Weekly Review — June 12, 2018, 11:56 am

Weekly Review

Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump meet at a former POW site, Jeff Sessions denies asylum to victims of domestic abuse and gang violence, and the National Sheriff Association announces a new initiative to protect pets

The leaders of Canada, Italy, Germany, France, Japan, the UK, the United States, and 12 other countries gathered for the annual G7 summit, held this year in Charlevoix, Quebec.[1] US president Donald Trump arrived late to a meeting on gender equality, missed a meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron, refused to sign the summit’s joint communiqué shortly after agreeing to sign it, and said that Russian president Vladimir Putin should have been invited.[2][3][4][5] Trump left the summit early, after less than 24 hours in Canada, in order to travel to Singapore for what he described as a “get-to-know-you situation” with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at a five-star resort on the island of Sentosa, which was once known as the Island of Death from Behind for housing a Japanese execution site during World War II and now has a theme park and two golf courses.[6] Doug Ford, a label and packaging magnate who is the brother of Toronto’s late mayor Rob Ford, who was once filmed smoking crack, was elected premier of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province.[7] In Surrey, British Columbia, it was reported that feral peacocks were attacking cars after seeing their own reflections.[8]

Austria’s government announced that it would close seven mosques, and the government of Bavaria, Germany, made it mandatory that every public building display a Christian cross at their entrance, and said that it would consider using private jets to deport migrants seeking asylum.[9][10][11] US attorney general Jeff Sessions ordered federal immigration judges to “generally” deny “claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors,” and to complete a quota of 700 cases a year; the US government plans to transfer 1,600 detained immigrants, including asylum seekers, to federal prisons; and an Ecuadorean pizza-delivery man was arrested after trying to deliver pizza to a military base in New York.[12][13][14] It was reported that children had been separated from their parents while attempting to cross the US border in 1,768 cases over 17 months, and a Senator touring a detention facility said that children were being kept in “big cages.”[15][16] A Massachusetts kindergarten teacher rewrote “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” with the lyrics “Lockdown, lockdown, lock the door. Shut the lights off, say no more” as part of a drill for school shootings.[17] A two-year-old boy died after being shot by his 13-year-old brother in Ohio; a four-year-old boy was shot in South Carolina after playing with a gun he found under a mattress; a 10-year-old boy was shot while playing in his yard in Mississippi; a two-year-old boy was shot in the head and a nine-year-old boy was shot in the stomach while shooting targets in Tennessee; a four-year-old boy was shot at a gas station in Missouri; a five-year-old boy was shot while sitting on a porch in Louisiana; a five-year-old boy was shot in Pennsylvania; a six-year-old boy in Kentucky died when a gun he was playing with went off; a 12-year-old girl died after being shot by two teenagers in Georgia; five-year-old boy was shot by his eight-year-old brother and seven people were shot at a child’s birthday party in Illinois; and a ten-year-old boy was shot in the head at a birthday party in Virginia.[18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29] NRA Family, the National Rifle Association’s website “for families and beginning shooters of all ages,” posted a “Fun Friday Quiz” titled “Which Rifle Are You?”[30]

A member of the National Guard was arrested after leading police on a two-hour chase in a stolen armored vehicle in Virginia.[31] Police in Mesa, Arizona, released a video showing a group of police officers punching and kneeing an unarmed 33-year-old black man because he wouldn’t sit down on the floor; a 24-year-old black man in Chicago was killed after being shot in the back by police; and the National Sheriff Association announced a new program to teach police how to reduce the use of lethal force against pets.[32][33][34] A pastor conducting a baptism in a lake in Ethiopia was killed by a crocodile, a woman in Florida was dragged into a lake by an alligator while she was walking her dogs, and a cashier on her break at a Florida Home Depot was attacked in the parking lot by a spider monkey named Spanky.[35][36][37] It was reported that Chinese demand for donkey skins was causing a decline in Kenyan donkey populations.[38] A 340-ton machine in Tennessee that can calculate 200 quadrillion mathematical equations per second overtook a Chinese mainframe to become the world’s fastest supercomputer, and it was reported that researchers in Germany were developing a robot that gives good hugs.[39][40]

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The Gatekeepers·

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Toward the end of the Obama presidency, the work of James Baldwin began to enjoy a renaissance that was both much overdue and comfortless. Baldwin stands as one of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century, and any celebration of his work is more than welcome. But it was less a reveling than a panic. The eight years of the first black president were giving way to some of the most blatant and vitriolic displays of racism in decades, while the shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and others too numerous to list sparked a movement in defense of black lives. In Baldwin, people found a voice from the past so relevant that he seemed prophetic.

More than any other writer, Baldwin has become the model for black public-intellectual work. The role of the public intellectual is to proffer new ideas, encourage deep thinking, challenge norms, and model forms of debate that enrich our discourse. For black intellectuals, that work has revolved around the persistence of white supremacy. Black abolitionists, ministers, and poets theorized freedom and exposed the hypocrisy of American democracy throughout the period of slavery. After emancipation, black colleges began training generations of scholars, writers, and artists who broadened black intellectual life. They helped build movements toward racial justice during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, whether through pathbreaking journalism, research, or activism.

Bloom, acrylic, ink, wood, and fabric on canvas, by David Shrobe © The artist. Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco
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The Vanishing·

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On a Friday afternoon in the fall of 2017, a few months after the liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State, a group of neighbors gathered at Mar Mattai, a monastery founded in the fourth century. They unloaded baskets of food, and arranged themselves around a long table in a courtyard. A woman named Niser spread out a tablecloth and put down a plate of dolmas. “It’s a way of celebrating that we still exist,” she told me. More people were arriving—children, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and distant relations—members of one of the oldest Christian communities in the world who had not seen one another for three years.

Overlooking the village of Mergey from the old section of the Mar Mattai Monastery, Mount Maqlub, Iraq. All photographs from Iraq (October 2017) and Jerusalem (March 2018) by Nicole Tung (Detail)
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Investigating Hate·

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Around three in the morning on a cold December Sunday, brothers José and Romel Sucuzhañay began to walk home from a bar in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It was a cloudy night, only a few degrees above freezing, and the houses and stores lining their route wore impassive, nighttime guises—shades drawn, metal grates locked down. Romel had only recently arrived from Ecuador. José, a thirty-­one-year-old father of two, ran a successful real estate agency in the neighborhood. The two had spent the evening eating and drinking at a quinceañera at St. Brigid Church, and afterward, they stopped at a local bar called Christopher’s Palace. They were feeling the alcohol as they headed back to José’s apartment. When they realized that José had left his coat behind in the bar, Romel took off his jacket and draped it around his younger brother’s shoulders. They continued to walk up Bushwick Avenue, swaying a bit, arms around each other for warmth and ballast.

As they approached the corner of Kossuth Place and Bushwick Avenue, a red SUV stopped at the traffic light. “Check out those faggots!” the driver yelled out the window. José may have said something in reply. Very rapidly, a man jumped out of the passenger side door and smashed José on the head with a bottle, dropping him to the ground. He then turned to attack Romel. As Romel fled from the man down Kossuth, the driver exited the car, grabbed an aluminum baseball bat out of the vehicle, and began to beat José until someone emerged from the back seat and called him off. The driver was walking away when he saw some movement from José, a twitch of his hand or his leg sliding across the pavement—trying to rise, perhaps—and he strode back, straddled him, and raised the bat high in the air. He brought it down on José’s head, again and again, as if he were chopping wood.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae (Detail)
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Preservation Acts·

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After eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, Bergis Jules found himself worrying not only over the horrors of the present, but also over how little of the present was likely to be preserved for the future. The best reporting on the aftermath in Ferguson was being produced by activists on Twitter, a notoriously ephemeral medium. Jules, then an archivist at the University of California, Riverside, had the impulse to start saving tweets, but wasn’t sure how. “That whole weekend, watching things unfold, I thought, ‘This is a really amazing historical moment; we should think about capturing it,’ but I was just talking to myself,” he says. The following week, attending a Society of American Archivists conference in Washington, D.C., he voiced his fears en route to drinks at the hotel bar. He caught the ear of Ed Summers, a developer who just so happened to be the author of a Twitter archiving tool—and who promptly programmed it to va­cuum up #Ferguson tweets. Within two weeks, he had amassed more than 13 million.

Three weeks after the shooting, Summers blogged about the archive, which he and Jules were considering making public. Shortly thereafter, they received an inquiry from a data-mining company. When they pulled up the firm’s website, they read that its clients included the Department of Defense and, ominously, “the intelligence community.” What did the company want with the data? And what were the ethical implications of handing it over—perhaps indirectly to law enforcement—when the protesters’ tweets would otherwise evade collection? Using Twitter’s Application Programming Interface (API), the code that developers use to call up Twitter data, anyone can sift through tweets that were posted in the past week, but older posts disappear from the API’s search function, even if they still exist out on the web. The data-mining company was too late to nab a swath of the #Ferguson tweets. (Twitter has since unveiled a “premium” API that allows access to older data, for a substantial fee.) Newly mindful of the risks, Jules and Summers waited almost a year to publish their cache.

Illustration by Hanna Barczyk

Estimated number of times in the Fall of 1990 that George Bush told a joke about his dog asking for a wine list with her Alpo:

10

French researchers reported that 52 percent of young women exposed to Francis Cabrel’s ballad “Je l’aime à mourir” gave their phone numbers to an average-looking young man who hit on them, whereas only 28 percent of those exposed to Vincent Delerm’s “L’heure du thé” did so.

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Happiness Is a Worn Gun

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Illustration by Stan Fellows

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“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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