Weekly Review — March 30, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Tempest, December 1878]

With a blue “Tedstrong” bracelet around his wrist and 22 pens (19 to be handed out as souvenirs, two for posterity, and one for himself), President Barack Obama signed a health-care reform bill that will extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans. “This is a big fucking deal,” said Vice President Joe Biden. Republican lawmakers, not one of whom voted to pass the law, were outraged. Corey Poitier, a Florida GOP candidate for Congress, compared Obama to a Little Rascal: “Listen up, Buckwheat. This is not how it is done!” Poitier, who is black, defended the remark. “People love Buckwheat,” he said, then looked at his palms to prove he wasn’t racist. “This isn’t a spray tan. This is real.”NYTGawkerCBS NewsSarah Palin urged her supporters to act, Tweeting “Don’t retreat, instead??RELOAD!” A propane line was cut at the house of Representative Tom Perriello’s (D., Va.) brother after right-wing bloggers mistakenly identified the home as that of the congressman; a coffin was left in front of Representative Russ Carnahan’s (D., Mo.) house; a Minnesota congresswoman received a letter containing an unwrapped condom and reading, “Betty McCollum, you’ve been dry fucked by the liberal party”; and an anonymous caller told the anti-abortion Representative Bart Stupak (D., Mich.), “I hope you bleed out your ass, got cancer and die, you motherfucker.”TwitterNYT via APWCBSTVPoliticoCNNFox NewsPoliticoA Texas newborn with a heart defect was denied health insurance because of his pre-existing condition.Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Documents surfaced showing that when Pope Benedict XVI was archbishop of Munich in 1980, he was notified that a pedophile priest receiving psychiatric care in the Munich archdiocese would be returned to pastoral duties, and that in 1996 (when he headed the Vatican’s disciplinary office) he chose not to defrock a Wisconsin priest who had molested 200 deaf boys after the priest requested “to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood.” NYTNYTA California man in possession of a “huge, staggering stash” of child pornography and hundreds of Chuck-E-Cheese game tokens was arrested, as was an Indiana man who entered a supermarket and stabbed packages of hamburger meat to “save young girls from the beef.”KTLA.comWTHR NewsA pair of 300-year-old dildos sold for more than $5,000 at a British auction.BBCNewly released reports on the Internet porn usage of Securities and Exchange Commission employees revealed that while at work financial regulators had viewed such sites as trannytit.com, erectionphotos.com, and scatmen.com.GawkerThe Pentagon announced that changes to the enforcement of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law would make it more difficult to expel gay soldiers from the military. The Marine Corps commandant, General James Conway, announced he wouldn’t want gay and straight Marines to share rooms. “I would not ask our Marines to live with someone that’s homosexual if we can possibly avoid it,” he said.NYTCNNZimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, political rivals, agreed that gay rights had no place in the country’s constitution. “Why should a man seek to have a relationship with another man,” Tsvangirai asked, “when women make up 52 percent of the population?”NYT

Female suicide bombers blew themselves up in two Moscow subway stations, killing dozens of people. “I remember,” said Kirill Gribov, who survived the attack, “a cloud of gas coming from the wrecked train in front of us, colored in pink, maybe because of blood.”NYTPresident Obama announced a new arms-control treaty with Russia, under which he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to reduce their countries’ deployed nuclear warheads by one third.WhiteHouse.goveThe Indian military planned to make grenades out of the bhut jolokia, the world’s spiciest chili pepper, and British intelligence claimed Al Qaeda was equipping female suicide bombers with nearly undetectable, exploding breast implants.APFox NewsFox’s “24” was canceled.The Hollywood ReporterThe city of Beijing announced the installation of 100 high-powered deodorant cannons at the Asuwei dump site to counteract landfill odor; Minnesota businesses that remove canine waste from people’s lawns were thriving since the thaw, with some yards yielding “hundreds of pounds of dog poop”; and paleontologists used 79-million-year-old fossilized dung to confirm the existence of Deinosuchus, a 29-foot prehistoric crocodile that ate sea turtles and dinosaurs.GuardianSt. Paul Pioneer PressNational GeographicDairy farmer Tony Goltstein worried Indiana environmental officials and his neighbors by proposing to take a paddleboat into his manure lagoon and use a Swiss Army knife to pop gas-filled bubbles as big as small houses. “If that thing back there blows,” said next-door neighbor Allen Hutchinson, “God help us all for miles.”WSJ

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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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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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