Weekly Review — March 19, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Saluting the Town (Weekly)Following two days of deliberation by a conclave of 115 cardinals, white smoke emerged from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, signaling the election of the 266th leader of the Catholic church, Argentine priest Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who will be the first Pope Francis. The Vatican fed the cardinals simple meals of soup, spaghetti, and boiled vegetables to discourage them from prolonging their decision. “After the third day,” one had said, “they’ll give us dry bread and water.” More than a thousand Catholics gathered to celebrate in Buenos Aires, where Bergoglio was being called a “slum pope.” “When I saw the news . . . I began screaming with joy,” said a cocaine addict. “And look, I’m still trembling.” Children cried out the new pope’s name when he appeared in the streets of the Vatican. “Are you a good boy?” Francis asked a child, patting him on the head. “Are you sure?” he added as the boy nodded.[1][2][3][4][5] A squirrel monkey named Madonna gave birth at a Virginia zoo, and a cloud angel was spotted over Florida.[6][7] Venezuelan officials canceled plans to embalm Hugo Chávez for permanent public display, and Iranian clerics chastised Mahmoud Ahmedinejad for touching Chávez’s mother at the funeral.[8][9] The head of a Danish news program apologized for using an illustration from the video game Assassin’s Creed as a backdrop to a story about Syria, where small groups of protesters gathered on the second anniversary of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. “They were nice days,” said a teenager from suburban Damascus of the rebellion’s early protests. “Now there are no protests and no school,” she added. “Just shelling.”[10][11]

In Basra, nine people were killed and 24 wounded in separate car bombings at an outdoor market and a tax-department parking lot; and in Baghdad, 24 were killed and more than 50 wounded in a coordinated attack on the justice ministry involving three car bombs, at least two suicide attackers, and gunmen dressed as police officers.[12][13][14] In Afghanistan, suicide bombers attacked the defense ministry and spectators at a game of buzkashi, a sport played on horseback using a headless goat carcass; a police officer killed two U.S. soldiers and two of his fellow officers in Wardak Province; and Afghan president Hamid Karzai implied that U.S. forces were colluding with the Taliban. “We’re at a rough point in the relationship,” wrote International Security Assistance Force commander Joseph Dunford Jr. “I am perfectly capable,” said Senate Armed Services Committee member Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), “of pulling the plug on Afghanistan.”[15][16][17][18][19] In Egypt, where the attorney general’s office was encouraging the practice of citizen’s arrests, soccer fans set fire to a police social club, a fast-food franchise, and the headquarters of the national soccer federation in protest of death sentences that were upheld for 21 rioters involved in a 2012 stadium riot that killed more than 70 people.[20][21] A suspect in a gang rape that resulted in the death of a New Delhi woman hanged himself in prison; six men were arrested for the gang rape of a Swiss woman in the tent she was camping in with her husband on a cycling tour through the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh; and two Ohio high school football players were convicted of raping a drunk, unconscious classmate, then distributing naked pictures of her. “No pictures should have been sent around, let alone ever taken,” said one of the boys in his apology to the girl and her family. “My life is over,” said the other.[22][23][24]

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Archaeologists in England uncovered a mass grave thought to contain the corpses of fourteenth-century Plague victims, and in China, where Xi Jinping was named president, a total of 8,965 pig carcasses had been dredged from the Huangpu River. “This river’s color is about the same as excrement,” said microblogger Yuzhou Duelist. “Even if there weren’t dead pigs you couldn’t drink it.”[25][26][27][28] The Association of International Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators named as its product of the year a microwaveable bacon package made for Spanish company Embotits Espina.[29] In Tshwane, South Africa, eight-year-old Sanele Masilela was ritually wedded to 61-year-old Helen Shabangum, and in Amsterdam 70-year-old twins Louise and Martine Fokkens retired from prostitution. “It is very different now,” said Louise. “No sense of community these days.”[30][31][32] A Maryland man died of rabies contracted from a transplanted kidney.[33] Residents of Bridgewater, New Jersey, were stringing up dead vultures to scare away live vultures.[34] Faced with a shortage of swordsmen, Saudi Arabia was considering replacing beheadings with executions by firing squads.[35] Russia postponed its first posthumous trial, and Ieng Sary, a co-founder of the Khmer Rouge, died before the conclusion of his trial for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.[36][37] At the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Mitt Romney apologized for not being president; Sarah Palin joked about pairing her “rack” with her husband’s rifle; and an African-American host of a panel called “Trump the Race Card: Are You Sick and Tired of Being Called a Racist and You Know You’re Not One?” lauded Frederick Douglass for having forgiven his slavemasters. “For giving him shelter?” shouted an audience member who claimed to be a direct descendant of Jefferson Davis. “And food for all those years?”[38][39][40][41]


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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
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Without a Trace·

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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
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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)
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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

Amount Arizona’s Red Feather Lodge offered to pay to reopen the Grand Canyon during the 2013 government shutdown:

$25,000

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The 70th governor of Ohio was sworn in on nine Bibles, which were held by his wife.

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