Weekly Review — November 17, 2016, 10:50 am

Weekly Review

Donald Trump is elected president, hate crimes sweep the United States, and a bald eagle dies

WeeklyReviewJK-captionDonald Trump, a real-estate developer endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, was elected president of the United States.[1] Following the election, the Canadian government’s immigration website crashed, the Dow Jones temporarily plummeted, two LGBT suicide hotlines reported a spike in call volume, and more than 4.3 million Americans signed a petition asking state electors to pick as president former candidate Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote by a margin of at least a million but failed to win a majority in the Electoral College.[2][3][4][5][6] “The Electoral College is a disaster for democracy,” Trump tweeted in 2012.[7] Trump appointed the editor of an alt-right news site as his chief strategist, and more than 400 hate crimes were reported across the country.[8][9] The mayor of Clay, West Virginia, resigned after commenting favorably on a Facebook post that compared First Lady Michelle Obama to an “Ape in heels”; the deputy director of a corrections center in Memphis, Tennessee, resigned after writing on Facebook that “the KKK is more American” than Barack Obama; a school-board member in Little Rock, Arkansas, was investigated by the superintendent for wearing blackface; students in Indiana, Michigan, and Texas chanted variations of “Build a wall!” during their lunch periods; middle-schoolers in Oregon shouted “Go back to Mexico!” at an 11-year-old Colombian American; a banner that read “Death to Diversity” was hung in a Colorado library; a high-school student in Redding, California, handed out fake “deportation orders” to his minority classmates; a Maryland elementary-school bathroom was vandalized with the message “KILL KILL KILL BLACKS”; a Maryland Episcopal church sign advertising Spanish services was vandalized with the message “Trump Nation Whites Only”; an LGBT-friendly Episcopal church in Indiana was vandalized with a swastika and the words “Heil Trump”; a note reading “You can all go home now” was posted on a Muslim family’s front door in Iowa City; a Muslim teacher in Atlanta found a note in her classroom telling her to hang herself with her headscarf; Muslim girls in San Jose and Albuquerque reported having their hijabs forcibly removed from their heads; a Muslim student at the University of Michigan was threatened with immolation; swastikas were drawn on the dorm-room doors of Jewish students at the New School in New York City; “Trump!” was written on the door of a Muslim prayer room at New York University; a college student in Oklahoma threatened in a group messaging app to lynch black students at the University of Pennsylvania; a boy in Pennsylvania carried a Trump sign through the halls of his high school shouting “White power!”; signs advising white women not to date black men appeared on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas; a teacher in a Tampa Bay high school was placed on leave for allegedly threatening to “call Donald Trump and get you sent back to Africa”; a neo-Nazi blogger declared New Balance the “official shoes of white people”; and a neo-Nazi leader of the alt-right movement enjoined his followers to make “brown people … feel that everything around them is against them.” In Orlando, a bald eagle flew into a sewer and died.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35]

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What China Threat?·

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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.

Shanghai Broadcasting Building, by Cui Jie (detail) © The artist. Courtesy private collection
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Without a Trace·

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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.

A screenshot of a December 2015 Facebook post by Masood Hotak (left), in Istanbul
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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.

Illustration by Leigh Wells (detail)
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America in the Middle East: learning curves are for pussies.
—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, June 2, 2015

In January 2017, following Donald Trump’s inauguration, his national security staffers entered their White House offices for the first time. One told me that when he searched for the previous administration’s Middle East policy files, the cupboard was bare. “There wasn’t an overarching strategy document for anywhere in the Middle East,” the senior official, who insisted on anonymity, told me in a coffee shop near the White House. “Not even on the ISIS campaign, so there wasn’t a cross-governmental game plan.”

Syrian Arab Red Crescent vehicles in eastern Ghouta, March 24, 2018 (detail) © Anas Alkharboutli/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

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