Weekly Review — April 26, 2017, 4:46 pm

Weekly Review

Marine Le Pen qualifies for the second round of the French presidential election, Bill O’Reilly is fired from Fox News, and Russia announces it is not “creating a Terminator.”

the magnificent bird of paradise.

the magnificent bird of paradise.

A man associated with the Islamic State opened fire on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, fatally shooting a police officer and injuring three bystanders.[1] More than 60,000 soldiers and police officers were deployed to polling stations across France as citizens voted in the first round of the country’s presidential election, whose top two finishers were Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker, and Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader of the National Front, who has called for an immediate suspension of immigration.[2] British prime minister Theresa May announced a surprise election to be held in June “to make a success” of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta canceled his party’s election primaries because of a ballot shortage, and a village in Illinois elected a new mayor by coin toss.[3][4][5] U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions said he wanted to “put some people in jail” and confirmed that the Department of Justice was seeking to arrest the founder of WikiLeaks, a website President Donald Trump referred to as “good reading” that he does not “support or unsupport.”[6][7] It was reported that an American aircraft carrier the Trump Administration had claimed was “steaming into” the Korean Peninsula had in fact been thousands of miles away, heading in the opposite direction; North Korean officials called the carrier a “gross animal” that they were “ready to sink”; and American nuclear researchers monitoring satellite images of North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility detected three simultaneous games of volleyball being played at the site. “To have three,” said an analyst, “is quite unusual.”[8][9][10]

In Canada, it was reported that an excess of meltwater from the 15,000-square-mile Kaskawulsh Glacier in the Yukon Territory caused a river to reverse direction for the first time in modern history, and more than five times the average number of icebergs appeared off the coast of Newfoundland, covering an area of nearly one square mile.[11][12] In India, it was reported that 4,620 people have died in the past four years because of severe heat waves linked to climate change, and the suburb of Palam reached 113 degrees Fahrenheit, its hottest recorded temperature in April in a decade.[13][14] Tens of thousands of people marched to promote science in cities across the world, and Trump issued an Earth Day statement in which he did not mention climate change.[15][16] Scientists discovered that women who reside close to nature live longer than those who don’t, that injecting old mice with the blood of human babies improves their brain function, and that East African hairless mole rats can live without oxygen for 18 minutes.[17][18][19] Fox News prime-time host Bill O’Reilly, who once attributed the rape and murder of a woman to the fact that she was “wearing a miniskirt and a halter top” and has said that the slaves who were forced to build the White House were “well-fed,” was fired from the network and given a $25 million severance package after it was reported that he had settled five sexual-harassment lawsuits since 2002 and had referred to an African-American colleague as “hot chocolate” and grunted at her when he walked past her desk.[20][21][22] Researchers in California announced that they had genetically modified a wasp to have “big beautiful red eyes.”[23]

A man in New York City filed a lawsuit against the dating app Grindr, alleging that fake accounts created in his name had brought 1,100 suitors to his home and workplace in the past six months. “It’s a living hell,” he said.[24] A professional tennis match in Florida was stopped because of loud moaning noises emanating from a nearby apartment, and a new law was passed in Michigan making it illegal for undercover police officers to have sex with prostitutes. “They’re certainly not trained in it,” said the bill’s sponsor.[25] A seven-year-old boy in China was injured after trying to jump from the tenth floor of a building while using an umbrella as a parachute, a 12-year-old boy was stopped in Australia after he had driven a car more than 800 miles in an attempt to cross the country, and a three-month-old baby in England was interviewed at the American Embassy in London after his grandfather mistakenly indicated on a visa-waiver form that the baby would be flying to Florida to participate in terrorist activities. “He has obviously never engaged in genocide,” said the infant’s mother.[26][27] [28] It was reported that a dentist in Alaska had removed a patient’s tooth while riding a hoverboard, and Russian officials posted a video demonstrating that a robot with the capacity to drive a car, weld, and use saws can now also shoot pistols with both of its hands. “We are not,” said the deputy prime minister, “creating a Terminator.”[29][30]

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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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“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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