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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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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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

Value of loose change left at TSA checkpoints in 2010:

$409,085.56

Eighty percent of those displaced by climate change have been women, whose voices have been getting deeper.

In Wichita Falls, Texas, a woman was banned from Walmart after drinking wine from a Pringles can while riding an electric shopping cart; she had been riding the cart for two and a half hours.

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Happiness Is a Worn Gun

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Illustration by Stan Fellows

Illustration by Stan Fellows

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

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