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as 20 hours of unpaid work a week and to do jumping jacks while coaches administered a “jiggle test.”[5][6] The NAACP rescinded a lifetime-achievement award it was planning to give Donald Sterling, the owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, after the leak of an audio recording in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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In 1989 I published a book about a plutonium-producing nuclear complex in En­gland, on the coast of the Irish Sea. The plant is called Sellafield now. In 1957, when it was the site of the most serious nuclear accident then known to have occurred, the plant was called Windscale. While working on the book, I learned from reports in the British press that in the course of normal functioning it released significant quantities of waste—plutonium and other transuranic elements—into the environment and the adjacent sea. There were reports of high cancer rates. The plant had always been wholly owned by the British government. I believe at some point the government bought it from itself. Privatization was very well thought of at the time, and no buyer could be found for this vast monument to dinosaur modernism.

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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.

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Early in the morning on June 28, 1969, New York police raided the Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street, the city’s most popular gay bar. The police had raided Stonewall frequently since its opening two years before, but the local precinct usually tipped off the management and arrived in the early evening. This time they came unannounced, during peak hours. They swept through the bar, checking I.D.s and arresting anyone wearing attire that was not “appropriate to one’s gender,” carrying out the law of the time. Eyewitness accounts differ on what turned the unruly scene explosive. Whatever the inciting event, patrons and a growing crowd on the street began throwing coins, bottles, and bricks at the police, who were forced to retreat into the bar and call in the riot squad.

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The squat warehouse at Miami’s 5th Street Terminal was nearly obscured by merchandise: used car engines; tangles of coat hangers; bicycles bound together with cellophane; stacks of wheelbarrows; cases of Powerade and bottled water; a bag of sprouting onions atop a secondhand Whirlpool refrigerator; and, above all, mattresses—shrink-wrapped and bare, spotless and streaked with dust, heaped in every corner of the lot—twins, queens, kings. All this and more was bound for Port-de-Paix, a remote city in northwestern Haiti.

When I first arrived at the warehouse on a sunny morning last May, a dozen pickup trucks and U-Hauls were waiting outside, piled high with used furniture. Nearby, rows of vehicles awaiting export were crammed together along a dirt strip separating the street from the shipyard, where a stately blue cargo vessel was being loaded with goods.

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In Lore Segal’s short story “The Reverse Bug,” a teacher named Ilka Weisz invites her conversational En­glish class to a panel at a Connecticut think tank: “?‘Should there be a statute of limitations on genocide?’ with a wine and cheese reception.” The class is made up of immigrants to the United States. Although Segal doesn’t give a date, we are to understand that most came several decades earlier as a result of World War II: Gerti Gruner, who recently arrived in the United States from Vienna, by way of Montevideo, and can’t stop talking about her lost cousins; the moody Paulino from La Paz, whose father disappeared in the American Consulate; and the mysterious Japanese Matsue, who tells them that he worked in a Munich firm “employed in soundproofing the Dachau ovens so that what went on inside could not be heard on the outside.” He’s since been working at the think tank on a “reverse bug,” a technological device that brings sound from the outside in. The class takes advantage of his poor En­glish to ignore what he is saying.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

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Gene Simmons of the band Kiss addressed Department of Defense personnel in the Pentagon Briefing Room.

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