Weekly Review — April 1, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Ennui sets into the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Guinea combats Ebola, and the distinctive arson of Cameo Crispi 

Early Lessons in Self-government (March 1876)

Early Lessons in Self-government (March 1876)

The Democratic Republic of Congo declared three days of mourning for 251 people who died when a boat built for 80 capsized on Lake Albert en route from Uganda; rescue dogs in Snohomish County, Washington, were granted a two-day break from their search for victims of a March 22 landslide that had left 24 dead and 30 missing; and 10 airplanes, 11 ships, and the U.S. Navy’s Towed Pinger Locator were enlisted to search 1,150 miles west of Perth for debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. French, Japanese, and Thai satellites provided images of more than 300 pieces of flotsam around the Indian Ocean’s Broken Ridge, while China, India, and Malaysia were accused of hiding or fuzzing radar and satellite data in order to conceal their respective technological capabilities. Orange debris spotted by planes passing over the search area turned out to be fishing equipment. “We’re just mowing the lawn,” said U.S. Navy pilot Kyle Atakturk.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] The Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the Istanbul mayoral election and 46 percent of the nationwide vote in local elections across Turkey, and prime minister and AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered a ban on YouTube after recordings posted to the site revealed high-level officials discussing options for military intervention in Syria, including the possibility of staging a Syrian attack on Turkey. “We will enter into their caves,” said Erdogan of the leakers. “They will pay and account for their deeds.”[8][9][10][11] American climatologists determined that even a small regional nuclear war could cause global famine, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that organic matter frozen in Arctic soil prior to the dawn of civilization was now melting and decaying, further accelerating global warming. “I’m worried,” said Princeton geoscientist Michael Oppenheimer.[12][13] In an effort to combat an Ebola outbreak that has killed at least 78 people, the government of Guinea banned bat soup.[14][15]

Ukraine, which supplies 80 percent of Crimea’s electricity and water, claimed that power cutoffs to the region in the week following its annexation by Russia were due to maintenance. Russia complained about Ukraine’s suspension of Russian television channels, and Russian state media reported that the country’s military had seized Ukraine’s combat-dolphin program in Sevastopol. “Dolphins get used to the people they work with,” said former Ukrainian defense minister Yevhen Marchuk. “It’s not so easy for them to change allegiance.”[16][17][18] Darth Vader won the presidential primary of the Ukrainian Internet Party.[19] American astronomers reported the discovery of planetlike object 2012 VP-113, nicknamed “Biden,” and President Barack Obama proposed legislation to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone metadata and to leave data repositories in the hands of telecom companies.[20][21] A Flemish newspaper apologized for running a doctored photo depicting Barack and Michelle Obama as apes, and former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld called Obama’s handling of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan inferior to a hypothetical primate’s. “A trained ape,” he said, “can get a status-of-forces agreement.”[22][23] Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti adviser and son-in-law to Osama bin Laden, was convicted in New York City of conspiring to kill Americans and of providing material support to terrorists in conjunction with the attacks of September 11, 2001.[24] BuzzFeed revealed a Pentagon plan to help Yemen develop its own targeted-killing program by supplying the country with crop-dusting planes armed with laser-guided missiles. “As much as you can put a Yemeni face on it,” said an American businessman familiar with the plan, “it feels better.”[25]

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In Utah, a man in a Superman T-shirt named Christopher Reeves was arrested for driving while intoxicated, and a woman named Cameo Crispi was accused of trying to set fire to her boyfriend’s home by burning a pound of bacon.[26][27] Mennonite-owned furniture maker Conestoga Wood Specialties and Baptist-owned crafts retailer Hobby Lobby argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers’ insurance policies cover certain forms of contraception infringed upon the religious freedom of privately held corporations.[28] Researchers noted the persistence in adults of positive feelings toward Tony the Tiger, and a Norwegian man had a McDonald’s receipt tattooed on his forearm.[29][30] The International Court of Justice declared Japanese minke whaling in the Southern Ocean to be unscientific.[31] Pollutants were found to be feminizing male thick-lipped mullet in the Basque estuary of Gernika, and a dozen sheep visited the Louvre.[32][33] A Stockholm family killed a 16-inch-long rat they’d found in their kitchen. “One of my sons said it was a Putin rat,” said the mother. “But my older son, who has a few more years of education under his belt, said it was much more like a Viking.”[34]


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Addressing the graduating cadets at West Point in May 1942, General George C. Marshall, then the Army chief of staff, reduced the nation’s purpose in the global war it had recently joined to a single emphatic sentence. “We are determined,” he remarked, “that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other.”

At the time Marshall spoke, mere months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. forces had sustained a string of painful setbacks and had yet to win a major battle. Eventual victory over Japan and Germany seemed anything but assured. Yet Marshall was already looking beyond the immediate challenges to define what that victory, when ultimately— and, in his view, inevitably—achieved, was going to signify.

This second world war of the twentieth century, Marshall understood, was going to be immense and immensely destructive. But if vast in scope, it would be limited in duration. The sun would set; the war would end. Today no such expectation exists. Marshall’s successors have come to view armed conflict as an open-ended proposition. The alarming turn in U.S.–Iranian relations is another reminder that war has become normal for the United States.

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A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition, as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he.

I rose long before dawn, too thrilled to sleep, and set off to find my tribe. North from Greenville in the dark, past towns with names like Sans Souci and Travelers Rest, over the border into North Carolina, through land so choked by kudzu that the overgrown trees in the dark looked like great creatures petrified in mid-flight. The weirdness of this scene would, by the end of the weekend, show itself to be appropriate: my trip would be all about romanticism, and romanticism is a human collision with place that results, as Baudelaire put it, “neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in a way of feeling.” My rental car’s engine whined as it climbed the mountains. Day was just breaking when I nosed down a hill to Orchard Lake Campground, where tents were still being erected in the dimness.

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Harold Jamieson, once chief engineer of New York City’s sanitation department, enjoyed retirement. He knew from his small circle of friends that some didn’t, so he considered himself lucky. He had an acre of garden in Queens that he shared with several like-minded horticulturists, he had discovered Netflix, and he was making inroads in the books he’d always meant to read. He still missed his wife—a victim of breast cancer five years previous—but aside from that persistent ache, his life was quite full. Before rising every morning, he reminded himself to enjoy the day. At sixty-eight, he liked to think he had a fair amount of road left, but there was no denying it had begun to narrow.

The best part of those days—assuming it wasn’t raining, snowing, or too cold—was the nine-block walk to Central Park after breakfast. Although he carried a cell phone and used an electronic tablet (had grown dependent on it, in fact), he still preferred the print version of the Times. In the park, he would settle on his favorite bench and spend an hour with it, reading the sections back to front, telling himself he was progressing from the sublime to the ridiculous.

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1. In 2014, Deepti Gurdasani, a genetic epidemiologist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in England, coauthored a paper in Nature on human genetic variation in Africa, from which this image is taken. A recent study had found that DNA from people of European descent made up 96 percent of genetic samples worldwide, reflecting the historical tendency among scientists and doctors to view the male, European body as a global archetype. “There wasn’t very much data available from Africa at all,” Gurdasani told me. To help rectify the imbalance, her research team collected samples from eighteen African ethnolinguistic groups across the continent—such as the Kalenjin of Uganda and the Oromo of Ethiopia—most of whom had not previously been included in genomic research. They analyzed the data using an admixture algorithm, which visualizes the statistical genetic differences among groups by representing them as color clusters. The top chart shows genetic differences among the sampled African populations, in increasing degrees of granularity from top to bottom, and the bottom chart shows how they compare with ethnic groups in the rest of the world. The areas where the colors mix and overlap imply that groups commingled. The Yoruba, for instance, show remarkable homogeneity—their column is almost entirely green and purple—while the Kalenjin seem to have associated with many populations across the continent.

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Ten yards was the nearest we could get to the river. Any closer and the smell was too much to bear. The water was a milky gray color, as if mixed with ashes, and the passage of floating trash was ceaseless. Plastic bags and bottles, coffee lids, yogurt cups, flip-flops, and sodden stuffed animals drifted past, coated in yellow scum. Amid the old tires and mattresses dumped on the riverbank, mounds of rank green weeds gave refuge to birds and grasshoppers, which didn’t seem bothered by the fecal stench.

El Río de los Remedios, or the River of Remedies, runs through the city of Ecatepec, a densely populated satellite of Mexico City. Confined mostly to concrete channels, the river serves as the main drainage line for the vast monochrome barrios that surround the capital. That day, I was standing on a stretch of the canal just north of Ecatepec, with a twenty-three-year-old photographer named Reyna Leynez. Reyna was the one who’d told me about the place and what it represents. This ruined river, this open sewer, is said to be one of the largest mass graves in Mexico.

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The commissioner of CPB admitted that “leadership just got a little overzealous” when detaining hundreds of U.S. citizens of Iranian descent in the wake of Qassem Soleimani’s assassination.

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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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