Weekly Review — June 10, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Unity and disunity in Palestine, NYRB vs. CIA, and John Roberts marries art criticism with jurisprudence

Saluting the Town (Weekly)Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas swore in a unity government formed by his Fatah party and the militant group Hamas, resolving a split between the organizations that began in 2007 with Hamas’s armed takeover of the Gaza Strip. “This black page in our history has been turned forever and will never come back,” said Abbas. “Same thing, just different faces,” said a shawarma seller in Ramallah. Fights broke out at ATMs in Gaza between Palestinian Authority civil servants, 70,000 of whom are assigned to Gaza and have been paid but idle for the past seven years, and Hamas employees, who have not been paid in weeks and did not receive salaries from the new government. In retaliation for Fatah’s alliance with Hamas, Israel’s housing ministry expanded plans for new settler homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank from 1,500 to 3,300 units.[1][2][3][4][5] Egypt elected as president General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who initiated the coup that ousted former president Mohamed Morsi last July, with nearly 97 percent of the vote, and Syria re-elected President Bashar al-Assad with 89 percent of the vote, in an election held only in government-controlled areas and monitored by observers from Iran, North Korea, and Russia. “I voted five times,” said a man walking with his 12-year-old child. “Even my son voted.”[6][7][8] Vladimir Putin responded in a radio interview to a comparison drawn by Hillary Clinton between Russia’s issuing of passports in March to Russian-identified Ukrainians in March and Adolf Hitler’s calls to protect ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe before the Second World War. “When people push boundaries too far, it’s not because they are strong but because they are weak,” said Putin. “But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman.”[9][10] At the Grevin Wax Museum in Paris, a topless woman stabbed and bludgeoned a replica of Putin.[11]

Thousands of antimonarchist protesters rallied in Madrid following an announcement by King Juan Carlos of Spain that he would abdicate and pass the throne to his son, Crown Prince Felipe. “Send the Bourbons to the sharks!” they shouted.[12][13] The White House apologized for failing to notify Congress before completing a swap of five Taliban prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay for U.S. Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl; the town of Hailey, Idaho, canceled homecoming festivities for Bergdahl over complaints and threats it had received accusing him of being a deserter; and at least three congressional representatives deleted tweets celebrating his return. “Twenty-year-olds make stupid decisions,” said a former State Department lawyer. “I don’t think we’ll say, ‘If you make a stupid decision we’ll leave you in the hands of the Taliban.’ ”[14][15][16] A Taliban website crashed hours after posting a video of Bergdahl’s delivery into American hands, and Google released a new encryption system designed to thwart National Security Agency espionage that contained code mocking an Edward Snowden–leaked presentation slide about how the agency surreptitiously accesses the company’s servers.[17][18] The CIA joined Twitter. “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet,” wrote @CIA. “Main elements of the CIA Detention Program,” tweeted The New York Review of Books in response, “1.1 Arrest and Transfer 1.2 Continuous Solitary Confinement 1.3 Other Methods of Ill-treatment 1.3.1 Suffocation by water 1.3.2. Prolonged Stress Standing 1.3.3 Beatings by use of a collar 1.3.4 Beating and kicking 1.3.5 Confinement in a box.”[19][20] Ten Pakistani Taliban militants disguised as security officers killed at least 18 people after infiltrating the Karachi airport, and Boko Haram militants entered the Nigerian village of Attagara wearing army uniforms and gathered villagers with promises to protect them from Boko Haram, then opened fire and killed at least 42 people.[21][22][23][24] Seven people died during gun attacks on a courthouse in Georgia, a Methodist university in Seattle, and a CiCi’s pizza in Las Vegas, and the National Rifle Association retracted a statement issued by its lobbying group that called open-carry advocates who brought assault rifles into a Dallas Chipotle and a San Antonio Chili’s “downright weird.[25][26][27][28] Two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls were charged with attempted murder after stabbing a friend 19 times with the aim of becoming proxy killers for Slender Man, a blank-faced character they had read about on the horror-fiction website Creepypasta. “You can personalize the character,” said a University of Wisconsin folklorist, “and make it your own.”[29][30]

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Thailand’s ruling junta banned the use of a three-finger salute protesters had adopted from the Hunger Games films, and introduced a “Return Happiness to the People” campaign featuring concerts with scantily clad female dancers, horse-petting, and the distribution of free “happy omelets.” “We were unhappy,” said General Prayuth Chan-ocha of last month’s coup. “I had to ask myself, ‘Can we let this continue?’ ”[31][32] Chemist Alexander Shulgin, who championed the therapeutic use of ecstasy, died at 88, and Chester Nez, the last of the original Navajo code talkers, died at 93.[33][34] An 89-year-old World War II veteran who was reported missing from his English nursing home turned up in Normandy at a commemoration for the seventieth anniversary of D-Day.[35] Physicists announced the development of robotic MagnetoSperm, and the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction of Carol Anne Bond, who was prosecuted in 2007 for violating the 1998 Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act after burning the thumb of her husband’s mistress with industrial chemicals. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts recalled the use of mustard gas in World War I, as depicted in John Singer Sargent’s 7.5-by-20-foot 1919 painting, Gassed. “There are no life-sized paintings,” he wrote, “of Bond’s rival washing her thumb.”[36][37][38][39]


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I was tucked in a blind behind a soda machine, with nothing in my hand but notepad and phone, when a herd of running backs broke cover and headed across the convention center floor. My God, they’re beautiful! A half dozen of them, compact as tanks, stuffed into sports shirts and cotton pants, each, around his monstrous neck, wearing a lanyard that listed number and position, name and schedule, tasks to be accomplished at the 2019 N.F.L. Scout­ing Combine. They attracted the stunned gaze of football fans and beat writers, yet, seemingly unaware of their surroundings, continued across the carpet.

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Thirty miles from the coast, on a desert plateau in the Judaean Mountains without natural resources or protection, Jerusalem is not a promising site for one of the world’s great cities, which partly explains why it has been burned to the ground twice and besieged or attacked more than seventy times. Much of the Old City that draws millions of tourists and Holy Land pilgrims dates back two thousand years, but the area ­likely served as the seat of the Judaean monarchy a full millennium before that. According to the Bible, King David conquered the Canaanite city and established it as his capital, but over centuries of destruction and rebuilding all traces of that period were lost. In 1867, a British military officer named Charles Warren set out to find the remnants of David’s kingdom. He expected to search below the famed Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, but the Ottoman authorities denied his request to excavate there. Warren decided to dig instead on a slope outside the Old City walls, observing that the Psalms describe Jerusalem as lying in a valley surrounded by hills, not on top of one.

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Eleven years ago, on a bitter January night, dozens of young men, dressed in a uniform of black berets, white T-­shirts, and black pants, gathered on a hill overlooking the Nigerian city of Jos, shouting, dancing, and shooting guns into the black sky. A drummer pounded a rhythmic beat. Amid the roiling crowd, five men crawled toward a candlelit dais, where a white-­robed priest stood holding an axe. Leading them was John, a sophomore at the local college, powerfully built and baby-faced. Over the past six hours, he had been beaten and burned, trampled and taunted. He was exhausted. John looked out at the landscape beyond the priest. It was the harmattan season, when Saharan sand blots out the sky, and the city lights in the distance blurred in John’s eyes as if he were underwater.

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The Catholic School, by Edoardo Albinati. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1,280 pages. $40.

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