Weekly Review — March 25, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: All In My Eye, December 1853]

An American cattleman.

As the war in Iraq stretched beyond its fifth year the U.S. death toll rose to 4,000, and a national conference intended to reconcile sectarian groups was boycotted by Sunnis.BBC NewsAssociated PressMSNBCSenator John McCain visited Jordan and told reporters that it was “common knowledge and has been reported in the media that Al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran.” Senator Joe Lieberman was seen whispering into McCain’s ear, after which McCain apologized. “The Iranians are training extremists,” he explained. “Not Al Qaeda.” Later, in Jerusalem, a fistfight among photographers, soldiers, police officers, and tourists erupted at McCain’s Western Wall photo shoot, resulting in damage to several pairs of sunglasses.Washington PostNew York TimesIn response to fury over a handful of remarks made by Reverend Jeremiah Wright over the course of his 36 years as a pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, Senator Barack Obama delivered a nuanced and serious speech about race in America. “I think it’s an obligation of any opponent to use this issue,” said Congressman Peter King (R.-NY), “to make Reverend Wright a centerpiece of the campaign.”Washington PostNewsdayThe National Archives released more than 11,000 pages of Senator Hillary Clinton’s daily schedules as first lady, providing proof that she once read If You Give a Moose a Muffin out loud to a group of children.Washington PostScientists concluded that destroying information by throwing it into a black hole was not effective, because the information could leak from the hole at 1,000 bits per second, the same speed as a dial-up Internet connection.Scientific American

The Dalai Lama said that he would resign as the spiritual leader of Tibet if violence in the area escalated. Washington PostFrancisco Duque III, the Philippine Secretary of Health, encouraged Roman Catholic worshippers who planned on flaying the skin off their backs or crucifying themselves on Easter to get a tetanus shot first and to use clean whips and nails. Daily TelegraphMikhail Gorbachev admitted that he is a Christian,The Telegraphand Michael Stipe, lead singer of R.E.M., announced that he is gay. “I thought it was pretty obvious,” said Stipe, who has been explaining that he is not heterosexual for nearly a decade.US WeeklyPlaygirl invited former New York governor Eliot Spitzer to pose nude in its pages; Spitzer’s replacement, David Paterson, became the first black governor of New York and promptly admitted that he had in the past frequented a New York City Days Inn hotel to have sex with “a woman other than my wife.”PlaygirlNew York Daily NewsTheodore Pederson, once an aide to former New Jersey governor James McGreevey, said that for three years he, McGreevey, and Dina Matos (who would later marry McGreevey) would have dinner and drinks at T.G.I. Friday’s and follow that with sex as a threesome. “Friday night specials,” Pederson said, “developed into Saturday mornings.”The Star-LedgerResearchers found that a diet that includes lots of folate will keep sperm healthy.BBC News

The cubicle turned 40, Viagra turned 10, and Hotel Luxor, the oldest whorehouse in Germany’s red light district, announced that it would close for lack of business.TimeYahoo NewsAssociated PressMarvin Richardson, an organic strawberry farmer in Idaho who is challenging Senator Larry Craig for his Senate seat, had his name legally changed to Pro-Life. CBS NewsAn 81-year-old Australian committed suicide by building a robot that shot him four times in the head,Fox Newsand ABBA’s former drummer Ola Brunkert accidentally cut his neck on a piece of shattered glass at his Mallorca home, walked outside, collapsed in his garden, and died. Associated PressHorst Rippert, an 88-year-old former German fighter pilot, told the biographer of Antoine de Saint-Exupery that one of the 28 planes that Rippert gunned down during World War II was piloted by The Little Prince author. “If I had known,” Rippert said, “I wouldn’t have fired.” The ScotsmanPresident George W. Bush spoke with soldiers in Afghanistan. “I’m a little envious,” he said via a remote video link. “It must be exciting for youâ??in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger.”ReutersAn elderly German woman filed a lawsuit against a hospital in Bavaria after she checked in for a leg operation and was instead given a new anus.Fox NewsA study concluded that 95 percent of all Native Americans in North, Central, and South America descended from six “founding mothers” who lived 20,000 years ago;E Newsresearchers discovered a hidden ocean underneath the crust of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon;Scientific Americanand a NASA probe revealed that Mars may be covered in table salt.BBC NewsIt was reported that Petra, the German black swan who fell in love with a swan-shaped paddleboat two years ago, has moved on to a new relationship with a live white swan. The two are now building a nest together.Cnews

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Within about fifteen years, China’s economy will surpass America’s and become the largest in the world. As this moment approaches, meanwhile, a consensus has formed in Washington that China poses a significant threat to American interests and well-­being. General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), has said that “China probably poses the greatest threat to our nation by about 2025.” The summary of America’s 2018 National Defense Strategy claims that China and Russia are “revisionist powers” seeking to “shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.” Christopher Wray, the FBI director, has said, “One of the things we’re trying to do is view the China threat as not just a whole-­of-­government threat, but a whole-­of-­society threat . . . and I think it’s going to take a whole-­of-­society response by us.” So widespread is this notion that when Donald Trump launched his trade war against China, in January 2018, he received support even from moderate figures such as Democratic senator Chuck Schumer.

Shanghai Broadcasting Building, by Cui Jie (detail) © The artist. Courtesy private collection
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Without a Trace·

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In December 2015, a twenty-­two-year-­old man named Masood Hotak left his home in Kabul, Afghanistan, and set out for Europe. For several weeks, he made his way through the mountains of Iran and the rolling plateaus of Turkey. When he reached the city of Izmir, on the Turkish coast, Masood sent a text message to his elder brother Javed, saying he was preparing to board a boat to Greece. Since the start of the journey, Javed, who was living in England, had been keeping tabs on his younger brother’s progress. As Masood got closer to the sea, Javed had felt increasingly anxious. Winter weather on the Aegean was unpredictable, and the ramshackle crafts used by the smugglers often sank. Javed had even suggested Masood take the longer, overland route, through Bulgaria, but his brother had dismissed the plan as excessively cautious.

Finally, on January 3, 2016, to Javed’s immense relief, Masood sent a series of celebratory Facebook messages announcing his arrival in Europe. “I reached Greece bro,” he wrote. “Safe. Even my shoes didn’t get wet.” Masood reported that his boat had come ashore on the island of Samos. In a few days, he planned to take a ferry to the Greek mainland, after which he would proceed across the European continent to Germany.

But then, silence. Masood stopped writing. At first, Javed was unworried. His brother, he assumed, was in the island’s detention facility, waiting to be sent to Athens with hundreds of other migrants. Days turned into weeks. Every time Javed tried Masood’s phone, the call went straight to voicemail. After a month passed with no word, it dawned on Javed that his brother was missing.

A screenshot of a December 2015 Facebook post by Masood Hotak (left), in Istanbul
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When Philip Benight awoke on January 26, 2017, he saw a bright glow. “Son of a bitch, there is a light,” he thought. He hoped it meant he had died. His mind turned to his wife, Becky: “Where are you?” he thought. “We have to go to the light.” He hoped Becky had died, too. Then he lost consciousness. When he opened his eyes again, Philip realized he wasn’t seeing heaven but overhead fluorescents at Lancaster General Hospital. He was on a hospital bed, with his arms restrained and a tube down his throat, surrounded by staff telling him to relax. He passed out again. The next time he came to, his arms and legs were free, but a drugged heaviness made it hard to move. A nurse told him that his wife was at another hospital—“for her safety”—even though she was also at Lancaster General. Soon after, two police officers arrived. They wanted to know why Becky was in a coma.

Three days earlier, Philip, who was sixty, tall and lanky, with owlish glasses and mustache, had picked up his wife from an HCR ­ManorCare nursing home. Becky had been admitted to the facility recently at the age of seventy-­two after yet another series of strokes. They drove to Darrenkamp’s grocery store and Philip bought their dinner, a special turkey sandwich for Becky, with the meat shaved extra thin. They ate in the car. Then, like every other night, they got ice cream from Burger King and drove to their home in Conestoga, a sparse hamlet in southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Philip parked in the driveway, and they sat in the car looking out at the fields that roll down to the Susquehanna River.

They listened to the radio until there was nothing more to do. Philip went into the house and retrieved a container of Kraft vanilla pudding, which he’d mixed with all the drugs he could find in the house—Valium, Klonopin, Percocet, and so on. He opened the passenger-­side door and knelt beside Becky. He held a spoon, and she guided it to her mouth. When Becky had eaten all the pudding, he got back into the driver’s seat and swallowed a handful of pills. Philip asked her how the pudding tasted. “Like freedom,” she said. As they lost consciousness, the winter chill seeped into their clothes and skin.

Illustration by Leigh Wells (detail)
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America in the Middle East: learning curves are for pussies.
—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, June 2, 2015

In January 2017, following Donald Trump’s inauguration, his national security staffers entered their White House offices for the first time. One told me that when he searched for the previous administration’s Middle East policy files, the cupboard was bare. “There wasn’t an overarching strategy document for anywhere in the Middle East,” the senior official, who insisted on anonymity, told me in a coffee shop near the White House. “Not even on the ISIS campaign, so there wasn’t a cross-governmental game plan.”

Syrian Arab Red Crescent vehicles in eastern Ghouta, March 24, 2018 (detail) © Anas Alkharboutli/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Chances that a black American adult attended Martin Luther King’s March on Washington in 1963:

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The 70th governor of Ohio was sworn in on nine Bibles, which were held by his wife.

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