Weekly Review — April 29, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The U.S. Supreme Court and L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling remark on race and opportunity, the FCC prepares to end net neutrality, and white supremacists propagandize children’s Easter eggs

An American Mastiff.

An American Mastiff.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld an amendment to Michigan’s constitution that bans the consideration of race in admission decisions at the state’s public universities. In the controlling opinion for Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Justice Anthony Kennedy declared that such policies — whose adoption in some states has been followed by increases in the gap between minority enrollment at major public universities and minority college-age population — do not entail intentional discrimination and are therefore constitutionally permissible when decided by voters. In a dissent longer than the four affirming opinions combined, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that the U.S. Constitution necessitates laws protecting minorities, in light of the country’s history of racial oppression. “We ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society. It is this view that works harm, by perpetuating the facile notion that what makes race matter is acknowledging the simple truth that race does matter,” she wrote. “This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved,” wrote Kennedy. “It is about who may resolve it.”[1][2][3] Football players at Northwestern University held a secret vote on whether to form the first union in college sports.[4] Five former members of the Jills, the cheerleading squad for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, filed suit against the team, alleging that they were forced to perform as many as 20 hours of unpaid work a week and to do jumping jacks while coaches administered a “jiggle test.”[5][6] The NAACP rescinded a lifetime-achievement award it was planning to give Donald Sterling, the owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, after the leak of an audio recording in which a man believed to be him makes racist remarks. “I support them,” said Sterling of his team’s black players, “and give them food and clothes and cars and houses.”[7][8] In Bunkerville, Nevada, Cliven Bundy, who previously threatened federal agents with armed resistance when they came to remove 500 of his cattle that had been illegally grazing on public land, gave a speech to supporters on American democracy and race relations. “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” said Bundy. “I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves?”[9]

Israel suspended peace talks with the Palestinian Authority after President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party agreed to form a unity government with Hamas.[10][11] In northwestern Libya, a group of Salafist fighters led by a former associate of Osama bin Laden had reportedly taken control of a U.S. counterterrorism training camp.[12] Brunei delayed the implementation of new sharia punishments, such as execution by stoning for adultery and the severing of limbs for theft.[13] An Egyptian court recommended the death penalty for Mohammed Badie, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and 682 of the group’s supporters.[14] At a celebration prior to the joint canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, an Italian man was crushed by a 98-foot-tall crucifix.[15] The Supreme Court of Oklahoma lifted a stay on two planned executions after affirming that the inmates had been informed of the otherwise secret identities and dosages of the drugs for their lethal injections.[16] Critics contended that a Federal Communications Commission proposal to allow Internet service providers to charge companies more for faster delivery speeds would violate the principle of net neutrality, under which all content is treated the same regardless of its source. “This is a worst-case scenario,” said Erik Klinker, CEO of the file-sharing company BitTorrent. “Creating a fast lane for those that can afford it is by its very definition discrimination.”[17][18] The Justice Department urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reject an appeal by a New York Times reporter who was ordered to testify about confidential sources used in his reportage on CIA efforts to undermine Iran’s nuclear program, and the State Department launched its annual Free the Press campaign.[19][20] A 15-year-old Somali immigrant living in Santa Clara, California, landed safely in Maui after stowing away in the wheel well of a Boeing 767 in hopes of reuniting with his mother.[21][22]

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People magazine named 12 Years a Slave star Lupita Nyong’o the most beautiful person in the world, and the Father’s Day–Mother’s Day Council named New Jersey governor Chris Christie the U.S. Father of the Year. “Their initial reaction,” said Christie of his children, “was to laugh.”[23][24] A Houston middle-school teacher was charged with a felony after performing a lap dance for a student on his fifteenth birthday.[25] Russia deported four American English-language teachers for “propagandizing American values.”[26] The Sri Lankan government offered a British tourist a free vacation after she was arrested in Colombo for having a tattoo of the Buddha, and authorities in Kansas ruled that a man with a neck tattoo reading MURDER could wear a turtleneck during his trial for first-degree murder.[27][28] A SWAT team featuring helicopters and more than 60 officers surrounded a home in Long Beach, New York, after someone who had just lost an online game of Call of Duty called police in the guise of the winner and said he’d killed his mother.[29] At a courthouse in Salt Lake City, a federal marshal shot and killed the defendant in a gang trial after he lunged at a prosecution witness.[30] Twitter users posted photographs of police brutality in response to the New York Police Department’s invitation to tweet photos of themselves with officers, using the hashtag #myNYPD.[31] Children celebrating Easter in Richmond, Virginia, collected eggs stuffed with white-supremacist propaganda.[32] Oscar Meyer recalled 96,000 pounds of Classic Wieners after a customer called to complain that they contained cheese.[33] Art historians recovered a collection of Andy Warhol digital paintings stored on 30-year-old floppy disks, and three men were charged with selling $33 million worth of forged paintings they claimed were by world-famous artists including Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. “Today’s charges,” said the prosecutor, “paint a picture of perpetual lies.”[34][35]


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The squatter camp outside Lawley township, in the southwest of Johannesburg, stretches for miles against a bare hillside, without electricity, water, or toilets. I visited on a blustery morning in October with a local journalist named Mophethe Thebe, who spent much of his childhood in the area. As we drove toward the settlement he pointed out land that had been abandoned by white Afrikaner farmers after the end of apartheid in 1994, and had since been taken over by impoverished black settlers who built over the former farms with half-paved roadways and tiny brick houses. You could still see stands of headstones inscribed in Afrikaans, all that remained visible of the former inhabitants.

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The story begins, as so many do, with a journey. In this case, it’s a seemingly simple one: a young girl, cloaked in red, must carry a basket of food through the woods to her bedridden grandmother. Along the way, she meets a duplicitous wolf who persuades her to dawdle: Notice the robins, he says; Laze in the sun, breathe in the hyacinth and bluebells; Wouldn’t your grandmother like a fresh bouquet? Meanwhile, he hastens to her grandmother’s cottage, where he swallows the old woman whole, slips into her bed, and waits for his final course.

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They were released.

For the first time in seven years, they stood outside in the courtyard of the reeducation center. They looked across at the gate. They remembered none of this. The flagpole and the towers. The cameras. Prany counted the sentries in the towers. He heard the rattle of keys as the guard behind him, wearing a green uniform, undid his handcuffs. Then the guard undid Vang’s. They rubbed their free wrists. Vang made fists with his hands.

Prany dug the soles of his new shoes into the dirt. He watched Vang’s hands and then turned to see the building they had exited. It resembled a schoolhouse or a gymnasium. The flag flapped in the wind. The sun on him. The immense sky. His neck was stiff. He knew that if they were forced to run right now his legs might buckle. Not because he was weak, but because in this moment, in the new environment, out in the open, his entire body felt uncertain.

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Ten years ago, a week after his sixtieth birthday, and six months after his first appointment with an oncologist, my father died. That afternoon, I went to my parents’ bedroom to clear up the remains of the lunch my mother had brought him not long before he collapsed. A copy of Yiyun Li’s novel The Vagrants, which he’d asked me for after I reviewed it in a newspaper, was open on his bedside table. He had gotten about halfway through it. The Vagrants isn’t what you’d call a consoling book—it centers on a young woman’s unjust execution in a provincial Chinese town in 1979—and I had mixed feelings about it being the last thing he’d read. Perhaps an adolescent part of me had been happy to let him have it out of a need to see him as a more fearless reader than he might have wanted to be just then. Still, my father had read Proust and Robert Musil while working as a real estate agent. There was comfort, of a sort, for me, and maybe him, in his refusal of comfort reading.

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.

Classes at a Catholic school in Durham, North Carolina, were canceled in anticipation of protests against a lesbian alumna, who had been invited to speak at a Black History Month event.

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