Weekly Review — July 10, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Storks, 1864]

At least 150 Iraqis were killed by a truck bomb in northern Iraq in possibly the deadliest bombing since the United States invaded in 2003, and it was reported that, despite a police security drive, the number of unidentified bodies found in Baghdad had increased sharply in June. New York TimesBBCnews.comAustralia’s defense minister, Brendan Nelson, admitted that securing oil is one of the reasons Australian troops stay in Iraq. “This government,” said Labor leader Kevin Rudd, “simply makes it up as it goes along.”BBCnews.comThe White House rejected demands to hand over documents related to the firings of eight U.S. attorneys and said Democratic lawmakers should spend their time passing bills that solve domestic problems.AP via Yahoonews.comChina sentenced a former official to death for corruption and for approving counterfeit drugs, admitted that nearly 20 percent of the goods it produces are substandard, and announced that it was searching for oil in Sudan.BBCnews.comNew York TimesBBCnews.comPresident Hugo Chavez of Venezuela visited Tehran and praised Iran’s nuclear program, calling President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad his “ideological brother.”BBCnews.comPresident George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin rode Segway scooters together.New York TimesHundreds of bound bodies were discovered in a former Soviet barracks near Kabul,BBCnews.comand a military judge rejected the Pentagon’s request to reinstate previously dismissed charges against a Guantánamo prisoner who was arrested when he was 15 years old.CNN.comBarack Obama was raising more money than Hillary Clinton,BBCnews.comand Cristina Kirchner, the first lady of Argentina, will run for president instead of her husband.BBCnews.com

The European Commission posted a 44-second videoclip of 18 orgasms to YouTube in support of European cinema. Critics complained that the title “Let’s Come Together” was too suggestive and that the pun fails to work in all EU languages.Reuters via Msnbc.comOne hundred and ten children were swept into the Irish Sea.BBCnews.comScientists succeeded for the first time in making a baby using a lab-matured thawed egg,BBCnews.comand Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in an attempt to prevent gay sex, planned to install a quarter-million-dollar robot toilet.South Florida Sun SentinelIn Nigeria, where the price of machetes has dropped by 50 percent since the end of the April elections, a kidnapped British three-year-old was released after four days. CNN.comReutersHamas brokered a deal for the freedom of BBC reporter Alan Johnston, who had been held for 114 days in Gaza,BBCnews.comand in NairobiLibyan president Muammar al-Gaddafi, surrounded by his squad of female bodyguards and wearing a shirt printed with pictures of the African presidents, called for the creation of a “United States of Africa” and implied that he should be its first leader.TelegraphScientists cloned a sperm.BBCNews.comA study claimed that men with high testosterone make irrational decisions,Newscientist.coma Hong Kong woman who blinded her boyfriend in one eye six years ago was jailed for jabbing a chopstick into his other eye,Reutersand an Iowa State University study suggested that the happiest marriages are those in which the husband defers to the wife in all decisions.Reuters

It was revealed that Wal-Mart has collected on at least 75 of the 350,000 life insurance policies it had secretly taken out on its employees.The Tampa TribuneFour members of a Virginia family and a farmhand drowned (or were killed by methane gas) in a manure pit after each jumped in to rescue the others; two children survived.AP via CNN.comExperts claimed that prescription pills were becoming the new marijuana on college campuses,CNN.comand Al Gore Jr. was arrested for possessing both pills and pot after he was pulled over for driving 100mph in his hybrid car. At Gore’s father’s 24-hour, seven-continent Live Earth concert for the environment, Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon addressed the crowd. “Everyone who did not arrive on a private jet,” he said, “put your hands in the air.” Le Bon then put his hand in the air.ReutersNMEEgypt outlawed female circumcision,BBCnews.comand in India, where ten million female infants have been killed in the last 20 years, a farmer rescued a two-day-old girl after finding her hand sticking out of the soil of his field.BBCnews.comA six-year-old girl had her small intestine ripped out by the drain of a Minneapolis swimming pool,11Alive.coma Miami man was charged with elder abuse after his mother, who was found in a trailer covered in red ants with newspapers shoved into her anus, died,Local6.comand scientists announced a potential drug that could erase bad memories.Livescience.com

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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.

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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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