Weekly Review — May 20, 2003, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

L. Paul Bremer, the new American overseer of Iraq, informed Iraqi leaders that the United States and Britain had changed their minds about setting up an interim government made up of Iraqis and that he would remain in control until further notice. Bremer toured Mosul and praised it as “a great example of embryonic democracy”; elsewhere in the city a crowd chanted “America is the enemy of God.”New York Times Kurdish leaders, who have been running their own affairs for about 12 years, were particularly irritated, and there were widespread accusations that the United States was now revealing its true agenda to occupy Iraq and exploit its oil supply. Looters continued to dismantle Iraq’s infrastructure, and most of the equipment needed to restore the national electric grid, such as the computers that regulate power distribution, has been stolen. Nostalgia for the days of Saddam Hussein was spreading among the people. Donald Rumsfeld denied reports that U.S. soldiers in Iraq were going to start shooting looters on sight, though he did tell the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee that American forces in Baghdad “will be using muscle to see that the people who are trying to disrupt what is taking place in that city are stopped and either captured or killed.” Previously a nameless administration official told the New York Times that American forces “are going to start shooting a few looters so that the word gets around.” China threatened to execute people who knowingly spread SARS.

Car bombs killed 34 people, including nine terrorists, at foreign compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Al Qaeda was blamed for the attacks, which were carried out by 15 Saudi citizens. Robert Jordan, the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, accused Saudi Arabia of ignoring a recent request for more security in Riyadh, and the State Department warned of Bali-style bombings in Malaysia.Toronto Star A truck bomb in Chechnya killed 41 people, and 18New York Times Shell gas stations were bombed in Karachi, Pakistan.The Hindu Seattle and Chicago staged simulated terrorist attacks.New York Times In Taipei, Taiwan, a man drove a truck containing 15 barrels of gasoline into the Ministry of Transport building, killing himself and setting the building on fire.New York TimesForty-one people died in simultaneous suicide bombings in Casablanca, Morocco; the targets included a Jewish community center and the Casa de Espaa club.New York TimesIsraeli prime minister Ariel Sharon cancelled a meeting with George W. Bush in response to a new round of suicide attacks and restated his long-standing position that Israel will make peace with the Palestinians only after there is peace with the Palestinians.New York Times

Fifty-one Democratic state legislators fled Texas for Oklahoma to prevent the Texas House of Representatives from achieving a quorum; Texas Rangers were sent to fetch them, and theFt. Worth Star TelegramDepartment of Homeland Security admitted that it had been enlisted to track down the fugitives.New York Times People named “David Nelson” were having a hard time getting on airplanes because that name now appears on a federal anti-terrorism “no fly” list. Applied Digital Solutions announced that it has tested a prototype GPS tracking device designed to be implanted in a person.New Scientist Former president Gerald Ford experienced a dizzy spell.Associated Press A proposal was published in Nature to send a grapefruit-sized probe to the center of the Earth using the world’s largest nuclear bomb and 10 billion tons of molten iron.New ScientistNew York TimesThe Federal Reserve issued a warning about “the probability of an unwelcome substantial fall in inflation.” A new study found that widespread industrial-fishing operations have succeeded in reducing by 90 percent the world’s population of large tasty fish such as tuna, swordfish, blue marlin, and cod.New Scientist Governor Jeb Bush of Florida asked a court to appoint a guardian to safeguard the rights of a fetus.New York TimesWhite House aides asked people listening to a speech by the president to take off their ties so that they would look like the regular folks who the president claims will be the primary beneficiaries of his latest tax cut for the wealthy.New York Times The British government issued a special set of stamps bearing the face of Prince William, who turned 21,Reuters and admitted that medical authorities had stolen 22,000 brains from dead bodies between 1970 and 1999.New York Times Tommy Chong pled guilty in a Pittsburgh court to paraphernalia charges for conspiring to sell bongs.BBC The Wall Street Journal reported that women are sexually attracted to the Commander in Chief. “Hot? SO HOT!!!!! THAT UNIFORM!” said one New York mom. Said another: “I mean, that swagger. George Bush in a pair of jeans is a treat to watch.”Wall Street Journal

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The city was not beautiful; no one made that claim for it. At the height of summer, people in suits, shellacked by the sun, moved like harassed insects to avoid the concentrated light. There was a civil war–like fracture in America—the president had said so—but little of it showed in the capital. Everyone was polite and smooth in their exchanges. The corridor between Dupont Circle and Georgetown was like the dream of Yugoslav planners: long blocks of uniform earth-toned buildings that made the classical edifices of the Hill seem the residue of ancestors straining for pedigree. Bunting, starched and perfectly ruffled in red-white-and-blue fans, hung everywhere—from air conditioners, from gutters, from statues of dead revolutionaries. Coming from Berlin, where the manual laborers are white, I felt as though I was entering the heart of a caste civilization. Untouchables in hard hats drilled into sidewalks, carried pylons, and ate lunch from metal boxes, while waiters in restaurants complimented old respectable bobbing heads on how well they were progressing with their rib eyes and iceberg wedges.

I had come to Washington to witness either the birth of an ideology or what may turn out to be the passing of a kidney stone through the Republican Party. There was a new movement afoot: National Conservatives, they called themselves, and they were gathering here, at the Ritz-Carlton, at 22nd Street and M. Disparate tribes had posted up for the potlatch: reformacons, blood-and-soilers, curious liberal nationalists, “Austrians,” repentant neocons, evangelical Christians, corporate raiders, cattle ranchers, Silicon Valley dissidents, Buckleyites, Straussians, Orthodox Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Tories, dark-web spiders, tradcons, Lone Conservatives, Fed-Socs, Young Republicans, Reaganites in amber. Most straddled more than one category.

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The second-worst thing about cancer chairs is that they are attached to televisions. Someone somewhere is always at war with silence. It’s impossible to read, so I answer email, or watch some cop drama on my computer, or, if it seems unavoidable, explore the lives of my nurses. A trip to Cozumel with old girlfriends, a costume party with political overtones, an advanced degree on the internet: they’re all the same, these lives, which is to say that the nurses tell me nothing, perhaps because amid the din and pain it’s impossible to say anything of substance, or perhaps because they know that nothing is precisely what we both expect. It’s the very currency of the place. Perhaps they are being excruciatingly candid.

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When Demétrio Martins was ready to preach, he pushed a joystick that angled the seat of his wheelchair forward, slowly lifting him to a standing position. Restraints held his body upright. His atrophied right arm lay on an armrest, and with his left hand, he put a microphone to his lips. “Proverbs, chapter fourteen, verse twelve,” he said. “ ‘There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is . . .’ ”

The congregation finished: “ ‘Death.’ ”

The Assembly of God True Grapevine was little more than a fluorescent-lit room wedged between a bar and an empty lot in Jacaré, a poor neighborhood on Rio de Janeiro’s north side. A few dozen people sat in the rows of plastic lawn chairs that served as pews, while shuddering wall fans circulated hot air. The congregation was largely female; of the few men in attendance, most wore collared shirts and old leather shoes. Now and then, Martins veered from Portuguese into celestial tongues. People rose from their seats, thrust their hands into the air, and shouted, “Hallelujah!”

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On December 7, 2016, a drone departed from an Amazon warehouse in the United Kingdom, ascended to an altitude of four hundred feet, and flew to a nearby farm. There it glided down to the front lawn and released from its clutches a small box containing an Amazon streaming device and a bag of popcorn. This was the first successful flight of Prime Air, Amazon’s drone delivery program. If instituted as a regular service, it would slash the costs of “last-mile delivery,” the shortest and most expensive leg of a package’s journey from warehouse to doorstep. Drones don’t get into fender benders, don’t hit rush-hour traffic, and don’t need humans to accompany them, all of which, Amazon says, could enable it to offer thirty-minute delivery for up to 90 percent of domestic shipments while also reducing carbon emissions. After years of testing, Amazon wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration last summer to ask for permission to conduct limited commercial deliveries with its drones, attaching this diagram to show how the system would work. (Amazon insisted that we note that the diagram is not to scale.) Amazon is not the only company working toward such an automated future—­UPS, FedEx, Uber, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, have similar programs—­but its plans offer the most detailed vision of what seems to be an impending reality, one in which parce­l-toting drones are a constant presence in the sky, doing much more than just delivering popcorn.

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Every year in Lusk, Wyoming, during the second week of July, locals gather to reenact a day in 1849 when members of a nearby band of Sioux are said to have skinned a white man alive. None of the actors are Native American. The white participants dress up like Indians and redden their skin with body paint made from iron ore.

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At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

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