Weekly Review — October 16, 2018, 12:44 am

Weekly Review

Nikki Haley resigns; Jamal Khashoggi murdered; Kanye visits the White House

Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 storm, hit the Florida Panhandle and, with 155-mile-per-hour winds, killed at least 18 people in the Southeastern states; washed entire buildings away with a single wave in Mexico Beach, Florida; left more than a million without power in six states; and caused damages estimated at upwards of $4.5 billion in Florida.1 2 3 4 “Pretty much just like the apocalypse had happened,” said a Florida resident; “It was like everybody’s been saying, like a bomb went off,” said another; “When is anybody coming to do something?” asked a woman who was giving herself insulin shots in the back of her car.5 6 7 “Not today,” said Bill Shine, the White House communications director, in response to reporter’s request for comment from President Donald Trump on a UN report that reiterated that, even under a conservative estimate of warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040, the Earth will suffer millions of deaths caused by the effects of climate change, “It’s a Kavanaugh night.”8 9 Hillary Clinton said that her husband’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky, then a White House intern, was not an abuse of power because she “was an adult”; Nikki Haley announced that she will resign as the US ambassador to the United Nations at the end of the year; and it was revealed that Rick Gates, a Trump campaign official, requested proposals from an Israeli company to use social media manipulation to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election.10 11 12

The United Nations released a report stating that 13 million Yemenis will starve unless the Saudi-led coalition halts air strikes on the country.13 A senior Turkish official stated that Jamal Khashoggi, a 59-year-old journalist who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post that were critical of Saudi Arabia and was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, had been killed and dismembered with a bone saw by a 15-man team of Saudi operatives; Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke with the White House innovations director, Jared Kushner, whom the crown prince has reportedly said is “in his pocket,” and denied he ordered Khashoggi killed.14 15 16 The New York Times has refunded its 10-day “Journeys” package tours to the kingdom and reported that Kushner likely paid “little or no” federal taxes between 2009, the year he married Ivanka Trump, and 2016.17 18 The federal debt, which Trump vowed to eliminate in eight years, rose from $666 billion last year to $782 billion this fiscal year with corporate tax receipts declined by a third after the Republican tax cut, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by almost 832 points, the third largest decline in its history.19 20 “Maybe this may be a positive thing,” said the police chief who hired the former Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice; “I think he did the right thing by stepping down, not putting the citizens here in jeopardy,” said the police chief, days later, after the officer withdrew his job application following a public outcry.21 22 Washington State outlawed the death penalty, citing racial bias.23 CVS’s $69 billion merger with Aetna was approved; Google shut down Google Plus because of a security breach discovered in March and, until this week, unreported to the public. The Pentagon’s cybersecurity was reported to have “mission critical” vulnerabilities.24 25 26

In Georgia, over 53,000 voter registration applications, 70 percent of whom are from black residents, are being held by the office of the Georgia secretary of state’s office, which has, since 2012, canceled over 1.4 million registrations and is run by Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee for Governor.27 “[I]t has never been easier to vote in our state,” said Kemp’s campaign spokesman. The organizer of the Fyre Festival was sentenced to a six-year prison sentence for fraud; China legalized camps for the “thought transformation” of Muslim Uighurs; and US Marshals lost track of 2.45 million rounds of ammunition.28 29 30 In Bristol, Tennessee, a 76-year-old man who police say was run over with a lawn mower while trying to kill his son with a chain saw had his leg amputated, and Nicolas De Meyer, a 41-year-old longtime former assistant to Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, did not appear at Manhattan’s Thurgood Marshall Courthouse to discuss stealing $1.2 million in vintage wine from his former boss, and instead jumped 33 stories to his death.30 31 Kanye West visited the White House.32Jacob Rosenberg

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“The Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip,” Ronald Reagan said in 1989. He was speaking to a thousand British notables in London’s historic Guildhall, several months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Reagan proclaimed that the world was on the precipice of “a new era in human history,” one that would bring “peace and freedom for all.” Communism was crumbling, just as fascism had before it. Liberal democracies would soon encircle the globe, thanks to the innovations of Silicon Valley. “I believe,” he said, “that more than armies, more than diplomacy, more than the best intentions of democratic nations, the communications revolution will be the greatest force for the advancement of human freedom the world has ever seen.”

At the time, most everyone thought Reagan was right. The twentieth century had been dominated by media that delivered the same material to millions of people at the same time—radio and newspapers, movies and television. These were the kinds of one-to-many, top-down mass media that Orwell’s Big Brother had used to stay in power. Now, however, Americans were catching sight of the internet. They believed that it would do what earlier media could not: it would allow people to speak for themselves, directly to one another, around the world. “True personalization is now upon us,” wrote MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte in his 1995 bestseller Being Digital. Corporations, industries, and even whole nations would soon be transformed as centralized authorities were demolished. Hierarchies would dissolve and peer-to-peer collaborations would take their place. “Like a force of nature,” wrote Negroponte, “the digital age cannot be denied or stopped.”

Illustration (detail) by Lincoln Agnew
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Ihave had many names, but as a sniper I went by Azad, which means “free” or “freedom” in Kurdish. I had been fighting for sixteen months in Kurdish territory in northern Syria when in April 2015 I was asked to leave my position on the eastern front, close to the Turkish border, and join an advance on our southwestern one. Eight months earlier, we had been down to our last few hundred yards, and, outnumbered five to one, had made a last stand in Kobanî. In January, after more than four months of fighting street-to-street and room-by-room, we recaptured the town and reversed what was, until then, an unstoppable jihadi tide. In the battles since, we had pushed ­ISIS far enough in every direction that crossing our territory was no longer a short dash through the streets but a five-hour drive across open country. As we set out to the north, I could make out the snowy peaks in southern Turkey where they say Noah once beached his ark. Below them, rolling toward us, were the wide, grassy valleys and pine forests of Mesopotamia, the land between the Euphrates and the Tigris where our people have lived for twelve thousand years.

The story of my people is filled with bitter ironies. The Kurds are one of the world’s oldest peoples and, as pioneers of agriculture, were once among its most advanced. Though the rest of the world now largely overlooks that it was Kurds who were among the first to create a civilization, the evidence is there. In 1995, German archaeologists began excavating a temple at Göbekli Tepe in northern Kurdistan. They found a structure flanked by stone pillars carved with bulls, foxes, and cranes, which they dated to around 10,000 bce. At the end of the last Ice Age, and seven thousand years before the erection of Stonehenge or the pyramids at Giza, my ancestors were living together as shamans, artists, farmers, and engineers.

Fighters of the YJA-STAR, the women’s force in the PKK, Sinjar, Iraq, November 2015 (detail)
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To get oriented here is difficult. The light is flat because the sky is overcast. The sun’s weak rays create only a few anemic shadows by which to judge scale and distance. Far-off objects like mountain peaks have crisp edges because the atmosphere itself is as transparent as first-water diamonds, but the mountains are not nearly as close as they seem. It’s about negative-twelve degrees Fahrenheit, but the wind is relatively calm, moving over the snow distractedly, like an animal scampering.

[caption id="attachment_271890" align="aligncenter" width="690"]True-color satellite image of Earth centered on the South Pole during winter solstice © Planet Observer/Universal Images Group/Getty Images. True-color satellite image of Earth centered on the South Pole during winter solstice © Planet Observer/Universal Images Group/Getty Images.[/caption]

Four of the six people living here are in their tents now, next to their cookstoves, two by two, warming up and preparing their suppers. I’m the fifth of the group, almost motionless at the moment, a hundred yards south of the tent cluster, kneeling on a patch of bluish ice in the midst of a great expanse of white. I’m trying to discern a small object entombed there a few inches below the surface. Against the porcelain whites of this gently sloping landscape, I must appear starkly apparent in my cobalt blue parka and wind pants. I shift slowly right and left, lean slightly forward, then settle back, trying to get the fluxless sunlight to reveal more of the shape and texture of the object.

A multiple-exposure photograph (detail) taken every hour from 1:30 pm on December 8, 1965, to 10:10 am on December 9, 1965, showing the sun in its orbit above the South Pole, Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station © Georg Gerster/Panos Pictures
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In all sincerity, I like Americans a lot; I’ve met many lovely people in the United States, and I empathize with the shame many Americans (and not only “New York intellectuals”) feel at having such an appalling clown for a leader.

However, I have to ask—and I know what I’m requesting isn’t easy for you—that you consider things for a moment from a non-American point of view. I don’t mean “from a French point of view,” which would be asking too much; let’s say, “from the point of view of the rest of the world.”On the numerous occasions when I’ve been questioned about Donald Trump’s election, I’ve replied that I don’t give a shit. France isn’t Wyoming or Arkansas. France is an independent country, more or less, and will become totally independent once again when the European Union is dissolved (the sooner, the better).

Illustration (detail) by Ricardo Martínez
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The prepositions you’re most likely to encounter after the title of a poem are “for” or “to” and sometimes “after”—“for my daughter”; “to Bobby”; “after Pound”; etc. They signify dedication, address, homage, imitation. In the recent poems of Fred Moten, we encounter “with,” a preposition that denotes accompaniment. The little difference makes a big difference, emphasizing collaboration over the economy of the gift, suggesting that the poet and his company are fellow travelers, in the same time zone, alongside each other in the present tense of composition. (Given Moten’s acclaimed critical work on jazz, the “with” is immediately evocative of musical performance, e.g., “Miles Davis with Sonny Rollins.”) Not all “withs” are the same—there is a different intimacy in the poem “fifty little springs,” which is “with aviva,” Moten’s wife’s Hebrew name (which means springtime), than there is in “resistances,” which is “with” a critic and an artist, interlocutors of Moten’s. (The poem “13. southern pear trees” has no preposition after the title, but is excerpted from another responding to the work of Zoe Leonard, and so is still a work of fellowship.) The scale of that “with” can be small (“with aviva, as if we were all alone”) or vast (“with everybody we don’t know”), but either way the poem becomes an instance of alongsidedness instead of belatedness; the poems request, with that subtle prepositional shift, that we think of ourselves as participants in the production of meaning and not mere recipients of someone else’s eloquence.

“Untitled,” 1989, by Zoe Leonard © Zoe Leonard (detail)

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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