Weekly Review — February 20, 2018, 6:13 pm

Weekly Review

Infrastructure week

In Parkland, Florida, a city ranked by the National Council for Home Safety and Security as the safest in the state, a 19-year-old man took an Uber to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, set off the fire alarm, and opened fire on students and faculty members, killing 17 people.[1][2] The shooter discarded his AR-15 semiautomatic weapon, the model used in six of America’s ten deadliest mass shootings and referred to by the NRA as “America’s rifle,” and then fled to a nearby Walmart, where customers can buy rifles and ammunition but cannot purchase music with lyrics that contain the word “fuck.”[3][4][5] US president Donald Trump, who revoked a regulation that was created after a previous school shooting to strengthen restrictions on firearm purchases, tweeted that the FBI had “missed” warning signs about the shooter because it was “spending too much time” investigating his presidential campaign; and a video was published of the gunman firing a weapon while wearing boxers and a hat bearing Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”[6][7][8][9] First responders brought children wounded in the shooting to a hospital in Parkland, which Trump visited before traveling to his private club in Palm Beach to attend a disco party; and the families of several slain children held funerals an hour south of West Palm Beach, where Trump played golf.[10][11][12] A freshman who survived the attack said that she lost two of the “closest people” to her “because of guns,” a junior called for “stricter laws” restricting gun sales, a sophomore said she wanted to ask Trump “why” someone was able to come into her school “and shoot 17 people,” and Trump’s son liked a tweet suggesting that a student who spoke out against gun violence was “running cover” for the Miami field office of the FBI.[13][14][15] Trump tweeted that “classmates” should have reported “signs” that the shooter was “mentally disturbed,” and then tweeted that Russians were “laughing their asses off” at America, that Americans should “remember” a “dirty dossier” alleging that he paid prostitutes to urinate on one another, that he hoped Oprah Winfrey would be “defeated,” and that allegations that he forcibly kissed a woman for two minutes in Trump Tower were false. “Who would do this in a public space?” wrote Trump, who during his campaign said he wouldn’t “lose voters” if he stood “in the middle of Fifth Avenue” and shot someone.[16][17][18][19][20][21] 

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Left to the tender mercies of the state, a group of veterans and their families continue to reside in a shut-down town

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Stonewall at Fifty·

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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.

When I first arrived at the warehouse on a sunny morning last May, a dozen pickup trucks and U-Hauls were waiting outside, piled high with used furniture. Nearby, rows of vehicles awaiting export were crammed together along a dirt strip separating the street from the shipyard, where a stately blue cargo vessel was being loaded with goods.

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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.

Back then, I shared the American assumption that such things were dealt with responsibly, or at least rationally, at least in the West outside the United States. Windscale/Sellafield is by no means the anomaly I thought it was then. But the fact that a government entrusted with the well-being of a crowded island would visit this endless, silent disaster on its own people was striking to me, and I spent almost a decade trying to understand it. I learned immediately that the motives were economic. What of all this noxious efflux they did not spill they sold into a global market.

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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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