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 city was not beautiful; no one made that claim for it. At the height of summer, people in suits, shellacked by the sun, moved like harassed insects to avoid the concentrated light. There was a civil war–like fracture in America—the president had said so—but little of it showed in the capital. Everyone was polite and smooth in their exchanges. The corridor between Dupont Circle and Georgetown was like the dream of Yugoslav planners: long blocks of uniform earth-toned buildings that made the classical edifices of the Hill seem the residue of ancestors straining for pedigree. Bunting, starched and perfectly ruffled in red-white-and-blue fans, hung everywhere—from air conditioners, from gutters, from statues of dead revolutionaries. Coming from Berlin, where the manual laborers are white, I felt as though I was entering the heart of a caste civilization. Untouchables in hard hats drilled into sidewalks, carried pylons, and ate lunch from metal boxes, while waiters in restaurants complimented old respectable bobbing heads on how well they were progressing with their rib eyes and iceberg wedges.

I had come to Washington to witness either the birth of an ideology or what may turn out to be the passing of a kidney stone through the Republican Party. There was a new movement afoot: National Conservatives, they called themselves, and they were gathering here, at the Ritz-Carlton, at 22nd Street and M. Disparate tribes had posted up for the potlatch: reformacons, blood-and-soilers, curious liberal nationalists, “Austrians,” repentant neocons, evangelical Christians, corporate raiders, cattle ranchers, Silicon Valley dissidents, Buckleyites, Straussians, Orthodox Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Tories, dark-web spiders, tradcons, Lone Conservatives, Fed-Socs, Young Republicans, Reaganites in amber. Most straddled more than one category.

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The second-worst thing about cancer chairs is that they are attached to televisions. Someone somewhere is always at war with silence. It’s impossible to read, so I answer email, or watch some cop drama on my computer, or, if it seems unavoidable, explore the lives of my nurses. A trip to Cozumel with old girlfriends, a costume party with political overtones, an advanced degree on the internet: they’re all the same, these lives, which is to say that the nurses tell me nothing, perhaps because amid the din and pain it’s impossible to say anything of substance, or perhaps because they know that nothing is precisely what we both expect. It’s the very currency of the place. Perhaps they are being excruciatingly candid.

There is a cancer camaraderie I’ve never felt. That I find inimical, in fact. Along with the official optimism that percolates out of pamphlets, the milestone celebrations that seem aimed at children, the lemonade people squeeze out of their tumors. My stoniness has not always served me well. Among the cancer staff, there is special affection for the jocular sufferer, the one who makes light of lousy bowel movements and extols the spiritual tonic of neuropathy. And why not? Spend your waking life in hell, and you too might cherish the soul who’d learned to praise the flames. I can’t do it. I’m not chipper by nature, and just hearing the word cancer makes me feel like I’m wearing a welder’s mask.

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When Demétrio Martins was ready to preach, he pushed a joystick that angled the seat of his wheelchair forward, slowly lifting him to a standing position. Restraints held his body upright. His atrophied right arm lay on an armrest, and with his left hand, he put a microphone to his lips. “Proverbs, chapter fourteen, verse twelve,” he said. “ ‘There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is . . .’ ”

The congregation finished: “ ‘Death.’ ”

The Assembly of God True Grapevine was little more than a fluorescent-lit room wedged between a bar and an empty lot in Jacaré, a poor neighborhood on Rio de Janeiro’s north side. A few dozen people sat in the rows of plastic lawn chairs that served as pews, while shuddering wall fans circulated hot air. The congregation was largely female; of the few men in attendance, most wore collared shirts and old leather shoes. Now and then, Martins veered from Portuguese into celestial tongues. People rose from their seats, thrust their hands into the air, and shouted, “Hallelujah!”

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On December 7, 2016, a drone departed from an Amazon warehouse in the United Kingdom, ascended to an altitude of four hundred feet, and flew to a nearby farm. There it glided down to the front lawn and released from its clutches a small box containing an Amazon streaming device and a bag of popcorn. This was the first successful flight of Prime Air, Amazon’s drone delivery program. If instituted as a regular service, it would slash the costs of “last-mile delivery,” the shortest and most expensive leg of a package’s journey from warehouse to doorstep. Drones don’t get into fender benders, don’t hit rush-hour traffic, and don’t need humans to accompany them, all of which, Amazon says, could enable it to offer thirty-minute delivery for up to 90 percent of domestic shipments while also reducing carbon emissions. After years of testing, Amazon wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration last summer to ask for permission to conduct limited commercial deliveries with its drones, attaching this diagram to show how the system would work. (Amazon insisted that we note that the diagram is not to scale.) Amazon is not the only company working toward such an automated future—­UPS, FedEx, Uber, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, have similar programs—­but its plans offer the most detailed vision of what seems to be an impending reality, one in which parce­l-toting drones are a constant presence in the sky, doing much more than just delivering popcorn.

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Every year in Lusk, Wyoming, during the second week of July, locals gather to reenact a day in 1849 when members of a nearby band of Sioux are said to have skinned a white man alive. None of the actors are Native American. The white participants dress up like Indians and redden their skin with body paint made from iron ore.

The town prepares all year, and the performance, The Legend of Rawhide, has a cast and crew of hundreds, almost all local volunteers, including elementary school children. There are six generations of Rawhide actors in one family; three or four generations seems to be the average. The show is performed twice, on Friday and Saturday night.

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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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