Weekly Review — February 14, 2012, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Saluting the Town, March 1854]

Greece??s parliament approved an austerity bill, cutting 15,000 government jobs and reducing the minimum wage by 22 percent in exchange for $170 billion in bailout funds from the European Union and the I.M.F. “We must show that Greeks, when they are called on to choose between the bad and the worst, choose the bad to avoid the worst,” said finance minister Evangelos Venizelos. More than 80,000 protesters marched in Athens on Sunday, some of them looting and vandalizing local stores. At least 34 buildings burned, including a Starbucks and an underground movie theater once used as a torture chamber by the Gestapo. “This is worse than the Forties,” said an elderly woman. “This time the government is following the Germans?? orders.”APAP via USA TodayReutersBloombergNew York TimesWhile striking in Brussels against an increase in their retirement age, hundreds of firefighters broke through barricades outside the prime minister??s office and soaked riot police in water and fire retardant.GuardianRT.comA man was arrested in The Hague after trying to throw a marijuana snowball over a prison wall, and Dutch ice skaters expressed hope that the extreme cold in Europe, which has killed more than 500 people, would allow them to hold the traditional 124-mile Elfstedentocht speed-skating race for the first time in 15 years.APTelegraphReutersRight-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart addressed Occupy D.C. demonstrators outside the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. “Behave yourself! Behave yourself! Learn to behave yourselves!” he screamed as police led him away. “Stop raping people! Stop raping people! Stop raping people! Stop raping the people! You freaks! You filthy freaks! You filthy, filthy, filthy, raping, murdering freaks!”Atlantic Wire

Al Qaeda announced its support of antiregime protesters in Syria, and Anonymous hacked into the servers of the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affairs, gaining access to staffers?? email accounts, many of which had the password “12345.” One leaked document detailed plans to bypass international sanctions by trading fertilizer with Iran, while another listed talking points for President Bashar al-Assad??s December 2011 interview with Barbara Walters. “American psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are ??mistakes?? done and now we are fixing it,??” the document stated, suggesting that Assad mention Wall Street protests “and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by police men, police dogs and beatings.”ReutersPC MagazineHaaretzHaaretzFollowing complaints from Catholic officials, President Barack Obama amended a recently issued mandate requiring employers to provide free contraception to employees. “Thanks to President Obama,” said Southern Baptist minister and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, “we are all Catholics now.”PoliticoRaw StoryA woman claimed that John F. Kennedy took her virginity when she was a 19-year-old White House intern, and an Oklahoma state senator withdrew from an antiabortion bill her proposed amendment banning ejaculation anywhere but a woman??s vagina.Daily BeastJezebelGuardianRepublican presidential candidate Rick Santorum toured a Bemidji, Minnesota, sweater-vest factory, won caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota and a nonbinding primary in Missouri, and said he opposed combat roles for female soldiers because of “the emotions of men… having men not focusing potentially on the mission instead of the natural instinct to protect someone that??s a female.”Raw StoryNew York TimesNew York TimesDallas schoolgirls were excluded from a field trip to see “Red Tails,” a movie about the Tuskegee Airmen. “Girls stayed at school,” said a school-board spokesman, “but principals were given the option to show them ??Akeelah and the Bee.??”Dallas Morning NewsFlorence Green, the last known veteran of World War I, died at age 110 in England; singer Whitney Houston died at age 48 in Los Angeles; and 1,000 mourners in Illinois attended the funeral of Nello Ferrara, inventor of the Lemonhead and the Atomic Fireball.New York TimesCBS NewsAP via ABC NewsA Wisconsin company was reported to have granted a four-year-old??s Christmas wish for a $380 “Persuade” dual-flush toilet. “??Mom, wouldn??t that be great if I could have this?” the boy said during a visit to the company??s showroom. “Could you imagine all of the things I could do?”Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

New York City hotels announced plans to issue panic buttons to their maids, and British mathematicians used the Rapunzel Number to solve the Ponytail Shape Equation. “We all have likely wondered about the fluffiness of hair,” said Raymond Goldstein, Schlumberger Professor of Complex Physical Systems at the University of Cambridge.AFPDaily MailReuters via Raw StoryUniversity of CambridgeA federal appeals court overturned California??s gay-marriage ban, the state legislatures of Washington and New Jersey passed same-sex marriage bills, and Uganda reintroduced an antigay measure, substituting life imprisonment for the original penalty of death.USA TodayAP via USA TodayAP via USA TodayRaw StoryFollowing incidents in four other states, the notorious Piggyback Bandit was spotted in Minnesota, where officials feared he would again rub the necks of high school athletes and jump onto their backs. “It??s the creepiness of the behavior that alarms most people,” said a North Dakota activities director. “It??s a little creepy.”UPIAn official inquiry was ordered in Karnataka, India, after Laxman Savadi, the minister for cooperation, was caught viewing a lewd video clip with the minister for women and children. “Why should I resign?” asked Savadi before resigning. “The video I watched was of a woman being raped by four people. It was not porn.”BBCFilmmakers raised money to release a movie about Osama bin Laden and an “army of zombie terrorists.”Raw StoryIn the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth formally rededicated herself to England, gardeners dug up a bed of blue centaurea growing in the shape of a swastika in Weston-super-Mare, and Swansea University administrators installed restroom posters instructing foreign students on proper toilet postures.Daily MailTelegraphBBCThe Newtown Creek sewage-treatment plant in Brooklyn planned a Valentine??s Day tour package including gifts of Hershey??s Kisses and views of its stainless steel “digester eggs,” which process millions of gallons of gas and sludge each day. “Just imagine,” said the plant??s superintendent, “going home and saying, ??Where did he take me on Valentine??s Day? I went to see the digester eggs in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.??”GovPro

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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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