Weekly Review — December 11, 2012, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Sliding Down Hill.

Typhoon Bopha struck the southern Philippines, causing flash floods and landslides that killed at least 700 people and displaced more than 5 million. Speaking at the United Nations COP18 Climate Change Conference in Doha, Filipino diplomat Naderev Saño broke down in tears as he called on delegates to extend the Kyoto Protocol and assist developing nations affected by rising greenhouse-gas emissions. “I ask of all of us here,” said Saño, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?” On Saturday, the delegates agreed to extend the protocol until 2020, but put off until next year the dispute over aid to affected nations.[1][2][3][4][5] Following protests in Cairo that left at least seven people dead and 700 injured, Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi called for “comprehensive and productive” dialogue but declined to postpone a controversial constitutional referendum scheduled for December 15; granted sweeping arrest powers to the military but stated that these powers were meant only for the protection of polling stations; and rescinded most of a recent presidential decree giving him near-unlimited power but retained the right to make decrees without oversight. “I’m really confused,” said an Egyptian doctor, “by all of the politics in the country.”[6][7][8][9][10] In Afghanistan, a member of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six was killed during the successful rescue of a kidnapped American, and a man who attempted to assassinate Afghanistan’s chief of intelligence was found to have concealed explosives in his groin. “This is not Taliban work,” said Afghan president Hamid Karzai. “There are bigger and professional hands involved.”[11][12][13] Hamas turned 25, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly crossed his legs in retaliation against the crossed legs of the Swedish ambassador, the average sperm count of Frenchmen was found to have fallen by a third between 1989 and 2005, and a man in Long Island, New York, shot his girlfriend following an argument over the likelihood of a zombie apocalypse. “He felt very adamant there could be a military mishap that would result in some sort of virus being released,” explained a detective. “She felt it was ridiculous.”[14][15][16][17]

Star Wars fans appealed to the Obama Administration to build a Death Star. “By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform,” their petition read, “the government can spur job creation.”[18] The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest mark in four years, and the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. “[I] have justifiable doubts that a foreign U.N. body operating out of Geneva, Switzerland, should decide what is in the best interest of the child,” said Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah). “It just says that you can’t discriminate against the disabled,” said Senator John Kerry (D., Mass.).[19][20][21][22] Greece was found to be the European Union’s most corrupt country, and a Greek soccer league reportedly informed owner Soula Alevridou, a former prostitute who rescued her club from bankruptcy, that her team’s equipment couldn’t bear the names of her luxury brothels, Villa Erotica and House of the Era.[23][24] A 125-mile-long traffic jam brought travel between St. Petersburg and Moscow to a three-day standstill, a Chinese construction firm announced plans to flatten 700 mountains in order to erect a new city in Gansu Province, and an eighteenth-century château in the French town of Yvrac en Gironde was found to have been razed in error.[25][26][27] Swedish artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff exhibited a painting made using ashes from a Nazi death-camp crematorium in Poland. “When von Hausswolff’s work isn’t muddied by naïveté,” an art critic wrote of the show, “he offers exciting and alternative strategies to deal with and remember the horrors of the past.”[28]

It was reported that the world’s oldest person had died at 116, and that the world’s tallest woman had died at 7'8".[29][30] A nurse at the London hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, was being treated for severe morning sickness committed suicide two days after being duped by a prank call from an Australian radio DJ who claimed to be the Queen of England.[31] The antivirus-software developer John McAfee was arrested in Guatemala, where he’d fled to avoid police questioning about a murder in Belize. “Vastly superior to Belize jails,” he wrote. “The coffee is also excellent.”[32][33][34] Vatican officials created a Twitter account for Pope Benedict XVI with the handle @Pontifex. “He won’t follow anyone for now,” said an adviser. “He will be followed.”[35][36] New Zealand dogs were being taught to drive; Darwin, a rhesus macaque wearing a diaper and a shearling coat, was apprehended at a Toronto Ikea; 832F, a female wolf known as the “rock star” of Yellowstone National Park, was shot and killed by hunters; and Bowland Betty, a rare hen harrier, was shot and killed on Thorny Grain Moor in Yorkshire, England.[37][38][39][40] Google gave the World Wildlife Fund $5 million to expand a “drone conservation” program aimed at tracking elephant, rhinoceros, and tiger poachers, and the wives of Thai mahouts were picking coffee cherries from the dung of their husbands’ elephants, to be processed into beans and sold for $500 a pound. “There’s definitely something wild about it,” said one man after trying a cup, “that I can’t put a name on.”[41][42]

Share
Single Page
undefined

More from Jess Cotton:

From the May 2013 issue

Coop de Grâce

From the March 2013 issue

Better Safe

Six Questions January 24, 2013, 1:04 pm

Three Poets: “The Halls of Aspartame”

Timothy Donnelly on writing challenging verse, the cultural faith bred by 30 Rock, and the poet’s need to reach for the eternities

Get access to 168 years of
Harper’s for only $23.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2019

Without a Trace

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

What China Threat?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Going to Extremes

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Tell Me How This Ends”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
What China Threat?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Within about fifteen years, China’s economy will surpass America’s and become the largest in the world. As this moment approaches, meanwhile, a consensus has formed in Washington that China poses a significant threat to American interests and well-­being. General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), has said that “China probably poses the greatest threat to our nation by about 2025.” The summary of America’s 2018 National Defense Strategy claims that China and Russia are “revisionist powers” seeking to “shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.” Christopher Wray, the FBI director, has said, “One of the things we’re trying to do is view the China threat as not just a whole-­of-­government threat, but a whole-­of-­society threat . . . and I think it’s going to take a whole-­of-­society response by us.” So widespread is this notion that when Donald Trump launched his trade war against China, in January 2018, he received support even from moderate figures such as Democratic senator Chuck Schumer.

Shanghai Broadcasting Building, by Cui Jie (detail) © The artist. Courtesy private collection
Article
Without a Trace·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In December 2015, a twenty-­two-year-­old man named Masood Hotak left his home in Kabul, Afghanistan, and set out for Europe. For several weeks, he made his way through the mountains of Iran and the rolling plateaus of Turkey. When he reached the city of Izmir, on the Turkish coast, Masood sent a text message to his elder brother Javed, saying he was preparing to board a boat to Greece. Since the start of the journey, Javed, who was living in England, had been keeping tabs on his younger brother’s progress. As Masood got closer to the sea, Javed had felt increasingly anxious. Winter weather on the Aegean was unpredictable, and the ramshackle crafts used by the smugglers often sank. Javed had even suggested Masood take the longer, overland route, through Bulgaria, but his brother had dismissed the plan as excessively cautious.

Finally, on January 3, 2016, to Javed’s immense relief, Masood sent a series of celebratory Facebook messages announcing his arrival in Europe. “I reached Greece bro,” he wrote. “Safe. Even my shoes didn’t get wet.” Masood reported that his boat had come ashore on the island of Samos. In a few days, he planned to take a ferry to the Greek mainland, after which he would proceed across the European continent to Germany.

But then, silence. Masood stopped writing. At first, Javed was unworried. His brother, he assumed, was in the island’s detention facility, waiting to be sent to Athens with hundreds of other migrants. Days turned into weeks. Every time Javed tried Masood’s phone, the call went straight to voicemail. After a month passed with no word, it dawned on Javed that his brother was missing.

A screenshot of a December 2015 Facebook post by Masood Hotak (left), in Istanbul
Article
Going to Extremes·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

When Philip Benight awoke on January 26, 2017, he saw a bright glow. “Son of a bitch, there is a light,” he thought. He hoped it meant he had died. His mind turned to his wife, Becky: “Where are you?” he thought. “We have to go to the light.” He hoped Becky had died, too. Then he lost consciousness. When he opened his eyes again, Philip realized he wasn’t seeing heaven but overhead fluorescents at Lancaster General Hospital. He was on a hospital bed, with his arms restrained and a tube down his throat, surrounded by staff telling him to relax. He passed out again. The next time he came to, his arms and legs were free, but a drugged heaviness made it hard to move. A nurse told him that his wife was at another hospital—“for her safety”—even though she was also at Lancaster General. Soon after, two police officers arrived. They wanted to know why Becky was in a coma.

Three days earlier, Philip, who was sixty, tall and lanky, with owlish glasses and mustache, had picked up his wife from an HCR ­ManorCare nursing home. Becky had been admitted to the facility recently at the age of seventy-­two after yet another series of strokes. They drove to Darrenkamp’s grocery store and Philip bought their dinner, a special turkey sandwich for Becky, with the meat shaved extra thin. They ate in the car. Then, like every other night, they got ice cream from Burger King and drove to their home in Conestoga, a sparse hamlet in southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Philip parked in the driveway, and they sat in the car looking out at the fields that roll down to the Susquehanna River.

They listened to the radio until there was nothing more to do. Philip went into the house and retrieved a container of Kraft vanilla pudding, which he’d mixed with all the drugs he could find in the house—Valium, Klonopin, Percocet, and so on. He opened the passenger-­side door and knelt beside Becky. He held a spoon, and she guided it to her mouth. When Becky had eaten all the pudding, he got back into the driver’s seat and swallowed a handful of pills. Philip asked her how the pudding tasted. “Like freedom,” she said. As they lost consciousness, the winter chill seeped into their clothes and skin.

Illustration by Leigh Wells (detail)
Article
“Tell Me How This Ends”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

America in the Middle East: learning curves are for pussies.
—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, June 2, 2015

In January 2017, following Donald Trump’s inauguration, his national security staffers entered their White House offices for the first time. One told me that when he searched for the previous administration’s Middle East policy files, the cupboard was bare. “There wasn’t an overarching strategy document for anywhere in the Middle East,” the senior official, who insisted on anonymity, told me in a coffee shop near the White House. “Not even on the ISIS campaign, so there wasn’t a cross-governmental game plan.”

Syrian Arab Red Crescent vehicles in eastern Ghouta, March 24, 2018 (detail) © Anas Alkharboutli/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Ratio of the size of an Amazonian “paradoxical frog” to that of its tadpole:

1:3

Storybooks for Chinese children emphasize purpose, while American storybooks emphasize happiness.

The Transportation Security Administration, which held a “fast-track” hiring event at the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport over the weekend, reported that 10 percent of its agents, who have not been paid for the past 33 days, have called out sick.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Happiness Is a Worn Gun

By

Illustration by Stan Fellows

Illustration by Stan Fellows

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

Subscribe Today