Weekly Review — January 31, 2006, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Saluting the Town, March 1854]

The Conservative Party won a plurality of seats in Canada’s federal election, making Stephen Harper Canada’s next prime minister.CBC.caThe Islamic group Hamas won 76 of 132 parliamentary seats in Palestine’s parliamentary elections, unseating the Fatah party. U.S. President George W. Bush, whose administration supported open democratic elections in Palestine, said that the United States would not negotiate with Hamas until the organization renounced its chartered goal of destroyingIsrael,BBC Newsand U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that the United States would cut off aid to Palestine if Hamas assumed power without changing its policies. “I’ve asked why nobody saw it coming,” said Rice, even though publications like The Guardian and the The New York Times had, since at least 2003, published regular reports on the increasing popularity of Hamas in Palestine. “It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse.” CNN.comThe New York TimesGawker.comThe GuardianSenator Joseph Biden (D., Del.) said Hamas would have to change its stripes.The Los Angeles TimesIn Iraq, the United States was negotiating with Sunniinsurgents.Newsweek via MSNBCA new judge took over the Saddam Hussein trial and had Hussein and co-defendant Barzan Ibrahim removed from the courtroom after Hussein began shouting and Ibrahim called the court “a bastard.”The Washington PostHussein also Saddam Hussein said through a lawyer that he wanted to sue President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for authorizing the use of weapons of mass destruction, such as white phosphorus, in Iraq.The Washington PostU.S. auditors found that of $120 million in Iraqioil revenue allocated to fund reconstruction $97 million had gone missing. The Los Angeles TimesEleven people died in a bombing at an Iraqi sweets shop, and at least 17 people died in other attacks. Four Christian churches were bombed.Reuters AlertNetAP via ForbesABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were severely injured in an explosion in Taji,ABC Newsand a teenage girl in northern Iraq was reported to have died of bird flu.ReutersIn Gary, Indiana, an Iraq war veteran killed a 79-year-old man when the man refused to give him money for crack.IndyStar.comMarine James Blake Miller, whose face became emblematic of the Iraq war after he was photographed smoking a cigarette during the November 2004 attack on Fallujah, was at home in Kentucky, where he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and had cut back to a pack and a half a day.SFGate.comHalliburton announced that 2005 was its best year ever.SignOnSanDiego.com

The White House refused to release photographs of President Bush with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, despite requests from Senate and HouseRepublicans,Reutersand a Senate committee investigating the government response to Hurricane Katrina criticized the Bush Administration for ignoring the findings of a hurricane-preparedness exercise called “Hurricane Pam,” which had warned that New Orleans would be flooded. “It is apparent that a more appropriate name for Pam should have been ‘Cassandra,'” said Senator Susan Collins (R., Maine). USA TodayVenezuelan President Hugo Chavez vowed to jail anyone who spies for the United States,BBC Newsand Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi promised not to have sex until elections were held on April 9.AP via ForbesThe UPN and WB television networks were slated to merge, AP via Yahoo! NewsDisney announced it would buy Pixar,E! Online via Yahoo! Newsand Google agreed to censor its Chinese search results to please the Chinese government.BBC NewsWith support from the ACLU, a boy in New Jersey won the right to wear a skirt to school; the boy wears the skirt to protest the school’s policy banning shorts.AP via Yahoo! NewsA grandfather in Florida died of a heart attack after all seven of his grandchildren were killed in an automobile accident,News Channel 5and a starving woman in Kangundo, Kenya, placed a curse on God as she hit a cooking pot with a stick, then died in her sleep. Reuters via MSNBCIn southern Poland, 66 people were crushed to death when an exhibition hall collapsed during an international pigeon fanciers’ fair.The New York Times

James E. Hansen, a director at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said that NASA had ordered its public-affairs staff to review and possibly censor his upcoming speeches and papers after he called for reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.The New York TimesMassachusetts Junior SenatorJohn Kerry, in Switzerland for the Davos economic forum, called for a filibuster to stop the nomination of Samuel Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court.The Salt Lake TribuneRepresentative Marty Meehan’s staff was caught removing unfavorable facts about Meehan from his Wikipedia entry; in the past the entire House has been banned from editing Wikipedia due to rampant abuse of the online public encyclopedia’s editing policies by House staffers.LowellSun.comIt was revealed that SenatorBill Frist’sAIDS charity had paid almost a half-million dollars in consulting fees to Frist’s political friends,CBS Newsand it was reported that one quarter of the Bush Administration’s $15 billion in AIDS-fighting money had been given to religious groups.AP via Yahoo! NewsPresident Bush said that he had not yet seen the filmBrokeback Mountain.”NBC13.comFrench police realized that they had spent the last two years trying to identify a female murder victim–whose skeleton was found during a low tide in Plouezoc’h–who actually died in the 15th century. “We reckon it was pirates,” said a policeman.AFP via Yahoo! NewsU.S. murderers were learning how to cover their tracks by watching television crime shows.AP via Yahoo! NewsAuthorities in Mexico City arrested a woman named Juana Barraza, a 48-year-old former wrestler who is thought to be the serial killer known as Mataviejitas, or “the Killer of Little Old Ladies,” and who may be responsible for strangling up to 30 of them.BBC NewsHawaiians were attempting to have the humuhumunukunukuapuaa (HOO-moo-HOO-moo- NOO-koo-NOO-koo- AH-poo-AH-ah) appointed as Hawaii’s state fish on a permanent basis after its five-year term expired. “It kind of looks like a pig and it squawks and everything,” said a humuhumunukunukuapuaa advocate.ABC NewsA substitute teacher in Santa Cruz, California, was sentenced to a year in jail for filming young boys licking whipped cream off each other’s toes. “I used very poor judgment,” said the teacher.The Mercury NewsMozart turned 250,CTV.cathe FBI was spying on vegans in Georgia,11Alive.comand several women in Missouri were sick with infections after receiving tattoos from a door-to-door tattoo salesman.TheKansasCityChannel.comA firecracker explosion killed 16 people during a New Year celebration in China,Reutersand the year of the dog began.The Star Online

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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.

There is a cancer camaraderie I’ve never felt. That I find inimical, in fact. Along with the official optimism that percolates out of pamphlets, the milestone celebrations that seem aimed at children, the lemonade people squeeze out of their tumors. My stoniness has not always served me well. Among the cancer staff, there is special affection for the jocular sufferer, the one who makes light of lousy bowel movements and extols the spiritual tonic of neuropathy. And why not? Spend your waking life in hell, and you too might cherish the soul who’d learned to praise the flames. I can’t do it. I’m not chipper by nature, and just hearing the word cancer makes me feel like I’m wearing a welder’s mask.

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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.

The town prepares all year, and the performance, The Legend of Rawhide, has a cast and crew of hundreds, almost all local volunteers, including elementary school children. There are six generations of Rawhide actors in one family; three or four generations seems to be the average. The show is performed twice, on Friday and Saturday night.

The plot is based on an event that, as local legend has it, occurred fifteen miles south of Lusk, in Rawhide Buttes. It goes like this: Clyde Pickett is traveling with a wagon train to California. He tells the other Pioneers: “The only good Injun’s a dead Injun.” Clyde loves Kate Farley, and to impress her, he shoots the first Indian he sees, who happens to be an Indian Princess. The Indians approach the Pioneers and ask that the murderer give himself up. Clyde won’t admit he did it. The Indians attack the wagon train and, eventually, Clyde surrenders. The Indians tie Clyde to the Skinning Tree and flay him alive. Later, Kate retrieves her dead lover’s body and the wagon train continues west.

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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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