Weekly Review — August 28, 2017, 5:19 pm

Weekly Review

A storm brews

Days before the Mexican government offered to send aid for the victims of a Category 4 hurricane that made landfall in eastern Texas and caused catastrophic flooding in up to 50 counties and drove an estimated 30,000 people from their homes, one-time pornographic-film extra and current U.S. president Donald Trump issued a pardon for Joe Arpaio, a former sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County who, during his 24-year tenure, held inmates in Korean War tents that reached temperatures of 141 degrees; referred to those tents as a “concentration camp” and the place “where all the Mexicans are”; called complaints from Latinos “civil rights crap”; said it costs more to “feed the dogs than it does the inmates,” whom he fed rotten green bologna; ran on his office’s website a “Mugshot of the Day” contest inviting visitors to vote for their favorite inmate images; shot footage of female inmates that could be viewed online; forced hundreds of inmates not yet convicted of any crime to march from one jail to another in pink underwear; oversaw guards who referred to Latino inmates as “wetbacks” and “Mexican bitches,” strapped to a chair a paraplegic inmate and then tightened the restraints until his neck broke, and forced a female inmate to give birth in shackles; said he was the “first in the world” to put women in a “chain gang”; admitted that his counsel had hired a private agent to investigate the wife of a judge who ordered him to stop racially profiling Latinos, a ruling he was later found in contempt of court for ignoring; claimed that all people crossing the Mexican border had swine flu; said he was “doing something good” because the Latino community was “leaving town”; asked a Latino waitress if it was “safe” to drink a glass of iced tea she had given him; was found to have inadequately investigated or ignored hundreds of sex crimes; opened a rape investigation into a political opponent and investigated for child molestation a former Phoenix mayor who disagreed with his treatment of Latinos; oversaw deputies who threatened to arrest a reporter for viewing public records and forced a man’s dog back into a burning house that they had set on fire; ran a jail with four times the suicide rate of county jails for Chicago or Miami; banned his inmates from drinking coffee and possessing pornographic magazines, and created an in-house radio station that broadcasted songs by Frank Sinatra; referred to his Italian-American bodyguards as his “mafia”; and chained together teenage inmates and forced them to bury the corpses of poor people. “More rain coming,” tweeted Trump.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23]

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What China Threat?·

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Within about fifteen years, China’s economy will surpass America’s and become the largest in the world. As this moment approaches, meanwhile, a consensus has formed in Washington that China poses a significant threat to American interests and well-­being. General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), has said that “China probably poses the greatest threat to our nation by about 2025.” The summary of America’s 2018 National Defense Strategy claims that China and Russia are “revisionist powers” seeking to “shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.” Christopher Wray, the FBI director, has said, “One of the things we’re trying to do is view the China threat as not just a whole-­of-­government threat, but a whole-­of-­society threat . . . and I think it’s going to take a whole-­of-­society response by us.” So widespread is this notion that when Donald Trump launched his trade war against China, in January 2018, he received support even from moderate figures such as Democratic senator Chuck Schumer.

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Without a Trace·

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In December 2015, a twenty-­two-year-­old man named Masood Hotak left his home in Kabul, Afghanistan, and set out for Europe. For several weeks, he made his way through the mountains of Iran and the rolling plateaus of Turkey. When he reached the city of Izmir, on the Turkish coast, Masood sent a text message to his elder brother Javed, saying he was preparing to board a boat to Greece. Since the start of the journey, Javed, who was living in England, had been keeping tabs on his younger brother’s progress. As Masood got closer to the sea, Javed had felt increasingly anxious. Winter weather on the Aegean was unpredictable, and the ramshackle crafts used by the smugglers often sank. Javed had even suggested Masood take the longer, overland route, through Bulgaria, but his brother had dismissed the plan as excessively cautious.

Finally, on January 3, 2016, to Javed’s immense relief, Masood sent a series of celebratory Facebook messages announcing his arrival in Europe. “I reached Greece bro,” he wrote. “Safe. Even my shoes didn’t get wet.” Masood reported that his boat had come ashore on the island of Samos. In a few days, he planned to take a ferry to the Greek mainland, after which he would proceed across the European continent to Germany.

But then, silence. Masood stopped writing. At first, Javed was unworried. His brother, he assumed, was in the island’s detention facility, waiting to be sent to Athens with hundreds of other migrants. Days turned into weeks. Every time Javed tried Masood’s phone, the call went straight to voicemail. After a month passed with no word, it dawned on Javed that his brother was missing.

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When Philip Benight awoke on January 26, 2017, he saw a bright glow. “Son of a bitch, there is a light,” he thought. He hoped it meant he had died. His mind turned to his wife, Becky: “Where are you?” he thought. “We have to go to the light.” He hoped Becky had died, too. Then he lost consciousness. When he opened his eyes again, Philip realized he wasn’t seeing heaven but overhead fluorescents at Lancaster General Hospital. He was on a hospital bed, with his arms restrained and a tube down his throat, surrounded by staff telling him to relax. He passed out again. The next time he came to, his arms and legs were free, but a drugged heaviness made it hard to move. A nurse told him that his wife was at another hospital—“for her safety”—even though she was also at Lancaster General. Soon after, two police officers arrived. They wanted to know why Becky was in a coma.

Three days earlier, Philip, who was sixty, tall and lanky, with owlish glasses and mustache, had picked up his wife from an HCR ­ManorCare nursing home. Becky had been admitted to the facility recently at the age of seventy-­two after yet another series of strokes. They drove to Darrenkamp’s grocery store and Philip bought their dinner, a special turkey sandwich for Becky, with the meat shaved extra thin. They ate in the car. Then, like every other night, they got ice cream from Burger King and drove to their home in Conestoga, a sparse hamlet in southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Philip parked in the driveway, and they sat in the car looking out at the fields that roll down to the Susquehanna River.

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Illustration by Leigh Wells (detail)
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America in the Middle East: learning curves are for pussies.
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