Weekly Review — April 10, 2018, 6:34 pm

Weekly Review

The FBI raids the office of one of Trump’s lawyers, a fire breaks out in Trump Tower, and a South Carolina congressman pulls out a gun

On Fox and Friends, which US president Donald Trump has called “the most influential show in news,” the hosts discussed a thousand-person “caravan” of migrants traveling toward the United States to escape gang violence and poverty in Central America; and Trump said that women in the group were being “raped at levels nobody has seen before” and that he would deploy 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border to stop the migrants from seeking asylum.[1][2][3][4][5] Trump announced a tariff worth $50 billion on 1,300 Chinese goods, China proposed $50 billion worth of tariffs on American products, and Trump said he was considering raising the value of his tariffs by $100 billion. “We’ll see how this works out,” said Trump’s economic adviser.[6][7][8] It was reported that Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt spent millions of taxpayer dollars to employ a 20-person security detail, reassigned or demoted EPA employees if they questioned the agency’s spending, attempted to use sirens to get through traffic, and rented a condo for $50 a night from the wife of a lobbyist for the only liquefied-natural-gas exporter in the United States.[9][10] A fire broke out on the 50th floor of Trump Tower, killing one person.[11]

In Syria, medical groups reported that at least 70 people suffocated in Douma from a chemical attack.[12][13] During protests in Gaza, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian photojournalist who was wearing a vest that bore the word “press.”[14] A former president of Brazil, who was leading in the polls for the country’s upcoming presidential election, turned himself in to authorities to begin a 12-year sentence after being found guilty of helping a construction company acquire contracts from the state-run oil industry; a former president of South Korea was sentenced to 24 years in prison for using her position to fundraise for companies that paid for her shaman’s daughter’s equestrian lessons; and a South Carolina congressman pulled out a loaded .38-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun during a “coffee with constituents” meeting and said he was “not going to be a Gabby Giffords.”[15][16][17][18][19][20][21]

Researchers found that one in three low-income American families struggles to afford diapers, and parts of California flooded when a plume of water vapor from the tropics caused snowmelt and heavy rain.[22][23][24] A Tallahassee city commissioner said he had used almost all of the funds from his state senate campaign to pay an attorney to represent him in an FBI investigation of public corruption so that he could “clear his name” and “remain a viable candidate”; the FBI raided the office of one of Trump’s lawyers, who admitted to paying off an adult-film star with whom Trump allegedly had an affair; the ex-fiancée of a former Republican presidential campaign adviser accused her partner of forcing her to sign a five-page contract to be his “slave and property,” requiring her to wear a collar and always be naked; and the singer Cardi B released her first album, Invasion of Privacy.[25][26][27][28][29]

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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.

The move transformed my life and induced a seething fury in lots of decent people. I can see why. Peter did not make me his heir for any of the usual reasons. I was a good and trusted friend, but he had scads of those. I was not the first person he considered for the job, nor was I the most qualified. In fact, I was a rank amateur, and my understanding of his art was limited. I knew his photographs were stunning, often upsetting, unpredictably beautiful, distinctively his. I also knew they were under­rated and neglected. But I did not then really grasp his achievement.

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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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Percentage of US college students who have a better opinion of conservatives after their first year:

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"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

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