Weekly Review — July 24, 2018, 4:28 pm

Weekly Review

Putin throws a soccer ball to Trump, Trump says Putin is strong and powerful, and Russia’s foreign ministry warns of “Russophobic hysteria”

Weeks after the US ambassador to Russia told reporters that “the ball” was in the Russian government’s “court” to respond to accusations that the country had interfered with the 2016 election in the United States, US president Donald Trump held a press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, where he called Putin “strong and powerful” and told journalists he didn’t see “any reason” to believe reports from US intelligence agencies that Russia had tampered with the election.[1][2][3] “Now the ball is in your court,” said Putin, tossing a soccer ball to Trump.[4] After the conference, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Trump should “appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” Trump told journalists in the White House Cabinet Room that he accepted the intelligence community’s “conclusion” that Russian meddling had occurred but said that it “could be other people also,” and then Trump announced that he could be “the worst enemy” Putin’s “ever had.”[5][6][7] Democrats chanted “USA! USA!” on the House floor.[8]

Maria Butina, a 29-year-old Russian citizen who gained access to conservative US politicians through close relationships with National Rifle Association executives, was charged by US prosecutors with conspiracy to act as a covert agent of the Russian Federation and infiltrate American political organizations.[9][10] A spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry called the accusations “Russophobic hysteria,” and several Twitter accounts run by the Kremlin changed their avatars to an image of Butina. [11][12] “#FreeMariaButina,” tweeted the foreign ministry.[13] Lawmakers from Russia’s ruling party introduced a “fake news” bill that would force social media companies and websites to remove posts that authorities deem “inaccurate” or pay an $800,000 fine; it was reported that the US president is the single largest buyer of political ads on Facebook; and months after a Sri Lankan mob angered by posts on Facebook destroyed a Muslim-owned restaurant for supposedly hiding sterilization pills in its food, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his company would remove “misinformation” that could foment violence.[14][15][16]

In Israel, Arab lawmakers were evicted from the Knesset plenum hall after protesting a narrowly passed bill declaring Hebrew the state’s official language and “national self-determination” exclusive to the Jewish people.[17] The bones of 95 people believed to have been African-American forced laborers were exhumed in Texas during the construction of a school, and it was reported that gun rights activists have been following teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting across the country in an armored vehicle.[18][19] A team in the Brazilian Amazon that had been monitoring a solitary indigenous man for 22 years released footage of him chopping down a tree; the British luxury clothing company Burberry incinerated more than $36 million worth of its own clothing and cosmetics, claiming that it had worked with environmentally friendly companies to harvest energy from the burn; and, in India, an airline apologized after business-class seats advertised at around $4,000 were found to be infested with bedbugs.[20][21][22]—Whitney Kimball

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I.

That year, the year of the Ghost Ship fire, I lived in a shack. I’d found the place just as September’s Indian summer was giving way to a wet October. There was no plumbing or running water to wash my hands or brush my teeth before sleep. Electricity came from an extension cord that snaked through a yard of coyote mint and monkey flower and up into a hole I’d drilled in my floorboards. The structure was smaller than a cell at San Quentin—a tiny house or a huge coffin, depending on how you looked at it—four by eight and ten feet tall, so cramped it fit little but a mattress, my suit jackets and ties, a space heater, some novels, and the mason jar I peed in.

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I am eight years old, sitting in my childhood kitchen, ready to watch one of the home videos my father has made. The videotape still exists somewhere, so somewhere she still is, that girl on the screen: hair that tangles, freckles across her nose that in time will spread across one side of her forehead. A body that can throw a baseball the way her father has shown her. A body in which bones and hormones lie in wait, ready to bloom into the wide hips her mother has given her. A body that has scars: the scars over her lungs and heart from the scalpel that saved her when she was a baby, the invisible scars left by a man who touched her when she was young. A body is a record or a body is freedom or a body is a battleground. Already, at eight, she knows it to be all three.

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The writer and filmmaker Virginie Despentes lives in a nondescript modern building in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris. I know it well: it has a Bricorama—like a French Home Depot—on the ground floor, where we sometimes had cause to shop back when we lived in the neighborhood. The people who work there seemed to hate their jobs more than most; they were often absent from the sales floor. In the elevator to Despentes’s apartment, I marvel that while I was trying to get someone to help me find bathroom grout she was right upstairs, with her partner, Tania, a Spanish tattoo artist who goes by the name La Rata, like someone out of one of Despentes’s novels.

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That night at the window, looking out at the street full of snow, big flakes falling through the streetlight, I listened to what Anna was saying. She was speaking of a man named Karl. We both knew him as a casual acquaintance—thin and lanky like Ichabod Crane, with long hair—operating a restaurant down in the village whimsically called the Gist Mill, with wood paneling, a large painting of an old gristmill on a river on one wall, tin ceilings, and a row of teller cages from its previous life as a bank. Karl used to run along the river, starting at his apartment in town and turning back about two miles down the path. He had been going through the divorce—this was a couple of years ago, of course, Anna said—and was trying to run through his pain.

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At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

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