Weekly Review — August 27, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

A poison-gas attack in Syria, a verdict in the Manning trial, and wing-walker Flame Brewer

A Humbug (Weekly)Five days after a poison-gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus killed more than 300 people and caused symptoms of neurotoxicity in more than 3,000 others, the regime of Bashar al-Assad agreed to allow United Nations inspectors to collect samples of soil, blood, urine, and tissue in an attempt to determine who was responsible. Calling the use of chemical weapons a “moral obscenity,” Secretary of State John Kerry said that President Barack Obama would make an “informed decision” about the U.S. response. “Failure awaits the United States,” said Assad, “as in all previous wars it has unleashed.”[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] Documents declassified by the CIA indicated that the Reagan Administration offered intelligence to Saddam Hussein during the Iran–Iraq War in the knowledge that he would use nerve agents. “The Iraqis never told us,” said a retired Air Force colonel. “They didn’t have to. We already knew.”[8] Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who was removed from power by the army in 2011, and Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohammed Badie, whose party was removed from power by the army last month, went on trial for incitement to kill protesters. “Those who tried and are still trying to break the Egyptian army,” said a spokesman for interim president Adly Mansour, “will fall alongside the Tatars and Crusaders.”[9] At Fort Hood, Texas, Major Nidal Hasan was found guilty of 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder for his 2009 attack on an Army barracks; at Fort Lewis, Washington, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was sentenced to life in prison for killing 16 Afghan civilians in 2012; and at Fort Meade, Maryland, Private Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for providing 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks. “Justice,” said a relative of Bales’s victims, “was served the American way.” Manning announced that she would now live as a woman named Chelsea.[10][11][12][13]

George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watchman acquitted last month of the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, toured the facility in Cocoa, Florida, where the gun he used to shoot Martin was manufactured. “That was not part of our public-relations plan,” said a spokesman for Zimmerman’s attorney.[14][15] Martin’s parents were among tens of thousands of people to gather on the National Mall to mark the semicentennial of the March on Washington. “My generation cannot now afford to sit back,” said Newark mayor Cory Booker, “getting dumb, fat, and happy thinking we have achieved our freedoms.”[16][17] Pilgrims of the Universal White Brotherhood converged on the mountains of Bulgaria to practice their paneurhythmy.[18] A third of white high-school-age girls in the United States admitted to having used a tanning bed in the past year, and lepidopterists discovered that Calindoea trifascialis larvae hop away from the sun to pupate.[19][20] The Rim Fire was approaching Yosemite National Park’s Hetch Hetchy reservoir.[21] A real estate developer installed a Beaver Deceiver in Fairview, Texas, and the city of Zurich opened nine drive-in sex boxes. “It will not work,” said a local politician, “because the clients will not come.”[22][23] San Diego’s city council voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Mayor Bob Filner, who has been accused of sexual harassment by 18 women in the past six weeks. “He made me begin to feel like a 16-year-old again,” said one of Filner’s advisers, “with the vitality of his ideas.”[24] The Canadian military was continuing tests on Loki, a $620,000 stealth snowmobile, and Australian scientists were modifying beer to increase its rehydrative properties. “This is definitely not a good idea,” said one nutrition researcher.[25][26] A South Florida judge dismissed a citation issued in April to a man jogging backward. “I came very far,” said the jogger, “to get to where I’m at.”[27]

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

The walrus left Jökulsárlón, and the eggman collected blackberries in Exbury.[28][29][30] A skydiver died in Yolo County, California.[31] A girl named Flame Brewer wing-walked over Gloucestershire.[32] French pigeon hunters spooked a horse in Kent, and 3,000 donkeys in Kenya’s Rift Valley were found to be on leave.[33][34] Swedish neonatologists requested that crocheted octopuses no longer be brought to maternity wards.[35] Stray dogs in Detroit and Swainson’s hawks in Calgary were disrupting postal rounds. “It’s like Chihuahuaville,” said mailwoman Catherine Guzik. “They’re quite clever,” said postman Reuben Hawkes.[36][37] English archaeologists prepared to extract the tenth-century sarcophagus of “somebody terribly important.”[38] In Pennsylvania, a clown couple married at Clownfest. “Every layer of greasepaint,” said a clown named Happy, “is a layer of happiness.”[39][40] Researchers found that Double Stuf Oreos contain only 1.86 times the cream filling of traditional Oreos, that crocodilians who eat fruit do so deliberately, and that British snails locomote more quickly than previously assumed. “They are not,” said one malacologist, “just lettuce munchers.”[41][42][43] A Krispy Kreme in Edinburgh announced that it had sold an average of one doughnut every three seconds since opening in February. “They are ruinous,” said Scottish National Obesity Forum spokesman Tam Fry.[44]


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

Share
Single Page

More from Anthony Lydgate:

From the July 2014 issue

Vulgar Materialism

Weekly Review April 8, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Afghanistan votes, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of wealthy political donors, and China standardizes its pets 

Weekly Review February 25, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Upheaval in Ukraine, yobbery in the United Kingdom, and a historic douche in the United States

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

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2020

Trumpism After Trump

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“My Gang Is Jesus”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Cancer Chair

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Birds

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Skinning Tree

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Interpretation of Dreams

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Dearest Lizzie

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Trumpism After Trump·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

I had come to Washington to witness either the birth of an ideology or what may turn out to be the passing of a kidney stone through the Republican Party. There was a new movement afoot: National Conservatives, they called themselves, and they were gathering here, at the Ritz-Carlton, at 22nd Street and M. Disparate tribes had posted up for the potlatch: reformacons, blood-and-soilers, curious liberal nationalists, “Austrians,” repentant neocons, evangelical Christians, corporate raiders, cattle ranchers, Silicon Valley dissidents, Buckleyites, Straussians, Orthodox Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Tories, dark-web spiders, tradcons, Lone Conservatives, Fed-Socs, Young Republicans, Reaganites in amber. Most straddled more than one category.

Article
The Cancer Chair·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

Article
“My Gang Is Jesus”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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!”

Article
The Birds·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

Article
The Skinning Tree·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

The plot is based on an event that, as local legend has it, occurred fifteen miles south of Lusk, in Rawhide Buttes. It goes like this: Clyde Pickett is traveling with a wagon train to California. He tells the other Pioneers: “The only good Injun’s a dead Injun.” Clyde loves Kate Farley, and to impress her, he shoots the first Indian he sees, who happens to be an Indian Princess. The Indians approach the Pioneers and ask that the murderer give himself up. Clyde won’t admit he did it. The Indians attack the wagon train and, eventually, Clyde surrenders. The Indians tie Clyde to the Skinning Tree and flay him alive. Later, Kate retrieves her dead lover’s body and the wagon train continues west.

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.

In response to a major volcanic eruption, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines vowed he would “eat that ashfall. I’m even going to pee on Taal, that goddamned volcano.”

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