Weekly Review — July 8, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Tensions rise over murders in Israel and Palestine, the VA schedules an appointment for a deceased veteran, and the Vatican legitimizes Catholic exorcists

ALL IN MY EYE.In Israel, three men confessed to the murder of a 16-year-old Palestinian named Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was abducted near his home in East Jerusalem on July 2, then burned alive and dumped in a forest. The murder was widely believed to be an act of revenge for the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers — Eyal Yifrach, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Fraenkel, 16 — whose bodies were found in a field in the West Bank, and whose deaths Israel blamed on Hamas. A Palestinian man was arrested in the West Bank in connection with the deaths of the Israeli teens; Jewish and Arab rioters staged violent protests in eastern and northern Jerusalem; Palestinian militants in Gaza launched rockets and mortars into Israel; and the Israeli Defense Forces conducted air strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, assembled assault units at the Gaza border, and called up 1,500 reservists. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Khdeir’s father to apologize for his son’s killing. “We denounce all brutal behavior,” he said. “The murder of your son is abhorrent.” “Maybe he called, I don’t know,” said Khdeir’s father. “Tons of people called me this morning to apologize.”[1][2][3][4][5][6] A video was posted online purportedly showing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), proclaiming himself Caliph Ibrahim, ruler of the world’s Muslims and leader of a newly declared Islamic state composed of territories captured by ISIL in Syria and Iraq. In the video, the man alleged to be al-Baghdadi delivers a Friday sermon at the grand mosque of Mosul and calls on Muslims to wage jihad during Ramadan. “It is a month in which for Allah we are protected from hell,” he said. “The marketplace of jihad is open.”[7][8][9] United Arab Emirates prime minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum announced that Dubai would build the world’s first temperature-controlled city, a 48-million-square-foot complex that will house 100 hotels, a theme park, and medical-tourism facilities, and will be called the Mall of the World.[10]

On the eve of Independence Day in Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko delivered a speech in Belarusian instead of Russian for the first time in 20 years, disproving rumors that he can no longer speak the language.[11] Ukrainian astronomers officially named a star Putin-Huilo! (“Putin is a dickhead!”), and Ukrainian troops recaptured the city of Slovyansk — a stronghold of the pro-Russian insurgent movement and its self-declared People’s Republic of Donetsk — after Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko called off a ceasefire agreement with the rebels. “This is not the final victory,” said Poroshenko. “No time for fireworks.”[12][13][14] An inmate accused of murdering his wife with adulterated Kool-Aid escaped the county jail in Eminence, Missouri, during a July 4 fireworks display, and competitive eater Joey “Jaws” Chestnut won his eighth consecutive Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog–Eating Contest in Coney Island, New York, with 61 wieners and buns.[15][16] While bidding farewell to departing White House executive pastry chef Bill “Crustmaster” Yosses, President Barack Obama quipped that Yosses’s pies were so good he suspected they contained crack cocaine. “There is no crack,” said First Lady Michelle Obama, “in our pies.”[17] A German intelligence officer was arrested for spying for the United States on the German parliamentary investigation into U.S. surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the U.S. Veterans Health Administration offered Vietnam veteran Doug Chase an appointment with a primary-care doctor at a Bedford, Massachusetts, hospital 22 months after he died of a brain tumor. “We are committed to providing primary care in a timely manner,” said a letter sent to Chase, “and would greatly appreciate a prompt response.”[18][19]

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African Union leaders voted to give themselves and their allies immunity from prosecution for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide at the proposed African Court of Justice and Human Rights, and the Guardian reported that, in response to a recent European Union court ruling granting people the right to be “forgotten” by search engines, Google had concealed search results for a story the newspaper published about French office workers who made art from Post-it notes.[20][21] The police department of Lawrence, Indiana, acquired a 48,000-pound, six-wheeled, mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle formerly used by the U.S. military in combat zones. “We’d rather have it and never need it,” said an official, “than need it and wish we had it.”[22] A Vatican committee approved the constitution of the International Association of Exorcists; a $259.9 million Powerball jackpot was awarded in Nashville, Tennessee, to an Episcopal monk who had taken a lifelong vow of poverty; and a University of Virginia study found that a majority of test subjects preferred administering painful electric shocks to their ankles over spending 15 minutes in quiet contemplation.[23][24][25] A customer entered a Barclays bank in Andover, England, defecated on the floor in several places, and left. “He didn’t look ill,” said a witness, “he just looked a bit smug as he walked out.”[26]


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“The Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip,” Ronald Reagan said in 1989. He was speaking to a thousand British notables in London’s historic Guildhall, several months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Reagan proclaimed that the world was on the precipice of “a new era in human history,” one that would bring “peace and freedom for all.” Communism was crumbling, just as fascism had before it. Liberal democracies would soon encircle the globe, thanks to the innovations of Silicon Valley. “I believe,” he said, “that more than armies, more than diplomacy, more than the best intentions of democratic nations, the communications revolution will be the greatest force for the advancement of human freedom the world has ever seen.”

At the time, most everyone thought Reagan was right. The twentieth century had been dominated by media that delivered the same material to millions of people at the same time—radio and newspapers, movies and television. These were the kinds of one-to-many, top-down mass media that Orwell’s Big Brother had used to stay in power. Now, however, Americans were catching sight of the internet. They believed that it would do what earlier media could not: it would allow people to speak for themselves, directly to one another, around the world. “True personalization is now upon us,” wrote MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte in his 1995 bestseller Being Digital. Corporations, industries, and even whole nations would soon be transformed as centralized authorities were demolished. Hierarchies would dissolve and peer-to-peer collaborations would take their place. “Like a force of nature,” wrote Negroponte, “the digital age cannot be denied or stopped.”

Illustration (detail) by Lincoln Agnew
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Ihave had many names, but as a sniper I went by Azad, which means “free” or “freedom” in Kurdish. I had been fighting for sixteen months in Kurdish territory in northern Syria when in April 2015 I was asked to leave my position on the eastern front, close to the Turkish border, and join an advance on our southwestern one. Eight months earlier, we had been down to our last few hundred yards, and, outnumbered five to one, had made a last stand in Kobanî. In January, after more than four months of fighting street-to-street and room-by-room, we recaptured the town and reversed what was, until then, an unstoppable jihadi tide. In the battles since, we had pushed ­ISIS far enough in every direction that crossing our territory was no longer a short dash through the streets but a five-hour drive across open country. As we set out to the north, I could make out the snowy peaks in southern Turkey where they say Noah once beached his ark. Below them, rolling toward us, were the wide, grassy valleys and pine forests of Mesopotamia, the land between the Euphrates and the Tigris where our people have lived for twelve thousand years.

The story of my people is filled with bitter ironies. The Kurds are one of the world’s oldest peoples and, as pioneers of agriculture, were once among its most advanced. Though the rest of the world now largely overlooks that it was Kurds who were among the first to create a civilization, the evidence is there. In 1995, German archaeologists began excavating a temple at Göbekli Tepe in northern Kurdistan. They found a structure flanked by stone pillars carved with bulls, foxes, and cranes, which they dated to around 10,000 bce. At the end of the last Ice Age, and seven thousand years before the erection of Stonehenge or the pyramids at Giza, my ancestors were living together as shamans, artists, farmers, and engineers.

Fighters of the YJA-STAR, the women’s force in the PKK, Sinjar, Iraq, November 2015 (detail)
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To get oriented here is difficult. The light is flat because the sky is overcast. The sun’s weak rays create only a few anemic shadows by which to judge scale and distance. Far-off objects like mountain peaks have crisp edges because the atmosphere itself is as transparent as first-water diamonds, but the mountains are not nearly as close as they seem. It’s about negative-twelve degrees Fahrenheit, but the wind is relatively calm, moving over the snow distractedly, like an animal scampering.

[caption id="attachment_271890" align="aligncenter" width="690"]True-color satellite image of Earth centered on the South Pole during winter solstice © Planet Observer/Universal Images Group/Getty Images. True-color satellite image of Earth centered on the South Pole during winter solstice © Planet Observer/Universal Images Group/Getty Images.[/caption]

Four of the six people living here are in their tents now, next to their cookstoves, two by two, warming up and preparing their suppers. I’m the fifth of the group, almost motionless at the moment, a hundred yards south of the tent cluster, kneeling on a patch of bluish ice in the midst of a great expanse of white. I’m trying to discern a small object entombed there a few inches below the surface. Against the porcelain whites of this gently sloping landscape, I must appear starkly apparent in my cobalt blue parka and wind pants. I shift slowly right and left, lean slightly forward, then settle back, trying to get the fluxless sunlight to reveal more of the shape and texture of the object.

A multiple-exposure photograph (detail) taken every hour from 1:30 pm on December 8, 1965, to 10:10 am on December 9, 1965, showing the sun in its orbit above the South Pole, Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station © Georg Gerster/Panos Pictures
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In all sincerity, I like Americans a lot; I’ve met many lovely people in the United States, and I empathize with the shame many Americans (and not only “New York intellectuals”) feel at having such an appalling clown for a leader.

However, I have to ask—and I know what I’m requesting isn’t easy for you—that you consider things for a moment from a non-American point of view. I don’t mean “from a French point of view,” which would be asking too much; let’s say, “from the point of view of the rest of the world.”On the numerous occasions when I’ve been questioned about Donald Trump’s election, I’ve replied that I don’t give a shit. France isn’t Wyoming or Arkansas. France is an independent country, more or less, and will become totally independent once again when the European Union is dissolved (the sooner, the better).

Illustration (detail) by Ricardo Martínez
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The prepositions you’re most likely to encounter after the title of a poem are “for” or “to” and sometimes “after”—“for my daughter”; “to Bobby”; “after Pound”; etc. They signify dedication, address, homage, imitation. In the recent poems of Fred Moten, we encounter “with,” a preposition that denotes accompaniment. The little difference makes a big difference, emphasizing collaboration over the economy of the gift, suggesting that the poet and his company are fellow travelers, in the same time zone, alongside each other in the present tense of composition. (Given Moten’s acclaimed critical work on jazz, the “with” is immediately evocative of musical performance, e.g., “Miles Davis with Sonny Rollins.”) Not all “withs” are the same—there is a different intimacy in the poem “fifty little springs,” which is “with aviva,” Moten’s wife’s Hebrew name (which means springtime), than there is in “resistances,” which is “with” a critic and an artist, interlocutors of Moten’s. (The poem “13. southern pear trees” has no preposition after the title, but is excerpted from another responding to the work of Zoe Leonard, and so is still a work of fellowship.) The scale of that “with” can be small (“with aviva, as if we were all alone”) or vast (“with everybody we don’t know”), but either way the poem becomes an instance of alongsidedness instead of belatedness; the poems request, with that subtle prepositional shift, that we think of ourselves as participants in the production of meaning and not mere recipients of someone else’s eloquence.

“Untitled,” 1989, by Zoe Leonard © Zoe Leonard (detail)

Estimated number of times in the Fall of 1990 that George Bush told a joke about his dog asking for a wine list with her Alpo:

10

French researchers reported that 52 percent of young women exposed to Francis Cabrel’s ballad “Je l’aime à mourir” gave their phone numbers to an average-looking young man who hit on them, whereas only 28 percent of those exposed to Vincent Delerm’s “L’heure du thé” did so.

Migrant children were teargassed; carbon dioxide levels have reached three to five million year high; missionary killed by remote tribe

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“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

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