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This is terrible
July 24, 2014
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The U.N. has stated that militant Islamic group ISIS has ordered all females, including women and young girls, in the northern Iraq city of Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation.

U.N. official Jacqueline Badcock told the BBC that the order applies to females aged 11 to 46. The edict could affect roughly four million women and girls, the U.N. estimates.

"This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by the terrorists," Badcock told the BBC. Meanwhile, the U.N. General Assembly called for all its members to ban female genital mutilation in 2012.

ISIS seized Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, in June, and the order comes as militants expand their reach across northern Iraq.

Update: While the BBC and the U.N. have reported the ISIS decree, others question whether it is a hoax. Shiraz Maher, a senior fellow at King's College London, told The Independent that the order may be a false rumor spread by one of ISIS' adversaries. Meghan DeMaria

Trump mania explained
1:56 p.m. ET

Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes finally answered the question that political pollsters have been struggling to answer: Why is Donald Trump so popular across so many demographic groups? His theory is that while "everybody is trying to be the kinder, gentler, you know, the compassionate conservative," that's not what the "average American" actually wants.

He broke it down further, using a dog analogy. "The average American," Starnes explained, "they don't want one of those metrosexual purse dogs, they want a pit bull in the White House." Donald Trump, presumably, is the pit bull. A candidate such as Jeb Bush, in Starnes' opinion, is the "metrosexual purse dog."

In polls that came out this week, Trump led the GOP presidential field by a 2-to-1 advantage, garnering support from 26 percent of respondents in both the latest Monmouth University poll and the latest Fox poll. While political pundits were at first leery of Trump's staying power, Starnes said he knew all along that Trump's support would only continue to grow.

"I might not be the brightest bulb in the lava lamp," Starnes said, "but I came out with a commentary that aired all across the country that said 'do not underestimate Donald Trump.' This is the guy who is saying what the American working man and the American working woman want to hear." Becca Stanek

rip cecil
1:39 p.m. ET
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

People will try to make a dime off of anything, including, apparently, Cecil the lion. Killed last month in Zimbabwe by a dentist, Cecil has been all over headlines recently (Was Jericho the Lion also murdered? What about this other lion?), and his likeness could soon end up stores, too. Motherboard reports that there have already been four trademark applications filed to the United States Patent and Trademark office, all of which are vying to claim Cecil for themselves.

The four applications were all filed for "paraphernalia," meaning the companies are looking to claim the rights to Cecil in order to make T-shirts, stuffed animals, and home decor. A travel agency, the maker of Beanie Babies, and the toy company responsible for plush toys of One Direction band members all filed for trademarks.

If these companies are really going to cash in on the Cecil craze, though, they may have already missed their window of opportunity: Motherboard points out that the Cecil the lion hype is unlikely to last the duration of the lengthy legal process required to acquire a trademark. Jeva Lange

nose knows
1:01 p.m. ET
Jennifer Polixenni Brankin/Getty Images

Being blind or deaf poses some very serious problems to living a normal life. But what about losing your sense of smell?

Sure, you would be blissfully unaware of some of the more unpleasant smells in the world (shout out to hot garbage) — but what must it feel like to not experience the aroma of delicious barbecue wafting from the grill, or the scent of an asphalt driveway after the rain, or that indescribably delicious smell of a newborn baby?

Our sense of smell is deeply intertwined with our memories and emotions, meaning that those who lose their ability to smell through accident or illness experience "a strong sense of loss," writes Emma Young at Mosaic. Young spoke with Nick, a 34-year-old who lost his sense of smell after a hockey accident last year. While Nick is thankful to be alive, it's clear that losing his sense of smell (doctors suspect his olfactory nerve cells were damaged or totally destroyed after he sustained a head injury) has come with an enormous emotional toll.

While the tongue can still taste sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami flavors, "more complex flavors — like grapefruit or barbecued steak — depend on smell," Young writes. Nick, who works at a craft brewery, says that without his sense of smell, his favorite beer is "a shell of its former self" to him now. He knows that the hops should give off notes of pine, citrus, and grapefruit, but he can no longer confirm that. He has also begun to rely on salty and spicy foods to whet his appetite now that the subtleties of flavor that come with foods' aromas are lost on him.

But the saddest part of Nick's ailment may be how once visceral experiences have now lost a dimension. As Nick puts it:

"I walk into my parents' house or my wife's family's house — and it doesn't have that smell. And I miss the ambience and the smells when there's an Eagles game, and everyone sets up grills in all the parking lots in south Philly, and grill up all kinds of crazy food items, and drink beer, hours before the game starts. Stuff you are used to... it's just gone." [Mosaic]

Read the full story at Mosaic. Samantha Rollins

nice try
12:33 p.m. ET

It's official: You can't out-Trump The Donald.

In response to GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump releasing his competitor Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)'s personal phone number during a very on-brand speech last month, Gawker retaliated in kind by publishing the real-estate mogul's own digits. But Trump is Trump, and he will take your best barbs and turn them in his favor. Behold, The Donald's new voicemail greeting, courtesy of NBC's Frank Thorp:

Your move, America. Kimberly Alters

This just in
12:30 p.m. ET
Facebook

The family of Sandra Bland, a Chicago-native who was found dead of apparent suicide in her jail cell last month, has filed a wrongful death suit against the Texas trooper, sheriff's office, and county jailers involved in her arrest, Reuters reports. The suit claims the officials violated Bland's constitutional rights and failed to provide her with medical care, although officials have claimed she was not mistreated.

Bland, 28, who was black, was arrested on July 10 by a white state trooper, Brian Encinia, after failing to signal a lane change. She was found dead with a trash bag around her neck in an apparent hanging on July 13. Jeva Lange

Fed cred
11:48 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Fed, America's central bank, has two jobs. It's supposed to maintain full employment, and keep inflation from getting out of hand. Most people interpret the latter objective as simply stopping inflation from getting too high, but the responsibility actually goes two ways. Inflation also must be kept from getting too low, because it represents a shortfall of aggregate demand, prevents quick price adjustment, and makes a liquidity trap harder to avoid. Price stability, neither too low nor too high, is the mandate. That's defined by the Fed itself as an inflation rate of 2 percent.

Economist Jared Bernstein, in a letter to Fed Chair Janet Yellen, points out that the Fed hasn't hit its inflation target for over three consecutive years — and it's actually getting worse over time:

The Fed is reportedly likely to raise interest rates — so it can get ahead of increasing inflation, supposedly — in September. It is hard to explain why. Ryan Cooper

early humanity
11:34 a.m. ET
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

At the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, archaeologists uncovered a 10,000-year-old man-made monolith that they believe is evidence of a prehistoric civilization. The rock monument's colossal size (12 meters, or about 39 feet in height) suggests that quite a few people would have been needed to move it — something that would have been difficult if, as previously suspected, the inhabitants had been hunter-gatherers living relatively solitary lifestyles.

The find, which is actually the second of its type, has led archaeologists to suspect that civilization may have "already been shifting towards our modern way of life" earlier than previously thought, according to Evoanth. Together, the two monoliths (the other one was found in the Middle East) suggest that different groups in different parts of the world were beginning to develop a modern way of life simultaneously.

"What was it that was driving so many people, so far apart in the same direction?" asks Evoanth. We can't be sure, but it seems the scientists are one step closer to finding out. Becca Stanek

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