Weekly Review — October 11, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: All In My Eye, December 1853]

An American cattleman.

Three women were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which has not gone to a female recipient in seven years. Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, the “mother” of that country??s rebellion, were recognized by the Nobel committee “for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Johnson Sirleaf, nicknamed the “Iron Lady,” was lauded by 1984 Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, who celebrated his 80th birthday in Cape Town. “Who? Johnson Sirleaf? The president of Liberia? Oooh,” said Tutu. “She’s brought stability to a place that was going to hell.” Karman, nicknamed the “Iron Woman,” celebrated from a protest camp in Sanaa. “[This] will end the dictatorship of Ali Abdullah Saleh,” she said. The following day, Saleh appeared on television, calling the opposition a “dark and destructive project.”CBS NewsUK GuardianNY TimesAssociated PressThree Americans won the Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering that a mysterious dark energy was constantly accelerating the universe’s expansion, which would result in a phenomenon known as the “big rip” that would leave the cosmos covered in ice and completely dark. The universe will be “a very, very large, but very cold and lonely place,” said Charles Blue, spokesman for the American Institute of Physics.NPRRalph Steinman, one of three immunologists to win the Nobel Prize in Medicine, turned out to have died three days before the award was announced, following more than four years of experimenting on his own pancreatic cancer. “He was impatient,” said his lab director, “with data and mice.”ReutersSteve Jobs, cofounder of Apple Computers, died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 56. Demand for Jobs’s iconic black mock turtlenecks soared, and #iSad trended on Twitter. Comedian John Hodgman, who played the PC on the original Mac vs. PC commercials, tweeted his thanks. “Everything good I have done,” he wrote, “I have done on a Mac.”TimePC MagazineWashington PostCelebrity Café

In New York, an influx of college students, unions, and special-interest groups joined the Occupy Wall Street protests, sparking fears that the movement is being hijacked by opportunists. “Most of the kids are trust-fund babies. They don??t need to be here,” said one 40-year-old occupier. “I??ve seen some making out, having sex.”Christian Science MonitorNewsCore via Fox PhoenixG.O.P. presidential candidate Herman Cain suggested that the protesters were jealous of bankers.NY PostSenate Democrats added a 5 percent surtax on millionaires to President Obama’s $447-billion jobs bill, and Republican state representative Ritch Workman of Melbourne, Florida, filed a bill to reinstate the practice of dwarf-tossing, which was banned in 1989. “All that it does is prevent some dwarfs from getting jobs they would be happy to get,” said Workman.Associated Press via MSNBCPalm Beach PostAustralian pop band Men at Work lost its appeal of a ruling that had found it copied a flute riff in the song “Down Under” from the folk song “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree,” and Tasmanian-devil culls were found to be ineffective in stopping the spread of cancerous Devil Facial Tumor Disease.BBCScience DailyScientists in France speculated that Uranus had been struck repeatedly by Earth-sized objects, and looked forward to closer observation of Uranus??s moons.Discovery

Online retailers were criticized for selling Anna Rexia, a “sexy anorexia” Halloween costume printed with a skeleton and accessorized with a measuring-tape belt. “If you’re starving for attention,” read one site’s product description, “this costume will be sure to put you on top of the world.”CNN via WTAE PittsburghThe top two couples in the 12th annual North American Wife Carrying Championships in Maine won the wives’ weight in beer, and the final ten contestants in an Edinburgh “world’s hottest chili”-eating contest dropped out when they witnessed the first ten writhe in agony and vomit after consuming a curry known as the Kismot Killer. Beverly Jones, who finished nine spoonfuls, won the contest; Curie Kim, who was hospitalized twice afterward, finished second.Lewiston Sun JournalDaily MailA 44-year-old woman who thought she was suffering from food poisoning and menopause discovered she had in fact been pregnant when she gave birth on a roadside bench in Derbyshire, England.BBCA rare short-snouted seahorse was discovered in the Thames, rainbow hunters captured the elusive quadruple rainbow on film, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that Florida fairy shrimp and South Florida rainbow snakes aren??t eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act because they may not exist.BBCBBCAssociated Press via Orlando SentinelAn oil spill off New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty threatened fairy terns, godwits, and little blue penguins, and Englishman Paul Urch was fined £160 ($250) for failing to remove a set of garden gnomes from his deceased father??s home before selling it. “Haven’t people got better things in life to do,” asked Urch, “than moan about a gnome?”UK GuardianNews.com.au

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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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