Weekly Review — November 25, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Obama reveals his plan for immigration reform, the Keystone XL pipeline fails in the Senate, and Afghanistan’s first amusement park thrives

President Obama announced that he would use an executive order to prevent the deportation of up to 5 million undocumented immigrants, allowing them to temporarily remain in the United States and work legally, provided they pay taxes, submit to background checks, and pay an application fee to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency. “I told [Speaker of the House] John Boehner,” Obama said of his earlier failed attempts to move an immigration bill through Congress, “I’ll wash your car, I’ll walk your dog, whatever you need.” Conservative members of Congress threatened to defund Obama’s plan to reform immigration laws, which the House Appropriations Committee later announced they do not have the authority to do. “If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people,” said a spokesman for Boehner (R-Ohio), “he will cement his legacy of lawlessness.”[1][2][3][4][5][6] A Senate proposal for the construction of the TransCanada Corporation’s 1,200-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast, which would have relied on the expropriation of private property, failed by one vote, and a Senate bill to halt the NSA’s mass collection of American phone records failed by two votes.[7][8] Thirteen people were killed in Buffalo, New York, when a blizzard covered the region with 6 feet of snow in 24 hours, and the health board in Westminster, Massachusetts, announced it would drop its plan to ban the sale of all tobacco products after a protest erupted at a town hearing. “I’m thinking,” said one resident who was reportedly worried that the town government would soon infringe her religious liberties and her Second Amendment rights, “Am I going to be beheaded?”[9][10][11]

A French state prosecutor confirmed that a 22-year-old French citizen named Mickael Dos Santos was among the Islamic State members featured in a video showing the beheading of 18 Syrian soldiers and a U.S. aid worker named Peter Kassig. Dos Santos denied the claim on Twitter, but his grandmother agreed that he appeared to be in the video. “He was so kind,” the grandmother said. “They must have given him drugs.”[12][13][14][15] The family of the late Jamaican reggae artist Bob Marley launched Marley Natural, “the world’s first global cannabis brand.”[16] A British survey found Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” to be the country’s most requested song at funeral services.[17] Two men armed with guns, axes, and knives killed four worshipers at a synagogue in West Jerusalem, and the Israeli cabinet approved a bill that would remove Arabic as the second official language of Israel.[18][19] It was reported that tens of thousands of visitors have flocked to Afghanistan’s first amusement park since it opened in Kabul last month. “The park is a place for entertainment,” said its deputy general manager. “There is not much of that in Afghanistan.”[20]

Venues in Washington State and South Carolina canceled shows on a comeback tour for Bill Cosby, who has been accused of sexually assaulting 16 women, some of whom claim to have been drugged and raped. “I know people are tired of me not saying anything,” said Cosby, “but a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos.”[21][22][23] British authorities denied a visa to Julien Blanc, a 25-year-old California pick-up artist who calls himself “the dating guru” and started the Twitter hashtag #ChokingGirlsAroundTheWorld, after more than 150,000 people signed a petition protesting his entry into the country.[24][25] A 15-year-old in Salford, England, was threatened with suspension after he made about $22,000 running a black-market snack shop at his school, and a 40-seat bus powered by human waste began shuttling travelers to the Bristol airport.[26][27] A naked man was arrested after falling through a drop ceiling in Boston’s Logan Airport and attacking an 84-year-old man, and a Utah woman named Cameo Crispi pleaded guilty to having drunkenly attempted to burn down her ex-boyfriend’s house by igniting bacon on his kitchen stove.[28][29] At Florida State University, a gunman’s bullet was prevented from passing through the backpack a student was wearing when it struck a book about the medieval theologian John Wyclif. “To be surrounded by such grace is indescribable,” the student wrote. “To God be the glory, forever and ever, Amen.”[30]

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“You’re being reborn,” the voice says. “Exiting the womb of your mother. Coming into the earth as a small baby. Everything is new.” It is a Saturday morning in mid-March, and right now I’m lying on a yoga mat in a lodge in Ohio, surrounded by fifty other men who’ve come to the Midwest for a weekend of manhood-confirming adventures. The voice in question belongs to Aaron Blaine, a facilitator for Evryman, the men’s group orchestrating this three-day retreat. All around me, men are shedding tears as Blaine leads us on a guided meditation, a kind of archetypal montage of Norman Rockwell boyhood. “You’re starting to figure things out,” he says, in somniferous baritone. “Snow, for the first time. Sunshine. Start to notice the smells, the tastes, the confusion. The fear. And you’re growing. You’re about ten years old. The world’s huge and scary.”

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The WASP story is personal for me. I arrived at Yale in 1971 from a thoroughly mediocre suburb in New Jersey, the second-generation hybrid of Irish and Italian stock riding the postwar boom. Those sockless people in Top-Siders, whose ancestors’ names and portraits adorned the walls, were entirely new to me. I made friends with some, but I was not free of a corrosive envy of their habitus of ease and entitlement.

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I slept for a good seven hours on the overnight flight from Spain to Peru, and while I slept I dreamed that I was leading American visitors around a park in Berlin, looking for birds on a hazy, overcast day. There wasn’t much to see until we noticed a distant commotion in the sky. Large raptors were panicking, driven back and forth by something threatening them from above. The commotion moved closer. The clouds parted, an oval aperture backed with blue. In it two seraphim hovered motionless. “Those are angels,” I told the group.

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Last May, the families of students at Cypress Academy, an independent charter school in New Orleans, received an email announcing that the school would close when classes ended the following week and that all its students would be transferred to another nearby charter for the upcoming year. Parents would have the option of entering their children in the city’s charter-enrollment lottery, but the lottery’s first round had already taken place, and the most desirable spots for the fall were filled.

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how high? that high

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At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

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