Weekly Review — May 29, 2018, 5:04 pm

Weekly Review

Harvey Weinstein is released on bail, Italy’s prime minister–designate fails to form a government, and the fourth man to walk on the moon dies

US president Donald Trump wrote in a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that a scheduled summit between the two parties “will not take place,” and then said that the planned date for that summit “hasn’t changed.”[1][2][3] Kim said he’d consider dismantling his country’s nuclear arsenal at a meeting with South Korean president Moon Jae-in that was held at a “truce village” located in the demilitarized zone between the two countries.[4] Ireland repealed a constitutional amendment that banned abortion, and in Scotland, it was announced that an employment tribunal hearing would be held for a woman who was gagged and taped to a chair for speaking up about bullying and harassment at her job eight years ago.[5][6] Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused by over 80 people of sexual harassment, assault, or rape, was arrested in New York and released on $1 million bail with an electronic ankle monitor; and eight women accused the actor Morgan Freeman of inappropriate behavior and harassment.[7][8][9] Emails were released showing that Environmental Protection Agency officials coordinated with a group that denies climate change, and it was reported that the Rio Grande is drying up.[10][11]

Two men entered Bombay Bhel restaurant in Mississauga, Ontario, and set off a homemade bomb, injuring 15 people.[12] The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation went into effect, setting legal restrictions on how companies can gather data; an Amazon Echo device mistakenly recorded one couple’s private conversation and sent it to one of the husband’s employees; and it was reported that Amazon sold police departments facial recognition technology called Rekognition.[13][14][15] A study found that black defendants receive longer sentences from Republican-appointed judges than from judges chosen by Democrats, Milwaukee police released a video in which NBA player Sterling Brown was arrested and tased by officers over a parking violation, NFL owners approved a policy stating that players can be fined for kneeling during the national anthem, and it was reported that US representative Tom Garrett used his aides as personal servants, ordering them to pick up groceries and the poop of his dog, Sophie. “Jefferson did bad things, but he had good ideas,” said Garrett, referring to the country’s third president, who was a slaveholder.[16][17][18][19][20]

In Italy, the populist prime minister–designate was given a mandate to form a government, and then failed to do so.[21] Wyoming approved the first grizzly bear hunt in 44 years, and in Bloomfield, Connecticut, a town council member ordered a $49 Heart Attack Burger during budget talks.[22][23] A report from the Federal Reserve showed that 29 percent of Americans would be unable to cover an unexpected $400 bill.[24] Egypt’s high court banned YouTube for a month, and in China a social networking app that claimed to help users “find the ultimate generous Sugar Daddy” was removed from the platform WeChat.[25][26] The fourth man to walk on the moon died, a study found that climate change will make rice less nutritious, and Hormel recalled 228,614 pounds of Spam and Luncheon Loaf after consumers bit into metal objects.[27][28][29]

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Lost at Sea·

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A few miles north of San Francisco, off the coast of Sausalito, is Richardson Bay, a saltwater estuary where roughly one hundred people live out of sight from the world. Known as anchor-outs, they make their homes a quarter mile from the shore, on abandoned and unseaworthy vessels, doing their best, with little or no money, to survive. Life is not easy. There is always a storm on the way, one that might capsize their boats and consign their belongings to the bottom of the bay. But when the water is calm and the harbormaster is away, the anchor-­outs call their world Shangri-lito. They row from one boat to the next, repairing their homes with salvaged scrap wood and trading the herbs and vegetables they’ve grown in ten-gallon buckets on their decks. If a breeze is blowing, the air fills with the clamoring of jib hanks. Otherwise, save for a passing motorboat or a moment of distant chatter, there is only the sound of the birds: the sparrows that hop along the wreckage of catamarans, the egrets that hunt herring in the eelgrass, and the terns that circle in the sky above.

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Discussed in this essay: Nature’s Mutiny: How the Little Ice Age of the Long Seventeenth Century Transformed the West and Shaped the Present, by Philipp Blom. Liveright. 352 pages. $27.95. Origins: How Earth’s History Shaped Human History, by Lewis Dartnell. Basic Books. 352 pages. $18.99. The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire, by Kyle Harper. Princeton University Press. 440 pages. $35. “Something’s changing,” said our dear leader, “and it’ll change back again.” This particular flavor of gaslighting dates back several decades. Like any canny half-truth, it grafts insinuations onto an unassailable fact. It is true, …
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When I met Raúl Mijango, in a courtroom in San Salvador, he was in shackles, awaiting trial. He was paunchier than in the photos I’d seen of him, bloated from diabetes, and his previously salt-and-pepper goatee had turned fully white. The masked guard who was escorting him stood nearby, and national news cameras filmed us from afar. Despite facing the possibility of a long prison sentence, Mijango seemed relaxed, smiling easily as we spoke. “Bolívar, Fidel, Gandhi, and Mandela have also passed through this school,” he told me, “and I hope that some of what they learned during their years in prison we should learn as well.”

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1. As closing time at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery approached on May 25, 2018, Igor Podporin, a balding thirty-seven-year-old with sunken eyes, circled the Russian history room. The elderly museum attendees shooed him toward the exit, but Podporin paused by a staircase, turned, and rushed back toward the Russian painter Ilya Repin’s 1885 work Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581. He picked up a large metal pole—part of a barrier meant to keep viewers at a distance—and smashed the painting’s protective glass, landing three more strikes across Ivan’s son’s torso before guards managed to subdue him. Initially, police presented Podporin’s attack as an alcohol-fueled outburst and released a video confession in which he admitted to having knocked back two shots of vodka in the museum cafeteria beforehand. But when Podporin entered court four days later, dressed in the same black Columbia fleece, turquoise T-shirt, and navy-blue cargo pants he had been arrested in, he offered a different explanation for the attack. The painting, Podporin declared, was a “lie.” With that accusation, he thrust himself into a centuries-old debate about the legacy of Russia’s first tsar, a debate that has reignited during Vladimir Putin’s reign. The dispute boils down to one deceptively simple question: Was Ivan really so terrible?

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“Something’s changing,” said our dear leader, “and it’ll change back again.” This particular flavor of gaslighting dates back several decades. Like any canny half-truth, it grafts insinuations onto an unassailable fact. It is true, after all, that the global climate has changed drastically before, and that it will change again . . . some millennia from now. It is also true that many of these past changes brought on mass global death. Our concerns about climate change, to restate the obvious, are not for the climate itself. Our concerns are for our civilization, which has organized its infrastructure, trade, national borders, food production, and cities around specific climatic conditions under the assumption that they are permanent. Even a slight unsettling of these conditions will, like the shifting of tectonic plates, cause seismic upheavals. Unlike most matters of global political significance, there is no direct historical analogue for our situation—the unprecedented nature of the crisis is part of its horror. But human beings have endured climatic changes before. A growing historical subdiscipline (cli-hi?) has developed to examine how they managed it. With horrific suffering is the short answer, but Philipp Blom, a German translator and journalist who lives in Los Angeles, proposes in Nature’s Mutiny an artful corollary: that the hardships of a changing climate spurred the creation of what we think of as modern civilization, while at the same time inscribing within its genetic code the germ of its own demise.

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