Weekly Review — March 24, 2017, 12:26 pm

Weekly Review

A British man runs over three people on London’s Westminster Bridge, the FBI confirms it is investigating possible ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and a raccoon rides a garbage truck in Washington, D.C.

HarpersMagazine-1853-12-bootsNorth Korea, which recently fired four intermediate-range ballistic test missiles into the Sea of Japan, conducted a ground test of its new high-thrust rocket engine.[1][2] “He’s acting very, very badly,” said U.S. president Donald Trump of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.[3] In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, an anti-Islam, anti-immigration, and anti–European Union populist with bleached-blond hair who has said that Islam is the “ideology of a retarded culture” and that the Koran has “more anti-Semitism than Mein Kampf,” lost the Dutch parliamentary elections for prime minister.[4][5][6] In India, Yogi Adityanath, a priest turned politician who supports the criminalization of homosexuality, believes women should be “protected not independent,” has been charged with attempted murder, and has promised to “kill 100 Muslims for every Hindu murdered,” was appointed chief minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party.[7][8][9] President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines dismissed calls by human-rights organizations for an investigation into his “war on drugs,” which has killed more than 7,000 Filipinos since he took office. “Human rights, United Nations, that’s fine,” said Duterte. “But still, I will kill you.”[10][11]

A British-born man known to MI5, the United Kingdom’s domestic counterintelligence and security agency, drove an Enterprise rental car into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing three people and injuring at least 50 before crashing the vehicle outside the Houses of Parliament and fatally stabbing a police officer.[12][13] At a hearing before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey confirmed an ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, including links with the Trump campaign, and NSA Director Mike Rogers denied claims alleging he asked British intelligence, on behalf of Barack Obama, to wiretap Donald Trump during the election.[14] Trump said that he might not have been elected president “if it wasn’t for Twitter,” Snoop Dogg released a music video in which he is shown shooting a toy gun at a clown named Ronald Klump, a Fox News host suggested that the Secret Service should kill the rapper for creating the video, and Walt Disney refused Malaysian censors’ request to cut gay scenes from its live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.[15][16][17]

More than 250 skulls were reportedly discovered during excavations of an alleged drug-cartel mass-burial site in the Mexican state of Veracruz, and farmers from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu demonstrated for a drought-relief package by sitting alongside the skulls of farmers who had committed suicide.[18][19] A pastor in Sierra Leone unearthed a 706-carat diamond.[20] Researchers reported that the world’s healthiest hearts belong to the Tsimane people of the Bolivian jungle, whose diet consists mainly of monkey, wild pig, piranha, tapir, and capybara; that a vaccine has been discovered that may protect gorillas and chimpanzees from Ebola; and that humpback whales are now mysteriously congregating in groups of between 20 and 200 off the coast of South Africa.[21][22][23] In Washington, D.C., it was reported that a raccoon was found riding on a garbage truck.[24] The White House released its first budget blueprint, which proposes $54 billion in wide-ranging cuts, including the elimination of programs to feed the poor and house the homeless, and significantly reduces funding for scientific research on climate change and disease prevention.[25] The Chinese government responded to toilet-paper thieves in Beijing’s public restrooms by installing dispensers with facial-recognition software, which allows each visitor only one sheet, approximately two feet in length, every nine minutes. “The sheets are too short,” said one visitor.[26]

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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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