Weekly Review — April 20, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

After weeks of gentle rumbling, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted, covering Northern Europe with black ash and shutting down airports as far away as Ukraine. The disruption in international travel was the greatest since immediately after the September 11 attacks and cost airlines roughly $200 million a day. Some volcanologists predicted that eruptions might continue for as long as two years, creating “volcano weather” throughout the region.New York TimesNew York TimesThe ash kept many world leaders, including President Barack Obama, from joining the 150,000 mourners at the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, who were interred in a crypt in the Wawel Cathedral, which houses the remains of Polish kings, saints, and other national heroes. “This decision has political sense, to use this catastrophe to create, in an artificial way, a new myth or hero,” said Kaczynski’s longtime political rival Aleksander Kwasniewski. “But the Polish people are too clever not to see this intention. Putting him at Wawel is a step too far.” New York TimesJohn Stone, an Iraq veteran and Army medic wearing a Don Mattingly jersey, saved a woman from choking on a hot dog in the stands at Yankees Stadium. “Suddenly this kind of Elijah figure appeared from nowhere,” said the woman’s husband, Rabbi Avi Weiss. Daily News

The SEC filed suit against Goldman Sachs, claiming they defrauded investors by packaging and selling collateralized debt obligations that were designed to fail. According to the complaint, the investment bank created the CDOs at the request of hedge-fund manager John Paulson, so that he could bet against them by way of credit-default swaps. When the housing market collapsed, Paulson made, and investors in the CDOs lost, roughly $1 billion on the deals. “More and more leverage in the system, the whole building is about to collapse anytime now,” wrote Goldman vice president Fabrice Tourre in an email obtained by the SEC. “Only potential survivor, the fabulous Fab.”New York TimesA New Jersey man was arrested for intentionally vomiting on an 11-year-old girl at a Philadelphia Phillies game.NBCA memo by Defense Secretary Robert Gates claimed that the U.S. does not have a plan to counter Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear bomb. New York TimesPope Benedict XVI met with eight victims of sexual abuse by Maltese priests, a priest was arrested in a prostitution sting at a New Hampshire hotel, and several spectators were removed from the Museum of Modern Art for handling performers in an installation that involved naked men and women. “He proceeded to slide his hand onto my ribs and back and then touched my butt,” said dancer Will Rawls of one culprit. “As he was passing me he looked me in the eyes and said, ??You feel good, man.?? “Washington PostABC NewsNew York Times

State legislators in Oklahoma were working with “tea party” members toward the introduction of a bill creating a volunteer state militia to defend against the federal government. “[The Founding Fathers] were not referring to a turkey shoot or a quail hunt,” said State Senator Randy Brogdon. “The Second Amendment deals directly with the right of an individual to keep and bear arms to protect themselves from an overreaching federal government.” Talking Points MemoA “Restore the Constitution” rally was held in a National Park area near the U.S. Capitol, with speakers including Mike Vanderboegh, a former militiaman who encouraged readers of his blog to throw bricks through the windows of Democrats who voted for the health-care bill, and former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, who refused to enforce the Brady handgun-control law.Washington PostFired “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien signed a late-night contract with TBS,New York Timesand radio stations in Somalia stopped broadcasting music in response to an ultimatum by Islamic insurgents. “We have replaced the music of the early morning program with the sound of the rooster,” said the director of Radio Shabelle in Mogadishu, “replaced the news music with the sound of the firing bullet and the music of the night program with the sound of running horses.”New York Times

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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.’ ”

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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$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

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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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