Weekly Review — October 23, 2017, 2:19 pm

Weekly Review

The veterans affair

US president Donald Trump, who once said that “disabled veterans” were “clogging and seriously downgrading” Fifth Avenue and that veterans selling goods on the “most important and prestigious shopping street” would make the “image” of New York City “suffer” if the “deplorable situation” wasn’t stopped, called the widow of La David Johnson, a Green Beret killed in action in Niger, and reportedly told her that her husband “knew what he signed up for” but that it “hurts anyway”; Trump tweeted that he had “proof” that Florida congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who had recounted the details of the call, had “totally fabricated” his words, but did not specify what his proof was; Trump’s chief of staff defended the president by holding a press conference in which he said that journalists should watch a “very, very good” movie about a soldier he served with who was killed in action, that it was “not the case anymore” that women were “looked upon with great honor,” and that Wilson was an “empty barrel” who had lied about obtaining $20 million in funding from the federal government for an FBI building in her district; a video surfaced showing that Wilson, who was not serving in Congress at the time the money was granted, had not lied about securing the funding but had been involved in naming the building after two slain agents of the FBI, an agency that Trump accused of paying for opposition research against him; Johnson’s widow told journalists that Wilson’s account of her call with Trump was “one hundred percent correct” and that what “hurt me most” about the conversation was that Trump initially couldn’t remember her husband’s name, which she said made her “very, very upset”; and Trump tweeted that he had not forgotten Johnson’s name. “I had a very respectful conversation” tweeted Trump, who has said that he likes soldiers that “weren’t captured,” that the mother of a US soldier killed in action did not speak about her son’s death because she was a Muslim, that a captured US soldier returned to the country after five years in a Taliban prison should be executed, that “strong” veterans don’t get PTSD, that although the US military buys Viagra for male soldiers it should not pay for the medical treatment of transgender service members, that he couldn’t recall which of his feet had the bone spur that allowed him to avoid being drafted for the Vietnam War for the fifth time, and that his “personal Vietnam” was having sex with women in the 1990s without contracting a sexually transmitted disease.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20]

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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.

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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.

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My father decided that he would end his life by throwing himself from the top of the parking garage at the Nashville airport, which he later told me had seemed like the best combination of convenience—that is, he could get there easily and unnoticed—and sufficiency—that is, he was pretty sure it was tall enough to do the job. I never asked him which other venues he considered and rejected before settling on this plan. He probably did not actually use the word “best.” It was Mother’s Day, 2013.

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