Weekly Review — July 15, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Tempest, December 1878]

The U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision seized the IndyMac Bank of California, worth an estimated 32 billion dollars, after the bank’s closure in the wake of mortgage industry collapse,AFPand the Bush Administration proposed a rescue package for ailing mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that would allow the Treasury to buy billions of dollars of their stock and lend them billions more to meet their short-term funding needs. The two companies’ total debt is estimated at $1.54 trillion.NYTimesAbu Dhabi bought New York City’sChrysler building for $800 million,GuardianUKand the Belgian brewer InBev planned to buy Anheuser-Busch for nearly $50 billion.AP via GoogleThe Environmental Protection Agency announced that the value of an American’s “statistical life” was $6.9 million, $1 million less than 5 years ago.APRepublican strategist Karl Rove ignored a subpoena to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, citing “executive privilege,”CNNand the Green Party selected Cynthia McKinney, the first African-American woman elected to Congress from Georgia, as its 2008 presidential nominee.ABCPresident George W. Bush met with other world leaders at the G8 summit to discuss climate change. “Goodbye,” he said as he left, grinning and punching the air, “from the world’s biggest polluter.”Telegraph UK

Former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow died of cancer,Foxand Iran released photos of a missile test that had been doctored to make it look as if four missiles were being launched instead of three.NYTimesMak Erot, an Indonesian woman who used herbs, Islamic prayer, and supernatural powers to enlarge penises, died at 130.BreitbartA new report revealed that the global population of zooplankton has drastically shrunk in the last forty years,BBCand world space officials announced the launch of a 2018 mission to procure samples of Martian rock and soil.BBCThe British retailer Marks & Spencer defended a policy of charging extra for bras that are bigger than size DD, saying the charge represented “a small premium for [necessary] specialist work,” while the protest group Busts 4 Justice derided the price increase as an unfair tax.BBCA British teenager who assumed that tremors in her bosom were caused by her vibrating mobile phone found a baby bat nestling in the padding of her 34FF bra.BBCThe World Health Organization warned people not to go into Ugandan bat caves after a Dutch tourist died from the Marburg virus, a hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola.BBCScientists discovered a new form of mad cow disease in the United States.BBC

The European Parliament censured Italy for preemptively fingerprinting gypsies in a measure designed to reduce crime.BBCTexas police were searching for a burglar who kicked a two-month-old puppy,WOAI.comand police in Germany were searching for the Rabbit Ripper, who kidnaps rabbits from their hutches, decapitates them, siphons their blood into bottles, and leaves their headless bodies on playgrounds.BBCOsama Bin Laden??s teenage son Hamza wrote and posted online a poem asking God for help against Western “gangs of infidels,”Telegraph UKand Senator Barack Obama alienated many supporters by voting to authorize the new Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which expands the government’s power to spy on Americans without a search warrant and provides retroactive immunity for telecommunications firms that had cooperated with the government’s previously illegal wiretaps. Earlier in the campaign, Obama had promised to filibuster any bill that provided such immunity.NYTimesThe Reverend Jesse Jackson apologized for saying of Obama that that he wanted to “cut his nuts out.”DrudgeObama admitted that he disliked ice cream,YouTubelightning struck a New Hampshire woman and exited through her nose ring, leaving her unscathed,Breitbartand Danish scientists found that infants born from once-frozen embryos had a higher birth weight and fewer twin siblings, and were less likely to suffer from abnormalities. “Only the very top quality embryos,” explained Dr. Anja Pinborg, “survive the freezing and thawing process.”Telegraph UK

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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.

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.’ ”

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.

The town prepares all year, and the performance, The Legend of Rawhide, has a cast and crew of hundreds, almost all local volunteers, including elementary school children. There are six generations of Rawhide actors in one family; three or four generations seems to be the average. The show is performed twice, on Friday and Saturday night.

The plot is based on an event that, as local legend has it, occurred fifteen miles south of Lusk, in Rawhide Buttes. It goes like this: Clyde Pickett is traveling with a wagon train to California. He tells the other Pioneers: “The only good Injun’s a dead Injun.” Clyde loves Kate Farley, and to impress her, he shoots the first Indian he sees, who happens to be an Indian Princess. The Indians approach the Pioneers and ask that the murderer give himself up. Clyde won’t admit he did it. The Indians attack the wagon train and, eventually, Clyde surrenders. The Indians tie Clyde to the Skinning Tree and flay him alive. Later, Kate retrieves her dead lover’s body and the wagon train continues west.

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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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