Weekly Review — April 6, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Small Family, May 1874][Image: Killing Ground, May 1874]

A Small Family.
Killing Ground.

Four American mercenaries employed by Blackwater Security Consulting were pulled from their vehicles in Fallujah, Iraq, hacked to death, burned, and dragged through the streets; the remains of two were then hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River along with a sign that said “Fallujah is the cemetery for Americans.”BBC“Despite an uptick in local engagements,” said General Mark Kimmit at a press briefing a few hours later, “the overall area of operations remains relatively stable with negligible impact on the coalition’s ability to continue progress in governance, economic development, and restoration of essential services.”New York TimesPresident George W. Bush attended a fund-raiser that night and made fun of Senator John Kerry; he did not mention the killings in Fallujah.New York TimesA Shiite militia known as the Mahdi Army rose up across Iraq in response to a call by Moktada al-Sadr, a militant cleric, to “terrorize your enemy.” Last week Sadr announced that he is “the beating arm for Hezbollah and Hamas here in Iraq.”New York TimesAttacks on occupation forces were averaging about 26 per day, and Bell Pottinger, the British PR firm, was hired to teach Iraqis about democracy.International Herald TribuneBush Administration officials were said to be disturbed that Caribbean countries have refused to recognize the U.S.-backed government in Haiti, and aReutersUnited Nations envoy said that peacekeepers might have to remain in Haiti for 20 years.New York TimesPresident Bush signed a law making it a crime to harm a fetus while committing another crime, andAssociated PressCanadian hunters were busy trying to club 350,000 helpless three-week-old baby harp seals to death.New York Times

The International Court of Justice ruled that U.S. courts must review the death sentences of 51 Mexican citizens whose rights under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations were violated; although international treaties are “the supreme law of the land,” according to the U.S. Constitution, Governor Rick Perry declared that “the International Court of Justice does not have jurisdiction in Texas.”New York TimesGeorge Soros, the billionaire philanthropist, was splattered with mayonnaise by Ukrainian militants.GuardianFifty thousand protesters filled the streets of Katmandu, Nepal, demanding a restoration of democracy.Associated PressTaiwan’s opposition asked the country’s High Court to overturn the March 20 presidential election; the losing candidate, Lien Chan, has accused President Chen Shui-bian of election fraud and of staging his own shooting the day before the vote.Associated PressDozens of people died in a series of explosions and suicide attacks in Uzbekistan.New York TimesColin Powell admitted that the Iraqi National Congress, the U.S.-funded Iraqi exile group, was the source of “the most dramatic” bits in his notorious United Nations presentation on Iraq’s mythical weapons of mass destruction.Miami HeraldThe White House acknowledged that it has withheld three quarters of the 11,000 pages of Clinton Administration documents that were supposed to be handed over to the 9/11 commission; after an outcry, administration officials agreed to reconsider.ReutersPresident Bush backed down from his refusal to allow Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly under oath before the 9/11 commission, and aAssociated Pressformer FBI translator claimed that she could prove that the Bush Administration did in fact receive warnings in the spring and summer of 2001 that terrorists were planning to use aircraft to attack American cities.IndependentThe Treasury Department indicated that scholarly publications might be able to edit articles produced by evil countries such as Iran, Cuba, Libya, or North Korea without risking fines of up to $500,000 and ten years in prison.New York TimesRussia’s parliament agreed to amend a bill that would have banned almost all public demonstrations.New York TimesBudapest decided to revoke Joseph Stalin’s honorary citizenship, andAssociated PressSerbia’s parliament agreed to pay salaries and benefits to Slobodan Milosevic and other war criminals.Associated Press

The Department of Homeland Security announced that visitors from Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Japan, Australia, and 21 other countries will be photographed and fingerprinted when they enter the United States.New York TimesThe International Boundary Commission warned that the U.S.-Canadian border is becoming overgrown and could be lost in some places.New York TimesBulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined NATO; Russia was unhappy about NATO forces creeping so close to its border.New York TimesTreasury Secretary John Snow said that “outsourcing” of American jobs makes the American economy stronger.Cincinnati EnquirerThe trial of L. Dennis Kozlowski and Mark H. Swartz, the former CEO and CFO of Tyco International, ended in a mistrial.New York TimesMicrosoft and Sun Microsystems made peace.New York TimesThe founder of Ikea, the Swedish furniture company, denied that he is now the world’s richest man, and scientistsAssociated Pressfound that purebred dogs really do resemble their owners but that mutts do not.New ScientistA brawl broke out at an anger-management seminar at a high school in Maryland.Baltimore SunIt was reported that the U.S. government’s main laboratory for mad-cow testing, which is located in an Iowa strip mall, is not secure enough to store dangerous pathogens.ReutersPrime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand made his 17-year-old daughter get a job at a McDonald’s in Bangkok.ReutersTwo street children in Zimbabwe were arrested after they stole 100 million Zimbabwe dollars (about $23,000) and bought food, clothing, and household goods for other street children.New York TimesAngola was planning to outlaw genetically engineered cereals, which would jeopardize a United Nations program that feeds 2 million people.New York TimesAn Australian inventor created an electronic gun that can fire one million rounds per minute, and aAustralian ITJapanese robot conducted the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.New Scientist A new study found that toddlers who watch too much television are more likely to have a hard time concentrating by age seven; anotherSeattle Post-Intelligencerstudy found that preschoolers are the fastest growing market for antidepressant drugs.Express ScriptsVillagers in Romania were having trouble with vampires.Seattle Times

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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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