Weekly Review — May 30, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: All In My Eye, December 1853]

An American cattleman.

Europe’s most wanted war-crimes suspect, former general Ratko Mladic, was arrested for the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica. Supporters said the 68-year-old Bosnian Serb had suffered two heart attacks and three strokes over the years, and that his condition should preclude a jail sentence. “If you put a bird in a cage you can give them whatever it wants, but it??s not going to be happy,” said his lawyer and friend Milos Saljic.New York TimesNew York TimesA U.S. federal judge ruled that Jared Loughner was not competent to stand trial for attempting to assassinate Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a decision that came after Loughner was evicted from the courtroom for an outburst in which he reportedly said “Thank you for the freak show.” New York TimesThe final episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” aired.New York TimesFewer than 15 minutes before the expiry of the Patriot Act, President Barack Obama signed an extension to the law from Paris with an autopen, the first time a president has used the instrument to ratify legislation.New York TimesObama was on a six-day trip to Europe, during which he flubbed a toast to Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace, continuing to speak even though the orchestra had started playing “God Save the Queen.” “That’s very kind,” said the Queen to Obama.Althouse

Democrat Kathy Hochul won a special election to become the CongressionalRepresentative for New York’s District 26, a seat Republicans have held for four decades. Republicans denied that Hochul’s victory was a response to their proposal to privatize Medicare, even though Hochul was thought certain to lose until she began attacking her opponent for supporting the plan. New York TimesTests revealed that DNA found on the shirt of a Manhattan hotel maid belonged to former I.M.F. leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whom the maid had accused of sexual assault. The Globe and MailTwo New York City police officers were acquitted of charges that they raped a drunken woman after helping her into her apartment; one officer had admitted to snuggling with the woman while she wore only a bra. New York TimesA Kansas women??s group launched a campaign to send spare tires to state representative Pete DeGraaf for his defense of a bill that prohibits general health insurance plans from covering abortions, even for victims of rape and incest. “We do need to plan ahead, don??t we, in life?” DeGraaf had said, suggesting women buy a separate plan to cover abortions. “I have a spare tire on my car,” he added. Wichita EagleScientists revealed that to avoid unwanted sexual advances, female copper butterflies close their wings. BBC

Ninety-four-year-old Surrealist (and former lover of Max Ernst) Leonora Carrington died, as did 104-year-old heiress Huguette Clark at New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center, surrounded by the French dolls she had collected since childhood.New York TimesParaguay’s Asunción zoo sought a mate for Coco, the last known male hyacinth macaw in the country, and officials said the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming, would take place despite a deadly outbreak of horse herpes in the West. Associated PressDenver PostA truck driver in New Zealand was almost killed after falling buttocks-first onto an active compressed-air hose. Doctors said they were surprised the man??s skin didn??t burst, since the air separated his fat from his muscle. BBCInfrared satellite images of Egypt revealed 17 previously unknown pyramids. BBCIn England, police used a helicopter to apprehend a teenager who accidentally broke a window while playing soccer outside with his friends, and a school banned pupils from exchanging handshakes, high-fives, and hugs. AnanovaAnanovaA 34-year-old high school chemistry teacher in California was arrested for helping three students get high with chloroform; a Salt Lake City mother tried to sell her 13-year-old daughter’s virginity for $10,000; and activists fought to get a measure outlawing circumcision for boys younger than 18 onto Santa Monica’s November 2012 ballot. In response to concerns that HIV rates would rise as a result, measure-supporter Jena Troutman said, “If you’re raising a dumb kid who won’t use a condom, then go ahead and cut off two thirds of his nerve endings and one half of his penile skin.” Merced Sun-StarWLS 890AMLA 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.

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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