Weekly Review — December 2, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

A grand jury in St. Louis decides not to indict Darren Wilson, German scientists grow spinal cords in petri dishes, and London police stab a Staffordshire terrier to death.

WeeklyReview-Birds-SJRA grand jury in St. Louis, Missouri, decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in the city of Ferguson in August. “I felt,” Wilson told the jury of his encounter with Brown, “like a five-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan.”[1][2] Following the decision, crowds in Ferguson looted businesses, set cars on fire, and damaged a bakery, a beauty-supply store, and a restaurant. “Burn this bitch down,” said Brown’s stepfather.[3][4][5][6] Protestors chained themselves to commuter trains in Oakland and formed a human chain blocking I-83 in Baltimore. Police used tear gas to control crowds, and a pregnant Ferguson woman lost her left eye after police fired a beanbag at her boyfriend’s car. “I know,” Wilson told an interviewer, “that I did my job right.”[7][8][9][10][11][12] Cleveland police released a video of an officer fatally shooting a black 12-year-old boy on a playground after a bystander called 911 when she noticed the boy playing with an airsoft pellet gun. “It’s probably fake,” the caller had told police.[13][14] A gunman fired at a federal courthouse, a police station, and other buildings in downtown Austin, Texas, and attempted to set fire to the Mexican consulate with camping fuel, before being shot by a police officer holding the reins of two horses. Austin’s police chief speculated that the man was angry about President Obama’s immigration reforms. “I would venture,” he said, “that the political rhetoric might have fed into some of this.”[15]

Former Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio host Jian Ghomeshi announced he would plead “not guilty” and surrendered to Toronto police after he was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Forty-seven-year-old Ghomeshi was released on C$100,000 bail on the condition that he must now live with his mother.[16][17][18] A teenage girl in India died of her injuries one week after six men set her on fire for resisting their attempt to molest her, the San Diego State University* Greek community suspended all social events at fraternities after it was reported that members waved dildos and threw eggs at students participating in an anti-rape march, and a Colorado man was arrested for waving a banana at police. “I observed Nathen reach into the left side of his coat,” said the arresting officer, “and pull out a yellow object.”[19][20][21] U.S. retailers opened on “Gray Thursday,” beginning Black Friday deals a day earlier. “The consumer,” said Target’s chief executive, “clearly enjoys shopping on Thanksgiving.” A survey by the National Retail Federation estimated that holiday sales declined by 11 percent compared with 2013. “I’m hungry. My legs hurt. We’re waiting for supper,” said one shopper waiting outside a Walmart for a $218 50-inch LED TV.[22][23][24][25][26] Cannabis stores in Colorado offered marijuana-infused pumpkin pies and 80 percent off merchandise for “Green Friday.” “We’ve become yet another stop for shoppers,” said the founder of the marijuana vendor Grass Station, “looking for holiday deals and thoughtful, unusual gifts.”[27][28][29]

Doctors in Vancouver, Canada, began offering prescription heroin to addicts, and police in Ontario arrested a man accused of repeatedly stealing shoes and socks and licking women’s feet at tanning salons.[30][31] Eight shoes of Holocaust victims were stolen from a museum in Poland.[32] The Chinese government’s State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television banned wordplay, citing “cultural and linguistic chaos,” and Malaysia Airlines, which lost two flights in the past year, including flight 370, which is believed to be somewhere in the Indian Ocean, apologized for tweeting, “Want to go somewhere, but don’t know where?”[33][34] Gray seals were suspected of mutilating porpoises in the North Sea, and a tiger released by Vladimir Putin was accused of killing Chinese goats.[35][36] German scientists grew spinal cords in petri dishes.[37] Finland legalized gay marriage, and federal judges overturned gay marriage bans in Arkansas and Mississippi.[38][39][40] In Pennsylvania, seven people were injured when a Subaru Outback struck their horse-drawn buggy, and a horse drawing a buggy was killed in a drive-by shooting.[41][42] A four-year-old Staffordshire terrier named Missy was stabbed to death by London police during a drug raid in which no drugs were found and no arrests were made. “It was deemed necessary,” said a Scotland Yard spokesperson, “to use force.”[43][44]

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*Correction: A previous version of the story incorrectly stated that the University of San Diego suspended fraternity events. It was San Diego State University.

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More from Sharon J. Riley:

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Combustion Engines·

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On any given day last summer, the smoke-choked skies over Missoula, Montana, swarmed with an average of twenty-eight helicopters and eighteen fixed-wing craft, a blitz waged against Lolo Peak, Rice Ridge, and ninety-six other wildfires in the Lolo National Forest. On the ground, forty or fifty twenty-person handcrews were deployed, alongside hundreds of fire engines and bulldozers. In the battle against Rice Ridge alone, the Air Force, handcrews, loggers, dozers, parachutists, flacks, forecasters, and cooks amounted to some nine hundred people.

Rice Ridge was what is known as a mega-fire, a recently coined term for blazes that cover more than 100,000 acres. The West has always known forest fires, of course, but for much of the past century, they rarely got any bigger than 10,000 acres. No more. In 1988, a 250,000-acre anomaly, Canyon Creek, burned for months, roaring across a forty-mile stretch of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness in a single night. A few decades on, that anomaly is becoming the norm. Rice Ridge, for its part, swept through 160,000 acres.

At this scale, the firefighting operation is run by an incident management team, a group of about thirty specialists drawn from a mix of state and federal agencies and trained in fields ranging from aviation to weather forecasting and accounting to public information. The management teams are ranked according to experience and ability, from type 3 (the least skilled) to type 1 (the most). The fiercest fires are assigned to type 1s. Teams take the name of their incident commander, the field general, and some of those names become recognizable, even illustrious, in the wildfire-fighting community. One such name is that of Greg Poncin, who is to fire commanders what Wyatt Earp was to federal marshals.

Smoke from the Lolo Peak fire (detail) © Laura Verhaeghe
Rebirth of a Nation·

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Donald Trump’s presidency signals a profound but inchoate realignment of American politics. On the one hand, his administration may represent the consolidation of minority control by a Republican-dominated Senate under the leadership of a president who came to office after losing the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots. Such an imbalance of power could lead to a second civil war—indeed, the nation’s first and only great fraternal conflagration was sparked off in part for precisely this reason. On the other hand, Trump’s reign may be merely an interregnum, in which the old white power structure of the Republican Party is dying and a new oppositional coalition struggles to be born.

Illustration by Taylor Callery (detail)
Blood Money·

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Over the past three years, the city of South Tucson, Arizona, a largely Latino enclave nestled inside metropolitan Tucson, came close to abolishing its fire and police departments. It did sell off the library and cut back fire-truck crews from four to three people—whereupon two thirds of the fire department quit—and slashed the police force to just sixteen employees. “We’re a small city, just one square mile, surrounded by a larger city,” the finance director, Lourdes Aguirre, explained to me. “We have small-town dollars and big-city problems.”

Illustration by John Ritter (detail)
The Tragedy of Ted Cruz·

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When I saw Ted Cruz speak, in early August, it was at Underwood’s Cafeteria in Brownwood. He was on a weeklong swing through rural central Texas, hitting small towns and military bases that ensured him friendly, if not always entirely enthusiastic, crowds. In Brownwood, some in the audience of two hundred were still nibbling on peach cobbler as Cruz began with an anecdote about his win in a charity basketball game against ABC’s late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. They rewarded him with smug chuckles when he pointed out that “Hollywood celebrities” would be hurting over the defeat “for the next fifty years.” His pitch for votes was still an off-the-rack Tea Party platform, complete with warnings about the menace of creeping progressivism, delivered at a slightly mechanical pace but with lots of punch. The woman next to me remarked, “This is the fire in the gut! Like he had the first time!” referring to Cruz’s successful long-shot run in the 2011 Texas Republican Senate primary. And it’s true—the speech was exactly like one Cruz would have delivered in 2011, right down to one specific detail: he never mentioned Donald Trump by name.

Cruz recited almost verbatim the same things Trump lists as the administration’s accomplishments: the new tax legislation, reduced African-American unemployment, repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, and Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court. But, in a mirror image of those in the #Resistance who refuse to ennoble Trump with the title “president,” Cruz only called him that.

Photograph of Ted Cruz © Ben Helton (detail)
Wrong Object·

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e is a nondescript man.

I’d never used that adjective about a client. Not until this one. My seventeenth. He’d requested an evening time and came Tuesdays at six-thirty. For months he didn’t tell me what he did.

The first session I said what I often said to begin: How can I help you?

I still think of what I do as a helping profession. And I liked the way the phrase echoed down my years; in my first job I’d been a salesgirl at a department store counter.

I want to work on my marriage, he said. I’m the problem.

His complaint was familiar. But I preferred a self-critical patient to a blamer.

It’s me, he said. My wife is a thoroughly good person.

Yawn, I thought, but said, Tell me more.

I don’t feel what I should for her.

What do you feel?

Photograph © Joseph S. Giacalone (detail)

Chance that a homeless-shelter resident in a major U.S. city holds a full- or part-time job:

1 in 5

Turkey hunting was deemed most dangerous for hunters, though deer hunting is more deadly.

The unresolved midterms; Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III replaced; the debut of the world’s first AI television anchor

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Happiness Is a Worn Gun


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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