Weekly Review — April 25, 2018, 6:40 pm

Weekly Review

A naked man kills four people at a Waffle House, a wildfire spreads across Oklahoma, and NASA launches a satellite to search for new planets

In a Waffle House parking lot in Nashville, Tennessee, a man who was described by a witness as “naked except for a jacket” exited his vehicle and began firing an assault rifle, killing four people and wounding at least seven.[1][2] Nashville’s mayor called for stricter gun-control laws, and Tennessee lawmakers voted to cut $250,000 from their budget for Memphis because the city removed Confederate monuments. “Bad actions,” said a state lawmaker, lead to “bad consequences.”[3][4] A three-judge panel stopped the Justice Department from withholding money from sanctuary cities, saying the department wrongly used “the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement”; the US Supreme Court said that a federal law allowing the government to deport noncitizens who are found guilty of committing a “crime of violence” was too vague; and it was reported that since October, more than 700 children at the US border have been separated from adults claiming to be their parents.[5][6][7] Kris Kobach, Kansas’s secretary of state and the former head of the White House’s voter fraud commission, was held in contempt of court for not following an order to register voters.[8]

The Democratic National Committee filed suit against Russia, WikiLeaks, and US president Donald Trump, accusing the three parties of colluding with one another to help Trump win the 2016 election; former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani joined Trump’s legal team and said he hoped to end a special counsel investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia in “maybe a couple of weeks”; US attorney general Jeff Sessions reportedly told the White House that he would resign if Trump fired the deputy attorney general, who is overseeing the special counsel investigation; and declassified memos written by former FBI director James Comey, whom Trump fired, revealed that Trump believed one of his former national security advisers, who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russia, had “judgment issues.”[9][10][11][12] South Korea said that upcoming talks with North Korea may lead to a formal peace treaty to end the Korean War; and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said that his country will stop testing its nuclear weapons.[13][14] NASA launched a planet-hunting satellite.[15]

A fan blade in the engine of a Southwest Airlines plane broke off midflight and sliced open the cabin, killing one passenger.[16] Researchers announced that climate change caused the collapse of 29 percent of reefs off the coast of Australia.[17] A wildfire in Oklahoma spread to more than 283,000 acres of land and produced 70-foot flame walls.[18] A Washington, D.C., lawmaker who claimed that a rich Jewish family controlled the weather ignored a reporter’s question about why he ended his visit to the Holocaust museum early; and, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the German music industry’s award for best hip-hop album was given to a duo who have rapped about being “more defined than Auschwitz prisoners” and created a video in which a London banker creates evil in the world while wearing a Star of David.[19][20] It was reported that bull sharks are mating closer to the shore.[21]

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Afew months before the United States invaded Iraq, in 2003, Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary at the time, was asked on a radio show how long the war would take. “Five days or five weeks or five months,” he replied. “It certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” When George W. Bush departed the White House more than five years later, there were nearly 136,000 US soldiers stationed in the country. 

The number of troops has fallen since then, but Bush’s successors have failed to withdraw the United States from the region. Barack Obama campaigned on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to send hundreds of troops into Syria. For years Donald Trump described America’s efforts in Afghanistan as “a waste” and said that soldiers were being led “to slaughter,” but in 2017 he announced that he would deploy as many as 4,000 more troops to the country. “Decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk of the Oval Office,” he explained. Every president, it seems, eventually learns to embrace our perpetual war.

With the Trump Administration’s attacks on affordable health care, immigration, environmental regulation, and civil rights now in full swing, criticism of America’s military engagements has all but disappeared from the national conversation. Why hasn’t the United States been able—or willing—to end these conflicts? Who has benefited from them? Is victory still possible—and, if so, is it anywhere in sight?

In March, Harper’s Magazine convened a panel of former soldiers at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. The participants, almost all of whom saw combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, were asked to reflect on the country’s involvement in the Middle East. This Forum is based on that panel, which was held before an audience of cadets and officers, and on a private discussion that followed.

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Before he died, my father reminded me that when I was four and he asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said I wanted to be a writer. Of course, what I meant by “writer” then was a writer of Superman comics. In part I was infatuated with the practically invulnerable Man of Steel, his blue eyes and his spit curl. I wanted both to be him and to marry him—to be his Robin, so to speak. But more importantly, I wanted to write his story, the adventures of the man who fought for truth, justice, and the American Way—if only I could figure out what the fuck the American Way was.

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Sarah was four years old when her spirit guide first appeared. One day, she woke up from a nap and saw him there beside her bed. He was short, with longish curly hair, like a cherub made of light. She couldn’t see his feet. They played a board game—she remembers pushing the pieces around—and then he melted away.

After that, he came and went like any child’s imaginary friend. Sarah often sensed his presence when strange things happened—when forces of light and darkness took shape in the air around her or when photographs rippled as though shimmering in the heat. Sometimes Sarah had thoughts in her head that she knew were not her own. She would say things that upset her parents. “Cut it out,” her mother would warn. “This is what they put people in psychiatric hospitals for.”

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In the fall of 1969, I was a freelance journalist working out of a small, cheap office I had rented on the eighth floor of the National Press Building in downtown Washington. A few doors down was a young Ralph Nader, also a loner, whose exposé of the safety failures in American automobiles had changed the industry. There was nothing in those days quite like a quick lunch at the downstairs coffee shop with Ralph. Once, he grabbed a spoonful of my tuna-fish salad, flattened it out on a plate, and pointed out small pieces of paper and even tinier pieces of mouse shit in it. He was marvelous, if a bit hard to digest.

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The family was informed they would be moving to a place called Montana. Jaber Abdullah had never heard of it, but a Google search revealed that it was mountainous. Up to that point, he and his wife, Heba, had thought they’d be moving from Turkey to Newark, New Jersey. The prospect of crime there concerned Heba, as she and Jaber had two young sons: Jan, a petulant two-year-old, and Ivan, a newborn. 

Montana sounded like the countryside. That, Heba thought, could be good. She’d grown up in Damascus, Syria, where jasmine hung from the walls and people sold dates in the great markets. These days, you checked the sky for mortar rounds like you checked for rain, but she still had little desire to move to the United States. Basel, Jaber’s brother, a twenty-two-year-old with a cool, quiet demeanor, merely shrugged.

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How to Make Your Own AR-15

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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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