Weekly Review — August 31, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Two thousand seven hundred twenty-two days after U.S. troops crossed the Kuwaiti border into Iraq, U.S. combat operations there officially ended. Vice President Joseph Biden arrived to usher in ”Operation New Dawn,” during which the nearly 50,000 American troops remaining in the country will still be available for combat missions when requested by Iraqi forces. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks in 13 towns and cities that killed at least 56 people, many of them members of the Iraqi police and security forces, calling the assaults “the wings of victory sweeping again over a new day.”New York TimesSeattle TimesNew York TimesGeneral Ray Odierno, the outgoing U.S. commander in Iraq, said that the formation of a new government there could still be months away. “If we get the government formed, I think we??re okay,” Odierno said. “If we don??t, I don??t know.” New York TimesA gunman killed six people and wounded 14 in the Slovak capital of Bratislava.New York TimesFive soldiers in Afghanistan were charged with forming a “kill team” to summarily execute random Afghan civilians, a college student recently returned from a month spent filming Marines in Afghanistan slashed a Muslim cab driver in New York, and General David Petraeus revealed that he is “an Enya guy.”Raw StoryNew York Daily NewsFox News

Glenn Beck led a “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech there. The rally, Beck said, had “nothing to do with politics” but “everything to do with God.” “Something that is beyond man is happening,” he told a crowd estimated by him at 500,000 and by news sources at 87,000. “America today begins to turn back to God.” Other speakers included St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and first baseman Albert Pujols and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. “It is so humbling to get to be here with you today, patriots,” said Palin. “You who are motivated and engaged and knowing never to retreat.” A competing rally organized by Reverend Al Sharpton at nearby Dunbar High School drew several thousand people. “They may have the mall,” Sharpton said, “but we have the message.”New York TimesWashington ExaminerDemocratic congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, admitted to steering 15 CBC scholarships to her own relatives and the children of aides. Johnson said she “unknowingly” broke the CBC’s anti-nepotism rules and was working to “rectify the financial situation.” PoliticoA public middle school in Nettelton, Mississippi, ended race-based quotas that prevented black students from being elected class president.MSNBC

The victim of 13 years of repeated rape by a Belgian bishop released recordings of a meeting in which Cardinal Godfried Danneels, then the leader of the Church in Belgium, asked him to wait until the retirement of the bishop??who was also the victim’s uncle??before going public. “The bishop will resign next year, so actually it would be better for you to wait,” the cardinal says on the tapes. “I don??t think you??d do yourself or him a favor by shouting this from the rooftops.”New York TimesA North Carolina “ghost hunter” searching for a ghost train at the site of an 1891 wreck was struck and killed on the tracks, a Cincinnati woman was arrested for using a sex toy while driving, and a two-week traffic jam ended in China. At its peak, traffic stretched 60 miles and moved about a mile a day. WISTVWCPOThe Economist“Crocodile Dundee” actor Paul Hogan was detained in Australia for failure to pay taxes on $37.6 million of undeclared income, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin shot a whale with a crossbow. “I hit it at the fourth try!” said Putin.Yahoo NewsGuardian

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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.

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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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