Weekly Review — November 16, 2017, 3:39 pm

Weekly Review

Pros and cons

Roy Moore, a 70-year-old lawyer and Republican candidate for the US Senate who once accidentally stabbed himself with a murder weapon while prosecuting a case in an Alabama courtroom, was accused of having sexually assaulted two women, Leigh Corfman and Beverly Young Nelson, while he was an assistant district attorney in his thirties and they were 14 and 16 years old, respectively.[1][2][3][4] Moore denied knowing Nelson, and Nelson showed reporters a copy of her high-school yearbook, which Moore had purportedly signed.[5] Moore said he did not “generally” date teenage girls, and it was reported that in the 1970s Moore had been banned from his local mall and YMCA for bothering teenage girls.[6][7] Moore’s wife published a letter of support signed by more than 50 pastors, and four of those pastors said they either had never seen the letter or had seen it before Moore was accused of sexual assault and asked to have their names removed.[8] A senator from Indiana said Moore’s “grossly reprehensible behavior disqualifies him from service,” a Pennsylvania state representative voted to place video gambling machines in truck stops and then resigned his seat in advance of being sentenced by a judge for his participation in an illegal gambling ring, a former mayor in New Jersey wept as he was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiring to have city employees renovate a wholesale liquor-distribution facility owned by his nephew and daughter, a judge in New Jersey declared a mistrial in the case of a US senator who was charged with accepting private-jet flights and $750,000 in campaign contributions from a Florida eye doctor in exchange for helping the doctor secure visas for three of his girlfriends, a state representative in Florida resigned her office and pleaded guilty to perjury for lying about the district in which she lived on her voter-registration form, the budget chairman of Florida’s state senate was accused of groping and sexually harassing six capitol employees, a former state representative in Florida was ordered to forfeit the $63,000 in campaign contributions he was convicted of using to pay for his wedding and meals at McDonald’s, a Florida judge delayed the sentencing of a US congresswoman convicted of soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from her supporters to a fake charity in Virginia, a US representative from Virginia said she knew of a congressman who had exposed his penis to a female aide when the aide delivered work materials to his house, a 53-year-old former US congressman from New York reported to a federal prison in Massachusetts to begin serving a 21-month sentence for messaging photos of his penis to a 15-year-old girl, a state senator in Minnesota was accused of sending a photograph of a penis to women on Snapchat, a US senator from Minnesota was accused of forcibly kissing a woman and groping her breasts while she was sleeping, a US representative from California said she was aware of a sitting Republican and a sitting Democrat who had committed sexual misconduct while in office, former US president George H. W. Bush was accused of groping the buttocks of a 16-year-old girl during a photo shoot, and current US president Donald Trump, who when he was 46 years old was filmed saying of a 10-year-old girl with whom he was riding on an escalator that he would be “dating her in ten years,” nominated for a federal judgeship a 36-year-old lawyer and horror novelist who has never tried a case, and who spent a year working at a paranormal-activity research group helping people who are haunted by ghosts.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29]

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Exiled·

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It has become something of a commonplace to say that Mike Pence belongs to another era. He is a politician whom the New York Times has called a “throwback,” a “conservative proudly out of sync with his times,” and a “dangerous anachronism,” a man whose social policies and outspoken Christian faith are so redolent of the previous century’s culture wars that he appeared to have no future until, in the words of one journalist, he was plucked “off the political garbage heap” by Donald Trump and given new life. Pence’s rise to the vice presidency was not merely a personal advancement; it marked the return of religion and ideology to American politics at a time when the titles of political analyses were proclaiming the Twilight of Social Conservatism (2015) and the End of White Christian America (2016). It revealed the furious persistence of the religious right, an entity whose final demise was for so long considered imminent that even as white evangelicals came out in droves to support the Trump-Pence ticket, their enthusiasm was dismissed, in the Washington Post, as the movement’s “last spastic breath.”

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Just after dawn in Lhamo, a small town on the northeastern corner of the Tibetan Plateau, horns summon the monks of Serti Monastery to prayer. Juniper incense smolders in the temple’s courtyard as monks begin arriving in huddled groups. Some walk the kora, a clockwise circumambulation around the building. Others hustle toward the main door, which sits just inside a porch decorated in bright thangka paintings. A pile of fur boots accumulates outside. When the last monks have arrived, the horn blowers leaning out of the second-floor windows retire indoors.

When I visited Lhamo in 2015, most monks at Serti attended the morning prayers, but not Ngawang Chötar, the vice president of the monastery’s management committee, or siguanhui. Instead, he could usually be found doing business somewhere on Lhamo’s main street. Like all Tibetan monks, he sports a buzz cut, and his gait, weighed down by dark crimson robes, resembles a penguin’s shuffle. When he forgets the password to his account on WeChat, China’s popular messaging service—a frequent occurrence—he waits for the town’s cell phone repairman at his favorite restaurant, piling the shells of sunflower seeds into a tidy mound.

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As he approached his death in 1987, the photographer Peter Hujar was all but unknown, with a murky reputation and a tiny, if elite, cult following. Slowly circling down what was then the hopeless spiral of ­AIDS, Peter had ceaselessly debated one decision, which he reached only with difficulty, and only when the end drew near. He was in a hospital bed when he made his will that summer, naming me the executor of his entire artistic estate—and also its sole owner.

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Photograph by Peter Hujar
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The friendly waitress at the Pretty Prairie Steak House delivers tumblers of tap water as soon as diners take their seats. Across Main Street, the Wagon Wheel Café offers the same courtesy. Customers may also order coffee or iced tea, but it all starts at the same tap, and everyone is fine with that. This blasé attitude about drinking water surprised me: everyone in this little farm town in Reno County, Kansas, knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the liquid flowing from the municipal water tower was highly contaminated with nitrate, a chemical compound derived from fertilizer and connected to thyroid problems and various cancers. At the time I visited Pretty Prairie, last fall, nitrate levels there were more than double the federal standard for safe drinking water.

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The truth—that thing I thought I was telling.—John Ashbery To start with the facts: the chapter in my book White Sands called “Pilgrimage” is about a visit to the house where the philosopher Theodor Adorno lived in Los Angeles during the Second World War. It takes its title from the story of that name by Susan Sontag (recently republished in Debriefing: Collected Stories) about a visit she and her friend Merrill made to the house of Adorno’s fellow German exile Thomas Mann in the Pacific Palisades, in 1947, when she was fourteen. It seemed strange that the story was originally …
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