Weekly Review — July 11, 2006, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

North Korea launched six rockets over the Sea of Japan, including a Taepodong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile, which apparently was aborted after just 40 seconds. One thing we have learned, said President George W. Bush, who strongly dislikes North Korea’s Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, “is that the rocket didn’t stay up very long.” The president, who expressed annoyance when a reporter pointed out that Kim Jong Il had on all accounts increased his nuclear potency since Bush took office, claimed that his antimissile system, which has failed repeated tests, had a “reasonable chance” of intercepting the Taepodong.New York TimesIndia tested its long-range nuclear-capableballistic missile, the Agni-III, in the Bay of Bengal. That test also failed.San Francisco ChronicleNew York TimesGuardianAirliners crashed in Russia and Pakistan, killing hundreds, andAssociated Pressa British military report concluded that Trident nuclear missiles, which are regularly transported on public highways in the United States and Britain, are vulnerable to terrorist attacks or even severe traffic accidents that could trigger a nuclear explosion.New ScientistIsrael continued its push into Gaza in search of an abducted soldier. “We want to use an iron fist,” said Isaac Herzog, a Labor Party minister, “but cautiously, with a lot of consideration.” Palestinians, who did not cease to fire missiles into Israel, were busy counting their dead.International Herald TribuneNew research confirmed that smoking and obesity increase the risk of erectile dysfunction.New York TimesReutersU.S.tax revenue was up.New York Times

The Iraqi civil war continued to escalate as Shiite militiamen invaded a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad and executed at least 36 young men, apparently in response to the bombing of a Shiite mosque; later that day, two car bombs exploded next to another Shiite mosque, killing 19 and wounding 59. Los Angeles TimesSaddam Hussein’slawyers decided to boycott their client’s trial,Reutersand Iraqi prime minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki denounced the immunity of American soldiers in Iraq in connection with the rape and murder of a teenage girl and three of her relatives, including another child. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said that there was no apparent connection between the rape-and-murder case and the killings of two soldiers from the unit under investigation.Detroit Free Press“I’m going to make you this promise,” President George W. Bushtold a crowd of soldiers in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, “I’m not going to allow the sacrifice of 2,527 troops who have died in Iraq to be in vain by pulling out before the job is done.”New York TimesPresident Bush also said that he was “willing to abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court” in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which held that the administration’s scheme to try prisoners at Guantánamo in military tribunals is illegal. “It didn’t say we couldn’t have done??couldn’t have made that decision, see?” Bush added. “They were silent on whether or not Guantánamo??whether we should have used Guantánamo. In other words, they accepted the use of Guantánamo, the decision I made.”New York TimesFive more American soldiers were charged in the Iraqirape-and-murder case;ABC Newsan Army reserve colonel offered to plead guilty to charges that he engaged in bribery, conspiracy, and money laundering while he was stationed in Iraq;New York Timesand it was reported that SenatorOrrin Hatch intervened to get a record producer out of a Dubai jail after he was sentenced to four years for possession of cocaine.New York TimesThe FBI and the Department of Homeland Security claimed to have foiled a plot by foreign terrorists, in Lebanon, to bomb the Holland Tunnel in New York,Washington Postand three people were arrested for plotting to sell Coca-Cola secrets to PepsiCo.Voice of AmericaPresident Bush denied that the closing of the CIA’sBin Laden unit was significant. “We got a lot of assets looking for Osama bin Laden,” he said. “It’s a matter of time, unless we stop looking.”ReutersProsecutors declined to press charges against Rush Limbaugh for possession of Viagra.Associated PressKen Lay died.Houston Chronicle

A megachurch called the World Overcomers congregation in Memphis, Tennessee, unveiled a 72-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty (with the Ten Commandments under one arm, a tear on her cheek, and “Jehovah” inscribed on her crown) holding a cross of gold.New York TimesFelipe Calderon, the candidate of Mexico’s conservative National Action Party, was apparently elected president, though Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist mayor of Mexico City, refused to concede and demanded a complete recount.Washington PostItaly won the World Cup after France’s Zinedine Zidane was ejected from the game for head-butting Marco Materazzi,Associated Pressand an Italian judge ruled that former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi should stand trial for fraud.BBCThe prime minister of Spain snubbed the pope,Times Onlineand a sheikh in Mogadishu said that Muslims who do not pray five times a day should be put to death.ReutersA United Nations official in Sudan lamented that violence in Darfur has gotten worse since the signing of a recent peace accord.Associated PressIt was reported that Melinda Gates is more comfortable than her husband Bill when it comes to holding AIDS babies in Africa or talking to male prostitutes in India.New York TimesThe world’s oldest crow died in Bearsville, New York,Associated Pressand astronomers observed what they said might be a strange glowing blob of dark matter sucking in gas.New ScientistThe high courts of Georgia and New York both upheld bans on gaymarriage.ForbesPoland’s president appointed his twin brother to serve as prime minister.BloombergPresident Vladimir Putin of Russia explained that he had recently kissed a young boy on the stomach because he “wanted to stroke him like a cat.”Agence France-Presse

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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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