Weekly Review — August 20, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

“We are cautious,” said General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, “about every drop of Egyptian blood.”

An American Mastiff.

An American Mastiff.

In Cairo on Wednesday, Egyptian security forces deployed armored vehicles and live ammunition to clear two protest encampments set up by supporters of deposed president Mohammed Morsi, killing 638 people and injuring 3,994, according to an official count from the country’s health ministry. Egypt’s interim government claimed that it had authorized only the use of tear gas and bird shot, the Muslim Brotherhood claimed that 2,600 people had died, and the relatives of victims claimed that government officials wouldn’t allow morgues to accept bodies with gunshot wounds. Muslim Brotherhood supporters organized a nationwide “day of rage,” during which at least 100 people were killed as they marched from 28 mosques following Friday prayers toward Cairo’s Tahrir Square. On Sunday, security forces killed 36 Islamist prisoners as they attempted to escape, and gunmen attacked two minibuses carrying police recruits, killing 25. “We are cautious,” said General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, “about every drop of Egyptian blood.” Interim vice-president Mohamed ElBaradei resigned, and the lawyer for former president and military commander Hosni Mubarak, who is awaiting trial on charges related to the deaths of hundreds of protesters in 2011, said that Mubarak will be freed on bail by the end of the week.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11] Israel released 26 Palestinian political prisoners, approved the construction of nearly 1,200 new settlement homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and conducted warplane strikes on two sites in Gaza from which it said rockets had been launched across the border. At an undisclosed location in Jerusalem, negotiators for Israel and Palestine met for the first round of peace talks in nearly five years. “We must prepare,” said a former Israeli negotiator, “for dead-ends and blow ups.”[12][13][14][15]

U.S. Army major Nidal Hasan told a court-martial that he had killed 13 people in an attack on the military base at Fort Hood, Texas, because he was protecting Taliban fighters overseas, and Army private Bradley Manning apologized to the United States for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks.[16][17] Citing British counterterrorism law, officials detained the boyfriend of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald for nine hours at Heathrow Airport and confiscated his cell phone, laptop, camera, flash drives, DVDs, and game consoles.[18] Iran announced that it would teach drone-hunting to high school students as a part of its “Defense Readiness” curriculum.[19] The Syrian Electronic Army hacked the website of the Washington Post, and a Syrian antigovernment group claimed responsibility for a bombing in a Beirut suburb that killed at least 22 people.[20][21] More than 20,000 refugees crossed on foot from Syria into Iraq, where at least 34 people died in a series of car-bomb explosions in Baghdad. “This battle,” said Iraq’s interior ministry, “is aimed at destroying the country and turning it into another Syria.”[22][23] At a family fair in Aleppo, a jihadist group handed out Spider-Man and Teletubbies dolls.[24] A sixty-foot-wide sinkhole swallowed a resort building near Walt Disney World.[25] Authorities in Beijing ordered the demolition of a luxury villa and imitation mountainside built atop a 26-story high-rise, and Sichuan Province defended a decision to reduce the duration of leases offered to landholding citizens from 70 years to 40 years. “Don’t think too long-term,” said one official. “We may not exist after 40 years.”[26][27]

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An unpaid intern for Senator Harry Reid (D., Nev.) started a crowdfunding campaign to subsidize her work.[28] Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the U.S. government would no longer seek the mandatory minimum sentences specified for low-level drug crimes, and a federal judge ruled that the stop-and-frisk tactics employed by the New York City Police Department amount to racial profiling and violate the Constitution. “When it comes to policing,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who opposed the decision, “political correctness is deadly.”[29][30][31] In Utah, an 18-year-old arrested last year for plotting to bomb his high school lost a bid to become his town’s mayor, and an 18-year-old beauty queen surrendered her title after she was arrested for throwing bombs at people from her car.[32][33] An Ohio gun-safety instructor demonstrating how to use a handgun accidentally shot one of his students, and anti-abortion activists petitioned for the closure of Wichita’s South Wind Women’s Center, where physician George Tiller was shot and killed by an extremist in 2009, on the grounds that the clinic attracts gun violence.[34][35] Oglala Sioux voted to allow the sale of alcohol on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge reservation and to use the tax revenue for treatment programs. “I consider this blood money,” said tribal president Bryan Brewer. “I hate to accept it.”[36] Police in Qingdao freed a Chinese man who had passed out inside a Los Angeles–bound cargo container he’d mistaken for his bed-and-breakfast, and a Russian surgeon was arrested for stealing heroin from the stomach of a patient. “The doctor,” said a police statement, “was intoxicated at the time of detention.”[37][38]


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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.

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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.

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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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