Weekly Review — January 6, 2015, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Palestine is denied statehood, the NYPD stops worry about minor criminal offenses, and a farmer slaughters half of his herd of Nazi-bred cows

In celebration of the new year, Miami dropped a 35-foot orange, Atlanta dropped an 800-pound peach, Flagstaff, Arizona, dropped a six-foot pinecone, and Port Clinton, Ohio, dropped a 600-pound sculpture of a walleye fish.[1][2] About 600,000 people gathered across Rome, where 83.5 percent of the city’s police force called in sick to protest a proposed plan to pay low-performing officers less.[3] The Pope sent a New Year’s video message to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that congratulated the city on its 450-year anniversary. Dubai hung 70,000 lights on the world’s tallest building, breaking the Guinness World Record for largest LED-illuminated facade, and American model and actress Tara Reid posted a nude photo of herself from Mexico.[4][5][6] In Japan, nine people choked to death on the traditional New Year’s rice-cake mochi; fake money thrown from a window in Shanghai during festivities was said by some witnesses to have caused a stampede that killed 36 people and injured dozens more; an artillery shell killed 28 attendees of a wedding celebration in Afghanistan, where the United States officially turned over combat duties to the Afghan army; and a fortune-teller in Lebanon, who correctly foretold that Lebanon’s prime minister would resign in 2013, predicted that, in 2015, Gaza would be attacked, black people and white people would fight one another in the United States, and musicians would gain worldwide fame for covering Michael Jackson’s hits.[7][8][9][10]

Palestine’s application for statehood, which would have required Israel to withdraw forces from Gaza and the West Bank by 2017, was denied by the U.N. Security Council; Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas applied for entry to the International Criminal Court to seek war-crimes prosecution of Israelis; Israel announced it would withhold from the Palestinian Authority $127 million in taxes it collected on behalf of the territories; and it was reported that HarperCollins, citing “local preferences,” had omitted Israel from an atlas distributed to schools across the Middle East.[11][12][13][14] Ben Ammi Ben-Israel, the Chicago-born leader of the African Hebrew movement that brought hundreds of non-Jewish African Americans to Israel, died in a hospital in Beersheba. “We came here offering ‘shalom,’ ” Ben-Israel told reporters in 1971, but found “Jim Crow policies similar to what we left behind.”[15] Following the deaths of two NYPD officers shot in retaliation for police killings of unarmed African Americans, a memo circulated among officers calling for the department to make only “absolutely necessary” arrests, and crime enforcement in the city for minor offenses dropped 90 percent compared to the same week the previous year. “I would point out,” said NYPD commissioner William Bratton, “[that] it has not had an impact on the city’s safety at all.”[16][17] The department reported that 328 murders were committed in New York City in 2014, the lowest figure since at least 1963, when police began keeping track.[18] The Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which has yet to be contained, killed 8,004 people last year. Wildlife epidemiologists published a study hypothesizing that the outbreak may have originated from bats living in a hollow tree trunk in the Guinean district of Guéckédou. Although no living bats carried a trace of the virus in their feces or blood, the study’s lead scientist announced that the researchers had killed all those they captured out of fears locals would say, “Look at those white people releasing bad bats.”[19][20]

An Iowa woman was cited for mailing three pounds of cow dung to her neighbors through the website poopsenders.com; a cow named Molly B that successfully broke out of a slaughterhouse in 2006 was given a new home in Montana; and a man in Devon, England, euthanized over half of Britain’s only herd of “Nazi cows,” originally bred by the Third Reich, because they were too aggressive. “Since they have gone,” the farmer said, “peace reigns supreme.”[21][22][23] PETA sent vegan caviar to Russian president Vladimir Putin and criticized Sarah Palin for a photo the former vice-presidential candidate posted online of her six-year-old son, Trig, standing on her dog. “Chill,” Palin wrote in response on her Facebook page.[24] Two frozen dogs were found in a garbage bag in Canada, a man walking his dog in Rhode Island found another dog nearly frozen to death in the street, and 275 dogs went missing following fireworks celebrations in Brisbane, Australia.[25][26][27] A police chief in Georgia accidentally shot his wife while she was sleeping on New Year’s Day, and a man claiming to be a “400-year-old Indian” smeared ash on his face, stole a Buick, and wished the car’s owners a Happy New Year.[28][29] A British tabloid alleged that a Hollywood special-effects studio was planning to recreate Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Jackson as holograms, and it was reported that Jackson’s son Prince was planning to record an album with Justin Bieber. “It’s not as if he can turn to his family,” said a Jackson family acquaintance. “They’ve never really had time for Prince, Paris, or Blanket.”[30][31]

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Within about fifteen years, China’s economy will surpass America’s and become the largest in the world. As this moment approaches, meanwhile, a consensus has formed in Washington that China poses a significant threat to American interests and well-­being. General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), has said that “China probably poses the greatest threat to our nation by about 2025.” The summary of America’s 2018 National Defense Strategy claims that China and Russia are “revisionist powers” seeking to “shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.” Christopher Wray, the FBI director, has said, “One of the things we’re trying to do is view the China threat as not just a whole-­of-­government threat, but a whole-­of-­society threat . . . and I think it’s going to take a whole-­of-­society response by us.” So widespread is this notion that when Donald Trump launched his trade war against China, in January 2018, he received support even from moderate figures such as Democratic senator Chuck Schumer.

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In December 2015, a twenty-­two-year-­old man named Masood Hotak left his home in Kabul, Afghanistan, and set out for Europe. For several weeks, he made his way through the mountains of Iran and the rolling plateaus of Turkey. When he reached the city of Izmir, on the Turkish coast, Masood sent a text message to his elder brother Javed, saying he was preparing to board a boat to Greece. Since the start of the journey, Javed, who was living in England, had been keeping tabs on his younger brother’s progress. As Masood got closer to the sea, Javed had felt increasingly anxious. Winter weather on the Aegean was unpredictable, and the ramshackle crafts used by the smugglers often sank. Javed had even suggested Masood take the longer, overland route, through Bulgaria, but his brother had dismissed the plan as excessively cautious.

Finally, on January 3, 2016, to Javed’s immense relief, Masood sent a series of celebratory Facebook messages announcing his arrival in Europe. “I reached Greece bro,” he wrote. “Safe. Even my shoes didn’t get wet.” Masood reported that his boat had come ashore on the island of Samos. In a few days, he planned to take a ferry to the Greek mainland, after which he would proceed across the European continent to Germany.

But then, silence. Masood stopped writing. At first, Javed was unworried. His brother, he assumed, was in the island’s detention facility, waiting to be sent to Athens with hundreds of other migrants. Days turned into weeks. Every time Javed tried Masood’s phone, the call went straight to voicemail. After a month passed with no word, it dawned on Javed that his brother was missing.

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When Philip Benight awoke on January 26, 2017, he saw a bright glow. “Son of a bitch, there is a light,” he thought. He hoped it meant he had died. His mind turned to his wife, Becky: “Where are you?” he thought. “We have to go to the light.” He hoped Becky had died, too. Then he lost consciousness. When he opened his eyes again, Philip realized he wasn’t seeing heaven but overhead fluorescents at Lancaster General Hospital. He was on a hospital bed, with his arms restrained and a tube down his throat, surrounded by staff telling him to relax. He passed out again. The next time he came to, his arms and legs were free, but a drugged heaviness made it hard to move. A nurse told him that his wife was at another hospital—“for her safety”—even though she was also at Lancaster General. Soon after, two police officers arrived. They wanted to know why Becky was in a coma.

Three days earlier, Philip, who was sixty, tall and lanky, with owlish glasses and mustache, had picked up his wife from an HCR ­ManorCare nursing home. Becky had been admitted to the facility recently at the age of seventy-­two after yet another series of strokes. They drove to Darrenkamp’s grocery store and Philip bought their dinner, a special turkey sandwich for Becky, with the meat shaved extra thin. They ate in the car. Then, like every other night, they got ice cream from Burger King and drove to their home in Conestoga, a sparse hamlet in southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Philip parked in the driveway, and they sat in the car looking out at the fields that roll down to the Susquehanna River.

They listened to the radio until there was nothing more to do. Philip went into the house and retrieved a container of Kraft vanilla pudding, which he’d mixed with all the drugs he could find in the house—Valium, Klonopin, Percocet, and so on. He opened the passenger-­side door and knelt beside Becky. He held a spoon, and she guided it to her mouth. When Becky had eaten all the pudding, he got back into the driver’s seat and swallowed a handful of pills. Philip asked her how the pudding tasted. “Like freedom,” she said. As they lost consciousness, the winter chill seeped into their clothes and skin.

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America in the Middle East: learning curves are for pussies.
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