Weekly Review — July 30, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Egypt teeters precariously, cat zombies and zonkeys live, and a hexapus dies

EARLY LESSONS IN SELF-GOVERNMENT (March 1876)

EARLY LESSONS IN SELF-GOVERNMENT (March 1876)

In Cairo, security forces loyal to General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi opened fire on supporters of deposed Egyptian president and Muslim Brotherhood party leader Mohamed Morsi, killing at least 83 people. Police detained 73 protesters and two Islamist political leaders, and the Muslim Brotherhood called for a million people to march in Cairo on Tuesday. Egyptian officers, said interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim, “have never and will never shoot a bullet on any Egyptian.”[1][2][3][4] In a suburb of Tunis, two gunmen assassinated People’s Party leader Mohamed Brahmi in front of his wife and children.[5] In Benghazi, Libya, more than 1,000 prisoners escaped the Kuafiya prison and pro-democracy activist Abdelsalam al-Mismari was shot and killed as he left a mosque.[6] Syrian government forces killed 19 children and 10 adults in a missile attack on Aleppo, and the United Nations announced that more than 100,000 people have now died in the Syrian civil war. “It is thus imperative,” said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “to have a peace conference in Geneva.”[7][8] The Obama Administration announced plans to repatriate two Algerian prisoners being held at Guantánamo Bay.[9] Neuroscientists at MIT gave mice false memories of having had their feet shocked inside a box.[10] George H. W. Bush shaved his head.[11] Attorney general Eric Holder announced that the United States would not seek the death penalty against Edward Snowden for leaking information about the National Security Agency’s spying programs, and the NSA asked a reporter from ProPublica to modify a Freedom of Information Act request because it has “no central method to search an email.”[12][13] Turkey exonerated a kestrel accused of spying for Israel, and Indian scientists confirmed that bright lights detected over Indian airspace and suspected of being Chinese drones were in fact Jupiter and Venus.[14][15]

Spanish authorities filed 79 charges of negligent homicide against the driver of a train that crashed while reportedly traveling 121 mph along a tight curve near Santiago de Compostela.[16] Pope Francis celebrated World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro by donning a ceremonial headdress given him by a shirtless man from the Pataxo tribe, visiting the impoverished Varginha favela, and speaking on Copacabana Beach before crowds estimated at 1.5 million and 3 million. “Possessions, money, and power can give a momentary thrill, the illusion of being happy, but they end up possessing us,” said the Pope. “I’m pretty surprised that people who call themselves Christians would throw away all this food,” said a bottle-picker.[17][18][19][20] A New York Times investigation found that U.S. investment banks were causing consumer-price increases by stockpiling such commodities as aluminum, coffee, cotton, oil, and wheat, and that Goldman Sachs was shuffling aluminum among warehouses outside Detroit in order to delay the metal’s entry to market. “It’s a merry-go-round of metal,” said a forklift operator.[21] Parisian gendarmes seized 60 tons of tin Eiffel Tower replicas, and a gunman stole $136 million worth of jewels from the Cannes hotel featured in the Alfred Hitchcock film To Catch a Thief.[22][23] A wrongful-death lawsuit was filed against a Michigan man who wrote “Kill Kathie Kill Kathie Kill Kathie!!!!!” on a chore list before killing his wife, and a man believed to have killed five seniors in Shunan, Japan, was arrested on a mountain near his home, where police found a haiku in a window that read “Setting a fire/ smoke gives delight/ to a country fellow.”[24][25] The London Fire Brigade speculated that the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey might be responsible for a rise since 2010 in emergency calls from people needing to be freed from restraints.[26]

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New Jersey hospitals were preparing for a 20 percent increase in births, anticipated because of a rise in conceptions during October’s Hurricane Sandy. “People just love hurricanes and sex,” said an economics professor.[27] Virginia E. Johnson, co-author of the pioneering 1966 book Human Sexual Response, died at 88, and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner was revealed to have exchanged graphic messages and photographs on the Internet under the pseudonym Carlos Danger following his resignation from Congress for similar activities in 2011. “He’s really not a changed man,” said the editor who broke the story. “He’s Carlos Danger.”[28][29] A Greek teenager shot himself in the foot to impress a girl.[30] Peahens were found to evaluate peacocks by the width and motion, not the ornamentation, of their trains.[31] Officials in Los Angeles closed three campgrounds after diagnosing a squirrel with plague, and six feral cats knocked down a woman in Belfort, France, and pierced one of her arteries. “Cats are not new zombies of the apocalypse,” said a veterinarian.[32][33] A zonkey named Ippo was born in Florence, an albino African hedgehog gave birth to triplets in a Moscow zoo, and Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, named their newborn son George Alexander Louis.[34][35][36] A spectator threw a banana at Cécile Kyenge, Italy’s first black cabinet minister, while she spoke at a rally, and an American family vacationing in Greece caught the second hexapus ever seen in the wild, then ate it with tomato and lemon. “It tasted just like a normal octopus,” said the father, “but now I feel really bad.”[37][38]


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Toward the end of the Obama presidency, the work of James Baldwin began to enjoy a renaissance that was both much overdue and comfortless. Baldwin stands as one of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century, and any celebration of his work is more than welcome. But it was less a reveling than a panic. The eight years of the first black president were giving way to some of the most blatant and vitriolic displays of racism in decades, while the shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and others too numerous to list sparked a movement in defense of black lives. In Baldwin, people found a voice from the past so relevant that he seemed prophetic.

More than any other writer, Baldwin has become the model for black public-intellectual work. The role of the public intellectual is to proffer new ideas, encourage deep thinking, challenge norms, and model forms of debate that enrich our discourse. For black intellectuals, that work has revolved around the persistence of white supremacy. Black abolitionists, ministers, and poets theorized freedom and exposed the hypocrisy of American democracy throughout the period of slavery. After emancipation, black colleges began training generations of scholars, writers, and artists who broadened black intellectual life. They helped build movements toward racial justice during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, whether through pathbreaking journalism, research, or activism.

Bloom, acrylic, ink, wood, and fabric on canvas, by David Shrobe © The artist. Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco
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On a Friday afternoon in the fall of 2017, a few months after the liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State, a group of neighbors gathered at Mar Mattai, a monastery founded in the fourth century. They unloaded baskets of food, and arranged themselves around a long table in a courtyard. A woman named Niser spread out a tablecloth and put down a plate of dolmas. “It’s a way of celebrating that we still exist,” she told me. More people were arriving—children, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and distant relations—members of one of the oldest Christian communities in the world who had not seen one another for three years.

Overlooking the village of Mergey from the old section of the Mar Mattai Monastery, Mount Maqlub, Iraq. All photographs from Iraq (October 2017) and Jerusalem (March 2018) by Nicole Tung (Detail)
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Around three in the morning on a cold December Sunday, brothers José and Romel Sucuzhañay began to walk home from a bar in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It was a cloudy night, only a few degrees above freezing, and the houses and stores lining their route wore impassive, nighttime guises—shades drawn, metal grates locked down. Romel had only recently arrived from Ecuador. José, a thirty-­one-year-old father of two, ran a successful real estate agency in the neighborhood. The two had spent the evening eating and drinking at a quinceañera at St. Brigid Church, and afterward, they stopped at a local bar called Christopher’s Palace. They were feeling the alcohol as they headed back to José’s apartment. When they realized that José had left his coat behind in the bar, Romel took off his jacket and draped it around his younger brother’s shoulders. They continued to walk up Bushwick Avenue, swaying a bit, arms around each other for warmth and ballast.

As they approached the corner of Kossuth Place and Bushwick Avenue, a red SUV stopped at the traffic light. “Check out those faggots!” the driver yelled out the window. José may have said something in reply. Very rapidly, a man jumped out of the passenger side door and smashed José on the head with a bottle, dropping him to the ground. He then turned to attack Romel. As Romel fled from the man down Kossuth, the driver exited the car, grabbed an aluminum baseball bat out of the vehicle, and began to beat José until someone emerged from the back seat and called him off. The driver was walking away when he saw some movement from José, a twitch of his hand or his leg sliding across the pavement—trying to rise, perhaps—and he strode back, straddled him, and raised the bat high in the air. He brought it down on José’s head, again and again, as if he were chopping wood.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae (Detail)
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After eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, Bergis Jules found himself worrying not only over the horrors of the present, but also over how little of the present was likely to be preserved for the future. The best reporting on the aftermath in Ferguson was being produced by activists on Twitter, a notoriously ephemeral medium. Jules, then an archivist at the University of California, Riverside, had the impulse to start saving tweets, but wasn’t sure how. “That whole weekend, watching things unfold, I thought, ‘This is a really amazing historical moment; we should think about capturing it,’ but I was just talking to myself,” he says. The following week, attending a Society of American Archivists conference in Washington, D.C., he voiced his fears en route to drinks at the hotel bar. He caught the ear of Ed Summers, a developer who just so happened to be the author of a Twitter archiving tool—and who promptly programmed it to va­cuum up #Ferguson tweets. Within two weeks, he had amassed more than 13 million.

Three weeks after the shooting, Summers blogged about the archive, which he and Jules were considering making public. Shortly thereafter, they received an inquiry from a data-mining company. When they pulled up the firm’s website, they read that its clients included the Department of Defense and, ominously, “the intelligence community.” What did the company want with the data? And what were the ethical implications of handing it over—perhaps indirectly to law enforcement—when the protesters’ tweets would otherwise evade collection? Using Twitter’s Application Programming Interface (API), the code that developers use to call up Twitter data, anyone can sift through tweets that were posted in the past week, but older posts disappear from the API’s search function, even if they still exist out on the web. The data-mining company was too late to nab a swath of the #Ferguson tweets. (Twitter has since unveiled a “premium” API that allows access to older data, for a substantial fee.) Newly mindful of the risks, Jules and Summers waited almost a year to publish their cache.

Illustration by Hanna Barczyk

Estimated number of times in the Fall of 1990 that George Bush told a joke about his dog asking for a wine list with her Alpo:

10

French researchers reported that 52 percent of young women exposed to Francis Cabrel’s ballad “Je l’aime à mourir” gave their phone numbers to an average-looking young man who hit on them, whereas only 28 percent of those exposed to Vincent Delerm’s “L’heure du thé” did so.

Migrant children were teargassed; carbon dioxide levels have reached three to five million year high; missionary killed by remote tribe

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Happiness Is a Worn Gun

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Illustration by Stan Fellows

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“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.”

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