Weekly Review — April 19, 2017, 5:28 am

Weekly Review

The United States drops the Mother of All Bombs in Afghanistan, an Arkansas judge temporarily halts eight executions, and a new study finds that people choose fair inequality over unfair equality.

HarpersMagazine-1853-12-bootsThe U.S. military dropped a 30-foot-long, 21,600-pound munition nicknamed the Mother of All Bombs on a network of Islamic State–held caves and tunnels in Afghanistan, killing 94 people; a convoy of buses carrying Syrians evacuating their homes was bombed by an unknown attacker, killing at least 126 people, including 68 children; and in Cleveland, Ohio, a gunman lethally shot an elderly man, streaming the attack on Facebook Live with the caption “Easter day slaughter.”[1][2][3] Pope Francis prayed that Jesus would help world leaders “prevent the spread of conflicts,” and North Korea launched a test missile that blew up almost immediately, vowing later to begin performing such exercises once a week.[4][5][6] Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser whose communications with Russia were monitored by the FBI last summer, said that “something may have come up in a conversation” about easing sanctions on Russia during one of his visits there.[7] A Chicago Aviation Department police officer pulled a United Airlines passenger from his seat and forcibly removed him from the plane to make room for an off-duty airline employee; three bodies were tossed from a low-flying plane in the Sinaloa state of Mexico; and Tesla, which has yet to turn a profit, became the most valuable car company in America.[8][9][10]

In Arkansas, a judge temporarily halted plans to execute eight men in the span of 11 days after finding that one of the sedatives in the state’s three-drug lethal-injection protocol, midazolam, could fail to take effect, causing the men to experience what Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor once called “the chemical equivalent of being burned at the stake.”[11][12] Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would “immediately” discuss bringing back the death penalty to his country.[13][14] In Alabama, Governor Robert J. Bentley resigned and pleaded guilty to charges of misusing campaign contributions to hide a prolonged affair with his senior political adviser, and the state’s new governor, Kay Ivey, signed legislation preventing judges from overruling a jury’s guilty verdict in capital murder cases.[15][16] In Texas, a judge again ruled a voter ID law purposefully suppressed minority votes and Wells Fargo ordered two executives to pay back $75 million for creating a culture that led to the massive creation of bogus bank accounts.[17][18] People, a new study reported, choose fair inequality over unfair equality.[19]

The Trump Administration promoted as its new drug czar Representative Tom Marino, who once called for putting nonviolent drug offenders in a “hospital-slash-prison” setting, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that Hitler, unlike Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, never used chemical weapons on his own people, then issued at least four apologies.[20][21] Police found chimpanzees, a baboon, and ostriches among the 33 animals held in private zoos by a colonel in Guinea.[22] In Sri Lanka, a 300-foot-tall garbage dump collapsed, killing at least 28 people and displacing about 600 others.[23][24][25] Researchers announced that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has reached a “terminal stage” after bleaching caused by climate change, and that one of Saturn’s moons could support aquatic life.[26][27]

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Having already determined in Citizens United that corporations are people, the Supreme Court decided in May that people, at least working people of vulnerable status, can be prevented from acting as corporations. In three consolidated cases involving disputed wage claims, the Court ruled that employers can force workers to accept individual arbitration instead of joining together in class-action lawsuits. Writing for the majority, Trump-appointed justice Neil Gorsuch maintained that the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act was more pertinent to the cases at hand than the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, which asserts that workers have a right to “concerted activities” for the purpose of “mutual aid or protection.”

[caption id="attachment_270125" align="aligncenter" width="630"] Illustrations by Richard Mia[/caption]

In actuality, as this ruling and others before and since have made abundantly clear, workers don’t have any rights at all except those they wrest through disciplined organization and militant struggle. Although the Supreme Court’s decision does not affect workers in unions, it does amount to an ominous, ideologically motivated attack on the principle of collective action from which unions derive.

As expected, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke for the dissent. Noting that in 1992 only 2 percent of non-unionized employers used mandatory arbitration agreements, while 54 percent use them now, Ginsburg said that by upholding these “arm-twisted” and “take-it-or-leave-it” contracts, the Court had all but guaranteed “the under-enforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers,” a weakening that some attorneys worry will extend to cases of discrimination and sexual harassment. Gorsuch dismissed Ginsburg’s objections as “apocalyptic.”

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The few white boys in our town could ball. Breakaway layups, nothing-but-the-bottom-of-the-net free throws, buzzer-beater fadeaways. They slept with basketballs in their beds and told us about their dreams. We tried not to stare at the diamond studs in their ears as they talked about winning imaginary games in overtime or seeing blurry scoreboards. It don’t matter if I can see the score anyway, I finna play my hardest regardless, Brent Zalesky said once, squinting his eyes in the sunlight. Brent Zalesky lived in the Crest. He didn’t flinch at the sound of gunshots, he received detentions weekly, and he ganked tapes and CDs from Wherehouse with the clunky security devices still attached. Brent Zalesky knew how to get them off, armed only with pliers and a Bic lighter. This was 1996, and he never got caught. He took music requests and we’d find surprises in our lockers at school. We loved him for this. We loved his buzzed blond hair, his stainless-steel chain necklace, his jawline, his position. Brent Zalesky played point guard. All the boys on the team respected him. They called him Z.

When the boys got their basketball photos from Lifetouch, we collected them like baseball cards and kept them in hole-punched plastic sleeves in our day planners. Each year, Z’s wallet-size basketball pic slid into the front of our collections. Freshman year, he simply signed his name on the back: Peace, Brent. Junior year, he wrote more words on the one he gave Marorie Balancio: Sup Rorie, I think you’re hella fine. Peace, Brent.

Back then there were two movie theaters in town and he took her to the one that didn’t smell like Black & Milds and piss. Marorie said he drove up with a cigarette tucked behind his right ear, but he didn’t light it until after he dropped her off at home. She saw the small spark hanging outside his car window because he had waited until she unlocked the front door. Marorie couldn’t help but look back and wave before she walked inside. Earlier, during the movie, Brent Zalesky had fed her popcorn. She said it was like he knew exactly how much she needed and when she needed more in her mouth. We could only imagine what it felt like, to have his fingers so close to our open lips.

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