Weekly Review — September 18, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Caught in the Web, 1860]

Caught in the Web, 1860.

General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker testified to Congress about progress in the war in Iraq; Crocker summarized 2006 as “a bad year,” but blamed ongoing sectarian violence on Saddam Hussein’s “social deconstruction” of the country. Petraeus cited progress in the Anbar region as evidence that his surge strategy is working. He suggested that one Army brigade might be home for Christmas, and that the surge might be over by next July. Barack Obama proposed removing at least one brigade per month, starting now, until all troops are out by the end of next year. President Bush supported the Petraeus plan, also citing progress in the Anbar Province and his recent meetings with leaders there. WaPoNYTBoston GlobeNYTWaPoUSA TodaySunni sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the leader of the “Anbar Awakening,” who had recently been photographed shaking Bush’s hand, was assassinated. “His death has squeezed our heart,” said Ali Hatem Ali Suleiman, head of a rival tribal organization. “Now, I swear to God, if we will hear anyone is with Al Qaeda, even if he is still inside his mother’s womb, we will kill him.”BBCWaPoA new British poll estimated that 1.2 million people had died so far in the war, and former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan wished that politicians would admit that the war was “largely aboutoil.” TimesGuardian

Thousands of people joined veterans in an antiwar march in Washington, D.C., at which 189 people were arrested, and Geoff Millard, president of the D.C. chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, urged the peace movement to “take the next step past protest and to resistance.” WaPoA U.S. State Department official speculated that North Korea was helping Syria develop nuclear weapons, NYTand an elite presidential guard unit in the Central African Republic was charged with various atrocities, including summary executions and burning whole villages.NYTBush nominated former federal judge Michael B. Mukasey as Attorney General, WaPoand Russian president Vladimir Putin dissolved his government, appointing a little-known technocrat, Viktor Zubkov, as new Prime Minister.BBCCS MonitorMoscow TimesThe governor of Ulyanovsk, Russia, urged everyone to skip work and make love.Reuters via YahooYale University exhibited tools used by Ivan Pavlov to measure dog drool, including one saliometer given as a gift to the daughter of a Yale professor,Hartford Courantand Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson, an outspoken advocate of Cuban sanctions, defended his large collection of Cuban cigars. “You know,” he said, “if it’s good, I smoke it.” St. Petersberg TimesAt a gala hosted by Mr. Sulu from “Star Trek,” the Japanese American Citizens League saluted Sen. Larry Craig (R., Idaho), and tourists flocked to the airport men’s room stall where Craig was recently arrested for attempted cruising. “I checked it out,” said Jon Westby of Minneapolis, who was with his wife, Sally, visiting the stall for his second time. “It’s the second stall from the right.”The HillIdaho Statesman

Arctic ice was found to be melting about ten times faster than in previous years, leaving the Northwest Passage conveniently ice-free.The AustralianAP via GoogleLeftists in Mexico sabotaged oil pipelines for the third time in three months,NYTand tech workers in Seattle threw a luau in Gas Works Park, despite toxic blobs oozing out of the ground nearby. “I’m not afraid of it,” said Tim Chovanak, who works for Safeco. “Just don’t eat the dirt.”Seattle P-IA museum in Argentina exhibited three Incan children perfectly frozen in their sleep 500 years ago. “These are dead people, Indian people,” noted Gabriel E. Miremont, the museum??s director. “It??s not a situation for a party.”NYTPine beetles infested Georgia, webworms infested Maine, and crypto parasites infested swimming pools in Idaho. Atlanta Journal-CourierBoston GlobeIdaho StatesmanFoot-and-mouth disease resurfaced in Surrey, England, BBCand a major outbreak of ebola killed more than 150 people in Congo.BBCNYTScientists predicted that ebola would also kill the last remaining western lowland gorillas.BBCNear Grand Forks, North Dakota, at least 1,600 catfish died of unknown causes, ruining the fishing season, Minneapolis Star Tribuneand evening traffic slowed in Santa Barbara, California, as commuters watched the carcass of a 70-foot blue whale drift south along the highway.FOXLAT

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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.’ ”

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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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