stations burned and three people killed, and came weeks after unrest began due to the execution of an Islamist leader on war crimes charges.

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