Weekly Review — August 21, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Tempest, December 1878]

Jittery global markets brought on by the subprime mortgage crisis led the Federal Reserve to cut its discount rate on loans to banks by half a percentage point.AP via ForbesCiting America’s $1 trillion debt to China, Senator Joe Biden warned, “We have to get off that sucking off of that breast which is China.”Des Moines RegisterIt was reported that a South Carolina small-parts supplier run by twin sisters had cheated the Pentagon out of $20.5 million in shipping costs; two 19-cent washers sent to an Army base in Texas, for instance, incurred a $998,798 charge.BloombergJenna Bush, the younger of the President’s twin daughters by one minute, got engaged to tobacco heir Henry Hager.BreitbartBaptist pastor Wiley S. Drake instructed his Buena Park, California, congregation to pray for the deaths of two members of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “Let his days be few,” read the prayer, “and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”The Los Angeles TimesIt emerged that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will allow the National Security Agency to intercept telephone calls, emails, and other Internet communications made by British citizens across American networks.GuardianThe CIA was editing Wikipedia; one CIA entry concerned lyrics in a song from the television show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” A CIA spokesperson responding to queries about the edits stated, “I cannot confirm that the traffic you cite came from agency computers. I’d like in any case to underscore a far larger and more significant point that no one should doubt or forget: The CIA has a vital mission in protecting the United States, and the focus of this agency is there, on that decisive work.”AP via TimeNewsCloud.comBBC

Interpol sought the arrest of Saddam Hussein’s eldest daughter and his first wife for allegedly providing support to Iraqi insurgents.NYTIn northern Iraq, a series of bombings targeting the Yazidi Kurds killed 344 people.BBCA 1994 interview with Dick Cheney regarding the first Gulf war was released to the web. Asked whether U.S. forces should have invaded Baghdad in an attempt to oust Saddam Hussein, Cheney said, “No . . . we would have been all alone . . . It would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place?” Cheney described Iraq as a “quagmire,” predicting sectarian conflict and the pointless loss of American lives. “How many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? Our judgment was, uh, not very many, and I think we got it right.”YouTubeA federal jury convicted Jose Padilla on terrorism conspiracy charges,NYTwhile six of the Bali bombers got their jail terms reduced for good behavior.news.com.auTwo Manhattan firefighters died fighting a blaze in an abandoned skyscraper next to Ground Zero.AP via YahooA car bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan, killed 13 civilians,NYTand toy manufacturer Mattel recalled 436,000 miniature cars shaped like the character Sarge from the animated film “Cars” because they were coated with lead paint.NYT

Scientists analyzing the urine of the lonely found higher levels of epinephrine, a “fight or flight” chemical that contributes to physiological decay over time;biosingularity.wordpress.coma study suggested that women with breast implants were three times more likely to commit suicide than those without;Boston Heraldand the Army’ssuicide rate was at an all-time high, leading the Army to hold a poster contest.Army TimesAP via NYTA Massachusetts man pleaded guilty to intentionally eating glass in over a dozen restaurants to collect insurance compensation.AP via SFGate.comAn earthquake along the southern coast of Peru killed 510 people.NYTGermanphysicists claimed to have broken the speed of light,TelegraphUKand Scottishphysicists reversed the Casimir force to make objects levitate.TelegraphUKDavid Beckham scored on a free kick during his first game for the LA Galaxy,AP via Breitbartand astronomers observed a dying star named Mira shedding a dazzling, comet-like tail.BBCA study found that mothers who ate junk food while pregnant predisposed their children to obesity.Times of IndiaAfter widespread flooding, 53,000 Bangladeshis contracted diarrhea,Reuters via AlertNetan Australian woman was crushed to death by her sexually aroused pet camel,AP via The Starand a couple in China named their baby “@.”AP via SFGate.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.

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.’ ”

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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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