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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In 1989 I published a book about a plutonium-producing nuclear complex in En­gland, on the coast of the Irish Sea. The plant is called Sellafield now. In 1957, when it was the site of the most serious nuclear accident then known to have occurred, the plant was called Windscale. While working on the book, I learned from reports in the British press that in the course of normal functioning it released significant quantities of waste—plutonium and other transuranic elements—into the environment and the adjacent sea. There were reports of high cancer rates. The plant had always been wholly owned by the British government. I believe at some point the government bought it from itself. Privatization was very well thought of at the time, and no buyer could be found for this vast monument to dinosaur modernism.

Back then, I shared the American assumption that such things were dealt with responsibly, or at least rationally, at least in the West outside the United States. Windscale/Sellafield is by no means the anomaly I thought it was then. But the fact that a government entrusted with the well-being of a crowded island would visit this endless, silent disaster on its own people was striking to me, and I spent almost a decade trying to understand it. I learned immediately that the motives were economic. What of all this noxious efflux they did not spill they sold into a global market.

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Last fall, a court filing in the Eastern District of Virginia inadvertently suggested that the Justice Department had indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and other outlets reported soon after that Assange had likely been secretly indicted for conspiring with his sources to publish classified government material and hacked documents belonging to the Democratic National Committee, among other things.

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Early in the morning on June 28, 1969, New York police raided the Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street, the city’s most popular gay bar. The police had raided Stonewall frequently since its opening two years before, but the local precinct usually tipped off the management and arrived in the early evening. This time they came unannounced, during peak hours. They swept through the bar, checking I.D.s and arresting anyone wearing attire that was not “appropriate to one’s gender,” carrying out the law of the time. Eyewitness accounts differ on what turned the unruly scene explosive. Whatever the inciting event, patrons and a growing crowd on the street began throwing coins, bottles, and bricks at the police, who were forced to retreat into the bar and call in the riot squad.

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The squat warehouse at Miami’s 5th Street Terminal was nearly obscured by merchandise: used car engines; tangles of coat hangers; bicycles bound together with cellophane; stacks of wheelbarrows; cases of Powerade and bottled water; a bag of sprouting onions atop a secondhand Whirlpool refrigerator; and, above all, mattresses—shrink-wrapped and bare, spotless and streaked with dust, heaped in every corner of the lot—twins, queens, kings. All this and more was bound for Port-de-Paix, a remote city in northwestern Haiti.

When I first arrived at the warehouse on a sunny morning last May, a dozen pickup trucks and U-Hauls were waiting outside, piled high with used furniture. Nearby, rows of vehicles awaiting export were crammed together along a dirt strip separating the street from the shipyard, where a stately blue cargo vessel was being loaded with goods.

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In Lore Segal’s short story “The Reverse Bug,” a teacher named Ilka Weisz invites her conversational En­glish class to a panel at a Connecticut think tank: “?‘Should there be a statute of limitations on genocide?’ with a wine and cheese reception.” The class is made up of immigrants to the United States. Although Segal doesn’t give a date, we are to understand that most came several decades earlier as a result of World War II: Gerti Gruner, who recently arrived in the United States from Vienna, by way of Montevideo, and can’t stop talking about her lost cousins; the moody Paulino from La Paz, whose father disappeared in the American Consulate; and the mysterious Japanese Matsue, who tells them that he worked in a Munich firm “employed in soundproofing the Dachau ovens so that what went on inside could not be heard on the outside.” He’s since been working at the think tank on a “reverse bug,” a technological device that brings sound from the outside in. The class takes advantage of his poor En­glish to ignore what he is saying.

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