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

Weekly Review

The quixotic quest for a Gaza ceasefire; West African doctors face mortal peril; and Russian gecko porn, restored

An American Mastiff.

An American Mastiff.

More than 459 Palestinian civilians and militants and 76 Israeli soldiers were killed as Israel continued Operation Protective Edge, its assault on Gaza. Israel shelled three United Nations schools being used as refugee shelters; Hamas and Israel blamed one another for an explosion at a Gaza city park that killed nine children; Delta, U.S. Airways, and United canceled flights to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv following reports that a rocket had landed nearby; and U.S. secretary of state John Kerry failed to negotiate a proposed seven-day humanitarian ceasefire. “There is no option for a political solution,” said the director of an Israeli policy institute. “With Hamas there, there is no option but ‘mowing the grass.’ ”[1][2][3][4][5][6] In eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists handed over black-box recorders from the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to a Malaysian delegation and sent 282 bodies and 87 body parts to the Netherlands via the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv for examination. Thirty Dutch policemen sent to examine the crash site reportedly turned back because the Ukrainian government was failing to respect the unilateral ceasefire it had imposed on its conflict with the separatists, and two Ukrainian fighter-bombers were shot down by shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles within 25 miles of the Flight 17 site.[7][8][9][10][11] Arizona inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood gasped and snorted for nearly two hours before dying from a state-administered lethal injection. Wood’s attorneys filed an emergency appeal to stop the execution once it became clear the injection wasn’t working properly, and Arizona governor Jan Brewer (R.) ordered a review of the state’s execution process. “This man conducted a horrifying murder and you guys are going, ‘Let’s worry about the drugs,’ ” said the brother-in-law of the woman Wood was convicted of killing in 1989. “Why didn’t we give him Drano?”[12] The chief judge on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals suggested that states return to using firing squads.[13] Indian parliamentarians condemned Rajan Baburao Vichare, an MP from the Hindu-nationalist Shiv Sena Party, after a video surfaced of him force-feeding a Muslim cook who was fasting for Ramadan. “This was only,” said Vichare, “a protest against the quality of food.”[14]

Militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) blew up the reputed tomb of the prophet Jonah in Mosul, Iraq, and beheaded as many as 50 Syrian government soldiers in Raqqa. “The Islamic State has a clear vision to establish a state in the real meaning of the word,” said a Raqqa resident.[15][16][17] A doctor treating Ebola patients in Liberia died of the disease, the doctor in charge of Ebola treatment in Sierra Leone contracted the disease, and thousands of people in Kenema, Sierra Leone, threatened to burn down an isolation center after a former nurse told the crowd that the disease was a hoax. “Ebola was unreal,” she said, “and a gimmick aimed at carrying out cannibalistic rituals.”[18][19][20] Doctors quarantined 30,000 people in the Chinese city of Yumen after a man died of pneumonic plague.[21] A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., struck down the U.S. government’s right under the Affordable Care Act to provide subsidies for health insurance purchased on the national marketplace, and a federal appeals court in Virginia upheld the same provision of the act in a separate case decided hours later.[22] President Barack Obama signed an executive order that bars all federal contractors, including religious organizations, from discriminating against employees on the basis of their gender identities or sexual orientations.[23] The White House announced that the United States would start assessing the refugee status of potential immigrant children from Honduras while they were still in their home country, and Texas governor Rick Perry (R.) announced that he would activate 1,000 National Guard troops to monitor the Mexican border.[24][25] The incoming operator of a Mexican railway network known as the Beast announced that it would triple the speed of the network’s trains in order to discourage migrants en route to the United States from jumping on board.[26]

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In Setauket, New York, a 21-year-old woman who refused a ride from a friend she suspected of being drunk was struck and killed by his car as she walked home.[27] In Gainesville, Florida, a drunk man who jumped out of his pickup truck to yell at the driver in front of him was run over by his own vehicle.[28] A Pennsylvania couple was placed on probation for locking their five-year-old son in the trunk of their car in order to cure his fear of the dark.[29] It was reported that surgeons in India had removed 232 teeth from a growth inside a 17-year-old boy’s mouth, and that surgeons in Scotland had removed a sex toy that had been lodged inside a woman’s vagina for 10 years.[30][31] The musician Kid Rock was subpoenaed to produce a glass dildo as evidence in a sexual-harassment case against the band Insane Clown Posse.[32] Two New York City infants were diagnosed with herpes contracted when they were circumcised using the direct oral-suction technique practiced by some Orthodox Jews, the fifteenth and sixteenth such cases since 2000, and an Alabama man sued the hospital where he’d awoken from circumcision surgery to find that his penis had been amputated.[33][34] Russia lost, then regained, contact with a satellite carrying five geckos sent to copulate in zero gravity.[35] Queen Elizabeth II’s racehorse Estimate failed a drug test.[36] In Los Angeles, a memorial pine tree dedicated to George Harrison was killed by an infestation of beetles.[37]


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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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Illustration by Stan Fellows

Illustration by Stan Fellows

“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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