Weekly Review — January 8, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

A (relatively) diverse new Congress, Brigitte Bardot’s elephant empathy, and life on Ezie Street

The 113th United States Congress was sworn into office in Washington, D.C. The new Congress features the most women and racial minorities of any Congress in history, with 43 African Americans (8 percent of the total number of representatives), 32 Hispanics (6 percent), 12 Asian Americans (2 percent), and 101 women (19 percent), as well as the first Buddhist, the first Hindu, and the first openly bisexual legislator. The Democratic Party formed the first caucus in which white men were not the majority, and the Republican Party welcomed the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction.[1][2][3] John Boehner (R., Ohio) was re-elected Speaker of the House, defeating Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), who was criticized after her office edited four absent congresswomen into a photograph, taken on the steps of the Capitol Building, of female members of the House Democratic Caucus. “It’s an accurate historical record,” said Pelosi, “that it was freezing cold.”[4] Vice President Joe Biden posed for photos with senators during ceremonial reenactments of their swearings-in. “Spread your legs,” he said to the husband of a North Dakota senator. “You’re going to be frisked!”[5] The House of Representatives passed a Senate-brokered deal to avert the “fiscal cliff,” President Barack Obama signed the deal by autopen after returning to his vacation in Hawaii, and Lake Superior State University placed the phrase “fiscal cliff” on its List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse, and General Uselessness.[6][7][8] Obama nominated former Republican senator Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense and his chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, for director of the CIA.[9] Vladimir Putin signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to French actor Gérard Depardieu, who was seeking refuge from high taxes on the wealthy in his country, and actress Brigitte Bardot threatened to join Depardieu in response to the planned euthanasia of two tubercular French circus elephants. “I have decided to request Russian nationality,” she said, “in order to escape a country which has become nothing more than an animal cemetery.”[10][11]

In Syria, where more than 60,000 people were found to have been killed and half a million to have fled since the start of the country’s civil war, President Bashar al-Assad gave a speech in which he called his opponents “murderous criminals” and refused to step down from office. “The enemies of the people are the enemies of God,” he said, “and the enemies of God will burn in hell.”[12][13][14][15][16] In Aurora, Colorado, where preliminary hearings began in the trial of mass murderer James Eagan Holmes, four people were killed in a home shootout.[17][18] Shooting victim and former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords visited Newtown, Connecticut, the site of a recent elementary-school shooting, and businesses in nearby Southington, Connecticut, were offering gift certificates in exchange for violent video games.[19][20] A referendum in Gyomro, Hungary, to stop the naming of a park after the country’s former Nazi-allied leader Miklos Horthy failed because of low turnout; a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman invited Egyptian Jews to return from Israel in order to make room for Palestinians; and the boyfriend of an Indian woman who died after being gang-raped on a bus alleged that police spent 20 minutes arguing over jurisdiction after finding the couple naked and beaten in the road, before transporting them to hospital.[21][22][23] Thirteen people died in a stampede in Angola on New Year’s Eve, and 60 died in a stampede in Ivory Coast on New Year’s Day.[24][25] Russian beer was reclassified from food to alcohol. “We are used to smoking, drinking, eating a poor diet and doing little sport and then falling ill,” said a Russian parliamentarian. “That’s got to stop.”[26] An earthquake triggered a six-inch tsunami off the coast of Alaska, a cold snap sealed 1,000 Chinese ships in ice, and an Icelandair crew duct-taped a man to his seat after he began screaming, spitting, and hitting people on a flight to New York.[27][28][29]

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

In Orange County, Florida, a sandwich-shop employee was fired for threatening to kill a customer who had requested ketchup on his cheesesteak, and in San Jose, California, a man seen waving an assault rifle outside a home on Ezie Street confronted police naked and brandishing a samurai sword.[30][31] A California appeals court overturned the sentence of a man who had been convicted of raping a woman by sneaking into her bed and impersonating her boyfriend. “Has the man committed rape?” asked the court in its ruling. “The answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes.”[32] The Indonesian city of Lhokseumawe began requiring women to sit side-saddle on motorbikes, the Church of England voted to allow celibate gay men to become bishops, and an Illinois priest was reportedly put on leave after being found gagged and handcuffed in his church’s rectory. “I was playing with them,” said the priest of the handcuffs during a 911 call, “and I need some help getting out.”[33][34][35] Afro-Cuban priests prescribed Santería rituals for Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who is hospitalized with a severe lung infection.[36] Honduras’s ambassador to Colombia resigned amid reports that prostitutes his bodyguard allegedly invited to an embassy Christmas party stole computers and defecated on two desks, and a cat was caught transporting drill parts, saw blades, and other supplies to inmates in preparation for a prison break in Alagoas, Brazil. “It’s tough to find out who’s responsible,” said a prison official, “as the cat doesn’t speak.”[37][38][39]


Sign up and get the Weekly Review delivered to your inbox every Tuesday morning.

Share
Single Page

More from Ryann Liebenthal:

From the July 2015 issue

Bleakness Stakes

Weekly Review May 19, 2015, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

An Amtrak train derails, a Bangladeshi blogger is hacked to death, and an African-American boy who was maced at an anti–police-brutality protest is grateful he wasn’t shot

Weekly Review February 17, 2015, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

A Muslim family is killed over a parking space in North Carolina, Netflix launches in Cuba, and an Indian woman who is 95 percent genetically male gives birth to twins

Get access to 169 years of
Harper’s for only $23.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

November 2019

Men at Work

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

To Serve Is to Rule

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Bird Angle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The K-12 Takeover

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The $68,000 Fish

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Men at Work·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“You’re being reborn,” the voice says. “Exiting the womb of your mother. Coming into the earth as a small baby. Everything is new.” It is a Saturday morning in mid-March, and right now I’m lying on a yoga mat in a lodge in Ohio, surrounded by fifty other men who’ve come to the Midwest for a weekend of manhood-confirming adventures. The voice in question belongs to Aaron Blaine, a facilitator for Evryman, the men’s group orchestrating this three-day retreat. All around me, men are shedding tears as Blaine leads us on a guided meditation, a kind of archetypal montage of Norman Rockwell boyhood. “You’re starting to figure things out,” he says, in somniferous baritone. “Snow, for the first time. Sunshine. Start to notice the smells, the tastes, the confusion. The fear. And you’re growing. You’re about ten years old. The world’s huge and scary.”

Even though it’s only the second day of the Evryman retreat, it’s worth noting that I’ve already been the subject of light fraternal teasing. Already I’ve been the recipient of countless unsought hugs. Already I have sat in Large Groups and Small Groups, and watched dozens of middle-aged men weep with shame and contrition. I’ve had a guy in the military tell me he wants to be “a rock for his family.” I’ve heard a guy from Ohio say that his beard “means something.” Twice I’ve hiked through the woods to “reconnect with Mother Nature,” and I have been addressed by numerous men as both “dude” and “brother.” I have performed yoga and yard drills and morning calisthenics. I’ve heard seven different men play acoustic guitar. I’ve heard a man describe his father by saying, “There wasn’t a lot of ball-tossing when I was growing up.” Three times I’ve been queried about how I’m “processing everything,” and at the urinal on Friday night, two men warned me about the upcoming “Anger Ceremony,” which is rumored to be the weekend’s “pièce de résistance.”

Article
To Serve Is to Rule·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The WASP story is personal for me. I arrived at Yale in 1971 from a thoroughly mediocre suburb in New Jersey, the second-generation hybrid of Irish and Italian stock riding the postwar boom. Those sockless people in Top-Siders, whose ancestors’ names and portraits adorned the walls, were entirely new to me. I made friends with some, but I was not free of a corrosive envy of their habitus of ease and entitlement.

I used to visit one of those friends in the Hamptons, in the 1970s, when the area was about wood-paneled Ford station wagons, not Lamborghinis. There was some money in the family, but not gobs, yet they lived two blocks from the beach—prime real estate. Now, down the road from what used to be their house is the residence of Ira Rennert. It’s one of the largest private homes in the United States. The union-busting, pension-fund-looting Rennert, whose wealth comes from, among other things, chemical companies that are some of the worst polluters in the country, made his first money in the 1980s as a cog in Michael Milken’s junk-bond machine. In 2015, a court ordered him to return $215 million he had appropriated from one of his companies to pay for the house. One-hundred-car garages and twenty-one (or maybe twenty-nine) bedrooms don’t come cheap.

Article
The Bird Angle·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I slept for a good seven hours on the overnight flight from Spain to Peru, and while I slept I dreamed that I was leading American visitors around a park in Berlin, looking for birds on a hazy, overcast day. There wasn’t much to see until we noticed a distant commotion in the sky. Large raptors were panicking, driven back and forth by something threatening them from above. The commotion moved closer. The clouds parted, an oval aperture backed with blue. In it two seraphim hovered motionless. “Those are angels,” I told the group.

They were between us and the sun, but an easy ­I.D. Size aside, no other European bird has two sets of wings. The upper wings cast their faces into shadow. Despite the glare I could make out their striking peaches-­and-­cream coloration. Ivory white predominates, hair a faint yellow, eyes blue, wings indescribably iridescent. Faces blank and expressionless, as with all birds.

Article
The K-12 Takeover·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Last May, the families of students at Cypress Academy, an independent charter school in New Orleans, received an email announcing that the school would close when classes ended the following week and that all its students would be transferred to another nearby charter for the upcoming year. Parents would have the option of entering their children in the city’s charter-enrollment lottery, but the lottery’s first round had already taken place, and the most desirable spots for the fall were filled.

Founded in 2015, a decade after New Orleans became the nation’s first city to begin replacing all its public schools with charters, Cypress was something of a rarity. Like about nine in ten of the city’s charter schools, it filled spaces by lottery rather than by selective admission. But while most of the nonselective schools in New Orleans had majority populations of low-income African-American students, Cypress mirrored the city’s demographics, drawing the children of professionals—African-American and white alike—as well as poorer students. Cypress reserved 20 percent of its seats for children with reading difficulties, and it offered a progressive education model, including “learning by doing,” rather than the strict conduct codes that dominated the city’s nonselective schools. In just three years, the school had outperformed many established charters—a particular feat given that one in four Cypress students had a disability, double the New Orleans average. Families flocked to Cypress, especially ones with children who had disabilities.

Article
Five Stories·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

how high? that high

He had his stick that was used mostly to point at your head if your head wasn’t held up proudly.

I still like that man—Holger! He had been an orphan!

He came up to me once because there was something about how I was moving my feet that wasn’t according to the regulations or his expectations.

The room was a short wide room with a short wide window with plenty of artificial light.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

The limited edition Nike Air Max 97s, white sneakers that have holy water from the Jordan River in their soles and have frankincense-scented insoles, sold out in minutes.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Jesus Plus Nothing

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

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. 

Subscribe Today