Weekly Review — April 4, 2018, 5:16 pm

Weekly Review

Departments of Justice

A 38-year-old animal rights activist and vegan-lifestyle advocate posted to her website accusations that YouTube had failed to properly compensate her for ad revenue generated by videos she uploaded to the site, then drove to the company’s headquarters, took out a pistol, shot three people, shouted, “Come at me,” and fatally shot herself.[1][2] A survivor of a mass shooting at a high school in Florida tweeted that the YouTube shooting was “proof” that children aren’t the only Americans who need to worry about being shot to death in their day-to-day lives, and US president Donald Trump proposed additional tariffs on Chinese-made flamethrowers.[3][4] Trump tweeted that the US “Department of ‘Justice’” was “an embarrassment” because it was “slow walking” the turnover of documents related to investigations of his political opponents, a 33-year-old white man and Trump campaign associate from the Netherlands was sentenced to 30 days in prison for lying to special prosecutors investigating state-sponsored interference in the US presidential election, and a 43-year-old black woman from Texas was sentenced to five years in prison because she unknowingly violated the conditions of her supervised release by voting in that election.[5][6][7] A police officer in Asheville, North Carolina, stopped a black man for jaywalking, forced him to the ground, repeatedly punched him in the face while he shouted, “I can’t breathe,” tased him multiple times, and called him a “bro” and a “tough boy”; a deputy sheriff in Sacramento, California, ran over a 61-year-old woman who was attending a demonstration for Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old unarmed black man who was holding his cell phone in his grandmother’s back yard when two officers approached him and shot him eight times, which they told investigators they did because he lunged at them; and an autopsy of Clark’s body revealed that the majority of shots were fired into his back.[8][9][10] In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, prosecutors announced that they would not charge a white police officer who was filmed shouting, “I’ll shoot your fucking ass” at a 37-year-old black man named Alton Sterling, whom he then shot six times and called a “stupid ass motherfucker,” which the officer later told investigators he said because he was “mad” at Sterling for “making” him kill him.[11][12] A 68-year-old white man in Kentucky assaulted his wife with a flashlight and then pointed a rifle at responding officers, opened fire, and was apprehended alive; and footage was released of a police officer in Houston shouting, “I’ll shoot your ass” at an unarmed black man named Danny Ray Thomas and then moments later firing a fatal shot into Thomas’s chest.[13][14] Police in Augusta, Georgia, apprehended alive a 22-year-old white man who fired multiple shots at the driver and the passenger of a nearby vehicle; police in Chicago apprehended alive a 21-year-old man in a train station who was carrying a loaded pistol, wearing body armor, and holding a duffel bag filled with SWAT equipment; and police in Elgin, Illinois, released more than 30 hours of footage of the traffic stop of a 34-year-old black woman named Decynthia Clements, which showed the officers agree that if force was necessary to apprehend her they would use rubber bullets and Tasers, and then order Clements from the car and shoot her with live ammunition, killing her. “She had a couple knives in her hands,” said one of the at least seven officers at the scene. “I don’t know what else we were going to do.”[15][16][17]

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Without a Trace

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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.

Shanghai Broadcasting Building, by Cui Jie (detail) © The artist. Courtesy private collection
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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.

A screenshot of a December 2015 Facebook post by Masood Hotak (left), in Istanbul
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Going to Extremes·

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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.

They listened to the radio until there was nothing more to do. Philip went into the house and retrieved a container of Kraft vanilla pudding, which he’d mixed with all the drugs he could find in the house—Valium, Klonopin, Percocet, and so on. He opened the passenger-­side door and knelt beside Becky. He held a spoon, and she guided it to her mouth. When Becky had eaten all the pudding, he got back into the driver’s seat and swallowed a handful of pills. Philip asked her how the pudding tasted. “Like freedom,” she said. As they lost consciousness, the winter chill seeped into their clothes and skin.

Illustration by Leigh Wells (detail)
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“Tell Me How This Ends”·

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America in the Middle East: learning curves are for pussies.
—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, June 2, 2015

In January 2017, following Donald Trump’s inauguration, his national security staffers entered their White House offices for the first time. One told me that when he searched for the previous administration’s Middle East policy files, the cupboard was bare. “There wasn’t an overarching strategy document for anywhere in the Middle East,” the senior official, who insisted on anonymity, told me in a coffee shop near the White House. “Not even on the ISIS campaign, so there wasn’t a cross-governmental game plan.”

Syrian Arab Red Crescent vehicles in eastern Ghouta, March 24, 2018 (detail) © Anas Alkharboutli/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Amount Arizona’s Red Feather Lodge offered to pay to reopen the Grand Canyon during the 2013 government shutdown:

$25,000

In England, a flutist stole 299 rare bird skins from an ornithology museum in order to pay for a new flute.

The 70th governor of Ohio was sworn in on nine Bibles, which were held by his wife.

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