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 

A Humbug (Weekly)In Afghanistan — where Taliban militants bombed the Ministry of the Interior and kidnapped and killed a political candidate and nine of his supporters — 7 million people reportedly voted in Saturday’s presidential and provincial-council elections, causing temporary ballot shortages in a third of the country’s provinces and prompting officials to extend polling hours nationwide. “We told Afghans not to vote,” said a Taliban commander. “If we find out you voted, you won’t take your five fingers home.” On the Shomali Plain, north of Kabul, polling places shuttered in response to a series of explosions were promptly reopened. “I left everything behind, my fears and my work,” said farmer Hajji Mahbob of Panjwai district, a traditional Taliban stronghold. “I want change and a good government.”[1][2][3][4][5] In a 5–4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a restriction on the aggregate amount an individual may contribute biennially to congressional candidates, political-action committees, and party committees, effectively eliminating the annual per-donor cap of $123,000. “Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority opinion. “Where enough money calls the tune,” wrote Justice Stephen Breyer in his dissent, “the general public will not be heard.” In a press conference aboard Air Force One, a spokesman for President Barack Obama, who was en route to a cocktail fund-raiser at the home of a San Francisco billionaire, said the administration was “disappointed by the decision.”[6][7][8][9][10] Thirty thousand Ugandans gathered at Kololo stadium in Kampala to celebrate February’s passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. “We can rid Uganda of homosexuals,” said one speaker. “Yes we can!”[11]

A U.S. federal judge dismissed a case brought by the families of Anwar al-Awlaki and two other American citizens killed in drone strikes overseas, finding “no available remedy under U.S. law” for claims that the strikes violated the victims’ rights to due process and protection from unlawful search and seizure. “Unmanned drones are functionally incapable of ‘seizing’ a person,” read the decision. “They are designed to kill.”[12] Army Specialist Ivan A. Lopez opened fire on fellow members of the 49th Transportation Battalion at Fort Hood, Texas, wounding 16 people on the base and killing three before shooting himself.[13] Three men convicted of gang-raping two women last summer in Mumbai were sentenced to death under a recently passed Indian law strengthening penalties against repeat sex offenders. “They have used the most powerful weapon in their possession: the penis,” said the presiding judge. “They must die,” said the prosecutor.[14] Princess Anne recommended that the badgers of Gloucestershire be gassed, and French justice minister Christiane Taubira canceled plans to attend a ceremony in Kigali marking the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, after Rwandan president Paul Kagame accused France of participation in the “political preparation” and “execution” of the killing. “I don’t care for the use of the word ‘participation,’ ” said former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner. “The truth is hard,” said Rwandan foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo.[15][16][17][18] In China, where urban residents were breathing rural mountain air by the bagful, officials established a pet-standardization committee and announced a nearly $2.7 million investment into researching the aurora borealis above Iceland. “The Chinese do not do anything without good reason,” said an Icelandic scientist.[19][20][21] Saudi officials suspended the travel visas of Muslim pilgrims from parts of West Africa after an Ebola outbreak in rural Guinea spread to Conakry, the country’s capital. “The doctors,” said Bah Mamadou, a taxi driver in Guinea’s southeastern Nzérékoré region, “looked like cosmonauts on their way back from the moon.”[22][23]

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

American children were found to prefer breakfast cereals whose spokescharacters look them in the eye, and a professor in Washington State announced plans to develop an educational curriculum for robots. “They’re very dumb,” he said.[24][25] Toronto mayor Rob Ford voted against separate city-council motions extending congratulations to Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes and renaming a local street after Nelson Mandela, and a South Carolina lawmaker proposed a legislative amendment acknowledging God as creator of the woolly mammoth.[26][27] A missing Rüppell’s vulture named Gandalf was found in the Hebrides, and millions of migrating elvers were captured near the Bristol Channel.[28][29] Foam on the River Clyde was being traced to the Squiggly Bridge.[30] Cwmgwilians protested a pyrolysis plant, and pinkeye struck Pago Pago.[31][32] England’s lone golden eagle had begun to sky dance, and a lesbian cemetery was inaugurated in Berlin.[33][34] Peppermint Patties in Mississippi and Greco-Roman amulets in Devon were being used for sex education, parks officials in the northern Grand Canyon noted that birth control had failed to curtail destructive herds of beefalo, and an Irish ewe tupped by a goat was raising her geep like a lamb.[35][36][37][38] Braise Young of Fairfield, California, was arrested on suspicion of having vandalized Cordelia Skate Park, and the children of Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp mounted a production of King Lear. “The show,” said director Nawar Bulbul, “is to bring back laughter.”[39][40]


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 February 25, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

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

Weekly Review January 14, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

A Pakistani ninth-grader sacrifices himself to save his classmates, Chris Christie saves himself, and Cormac McCarthy’s ex-wife chooses an unconventional holster 

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

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2020

The Old Normal

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Out of Africa

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Waiting for the End of the World

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In Harm’s Way

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Fifth Step

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A View to a Krill

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Old Normal·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

Article
More Than a Data Dump·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Last fall, a court filing in the Eastern District of Virginia inadvertently suggested that the Justice Department had indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and other outlets reported soon after that Assange had likely been secretly indicted for conspiring with his sources to publish classified government material and hacked documents belonging to the Democratic National Committee, among other things.

Article
The Fifth Step·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

Article
Out of Africa·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

Article
In Harm’s Way·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

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.

An Iraqi man complaining on live television about the country’s health services died on air.

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