Weekly Review — June 23, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Protesters supporting Mir Hussein Moussavi clashed with security forces throughout Iran as Moussavi called for further civil disobedience and the nullification of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election as president. “I am ready for martyrdom,” said Moussavi. Hundreds of people were arrested and at least a dozen were killed; Iran blamed the deaths on “armed terrorists” and announced a special court to try the protesters. President Barack Obama called on Iran’s leadership to stop its “violent and unjust” response to the protests. Iranian police detained five relatives of former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who supports Moussavi, and photographs of pro-Ahmadinejad rallies were manipulated to make crowds seem larger. Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who blamed the unrest on foreign governments and media, called on Iran’s Guardian Council to examine some claims of voter fraud but warned that opposition leaders who failed to stop protests “would be responsible for bloodshed and chaos.” An initial election probe revealed that 50 locales had more votes than voters.New York TimesNew York Daily NewsYahoo NewsNew York TimesNews GristMy Way NewsNew York TimesLos Angeles TimesThe United States was spying on a 2,000-ton freighter believed to be carrying missile components from North Korea to Burma; North Korea responded by threatening “unlimited retaliatory strikes” against South Korea, and Japanese intelligence officials suggested that North Korea may attempt to fire a Taepodong-2 missile toward Hawaii on July 4th, leading Hawaii to deploy its anti-missile defenses. “Without telegraphing what we will do,” said Defense Secretary Robert Gates, “we are in a good position, should it become necessary, to protect Americans and American territory.”New York TimesThe Daily MailThe CIA was recruiting laid-off New York City bankers.Reuters

After seven months of imprisonment, two reporters–one Afghan and one American–escaped from a Taliban compound in North Waziristan by keeping their Taliban guards up late playing board games and, once the guards were asleep, using a 20-foot rope to climb over the compound wall.New York TimesA suicide bombing at a mosque in northern Iraq killed 67 people and wounded about 200.VOA NewsA woman in Switzerland was sentenced to eight years in prison for killing her wealthy French lover during sex. She had asked the man, who wore a flesh-colored latex suit, for a million dollars as proof of his love; he replied that the sum was “a lot of money to pay for a whore,” at which point she shot and killed him, cleaned the sex toys and antiques, and threw the gun into Lake Geneva. “I am a woman who is desperately in love with a man,” she told the victim’s family, “and I remain so.”BBC NewsFour people were arrested in Florida for making a 12-year-old Boy Scout drink urine,Click Orlandoand 70-year-old Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner was videotaped breaking up a fight amid a crowd of 20 teenagers. ”Come here, fatso,” Finkbeiner yelled. ”Tubby, get your butt out of here.”New York TimesA fox in Germany was found to have stolen more than a hundred pairs of shoes,Der Speigeland a mother in Squamish, British Columbia, fought off a cougar that attacked her three-year-old daughter, who then asked: “Why didn’t the kitty play nice?”CBC News

Greenland, ruled by Denmark since 1721, replaced the national language, Danish, with the Inuit dialect of Kalaallisut and began to use the island’s Inuit name, Naalakkersuisut, in government documents. “It’s a new relationship based on equality,” said prime minister Kuupik Kleist, who compared Greenland and Denmark to partners in a marriage. “From today, the man in the house has as much say as the wife.”New York TimesA group of prominent fathers, including Run DMC’s Darryl McDaniels, skateboarder Tony Hawk, and Vice President Joe Biden, spoke as part of a White House Father’s Day celebration. “My number two son,” said Biden, “he wanted to go to law school, he went to Yale. Now, I don’t like those Ivy League schools, I went to a state school. But all kidding aside, he went to Yale.”SlateThe sixth dead body in seven years was found at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee.Chattanooga Times Free PressTwo copilots safely landed a plane in Newark Liberty Airport after the pilot died of a heart attack mid-flight,Fox Newsand the mother and grandmother of a six-year-old girl in Queens, New York, were arrested after setting the girl on fire as part of a voodoo “Loa” ritual, during which the mother poured accelerant over the child, burning 25 percent of her body.ABC NewsA man in Brooklyn was arrested after six years of dressing as his dead mother–in a wig, sunglasses, dress, and nail polish–to collect more than $100,000 in Social Security and rent benefits. “I held my mother when she was dying and breathed in her last breath,” the man explained, “so I am my mother.”NBC News

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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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