Weekly Review — October 31, 2018, 10:04 am

Weekly Review

Jair Bolsonaro wins; the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history; a robot gets a visa

In Brazil, the far-right nationalist Jair Bolsonaro, who once told a congresswoman she wasn’t attractive enough to be raped, who has described himself as “pro-torture,” and who has said he would “rather have [his] son die in a car accident” than be gay, was elected the country’s next president.1 2 In the United States, a country where at least 11 million people sympathize with “alt-right” beliefs, and where there are nearly 1,000 active hate groups, a Florida man was arrested after mailing more than a dozen pipe bombs, to the CNN offices in New York, a building owned by Robert De Niro, George Soros’s home, and the offices of prominent Democrats.3 4 5 The man, who has lived in a van covered in decals since his house was foreclosed on by a bank formerly owned by Steven Mnuchin, is a registered Republican who supported President Trump and was filmed by Michael Moore at a 2017 Trump rally holding a sign that read boycott • banded • blocked • fake news & dishonest media cnn sucks.6 7 8 Trump, who attempted to clarify his previous criticisms of the news media by tweeting “CNN and others in the Fake News Business keep purposely and inaccurately reporting that I said the ‘Media is the Enemy of the People.’ Wrong! I said that the ‘Fake News (Media) is the Enemy of the People,’ a very big difference. When you give out false information – not good!” suggested at a rally in North Carolina that the media was using the attacks to “score points against me and the Republican Party,” while the crowd chanted, “CNN sucks!”9 10 “You know what I am?” asked the president at a rally in Houston. “I’m a nationalist, okay? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist!”11 As many as 7,000 people fleeing violence in Central America made their way toward the United States to seek asylum; the Pentagon confirmed that 5,200 troops will be at the Southwestern border by the end of the week.12 13 “The president has condemned violence in all forms,” said Trump’s press secretary, “and has done that since day one.”14

In Pittsburgh, a 46-year-old man who did not vote for Trump, because he was too lenient toward those of the Jewish faith, entered the Tree of Life synagogue with three handguns and an AR-15 assault rifle and opened fire, killing 11 people between the ages of 54 and 97, and wounding six others, in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history.15 16 Hours before the shooting, the perpetrator had posted on Gab, an alternative to Twitter that was founded to counter the “left-leaning Big Social monopoly” and is predominantly used by white supremacists, that the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society “likes to bring invaders in that kill our people”; Tree of Life had held a Shabbat service in support of refugees, in partnership with HIAS, earlier in the month.17 18 Rabbi Loren Jacobs, who is a Messianic Jew, appeared at a Republican rally in Michigan also attended by Vice President Mike Pence, and led a prayer in honor of the victims of the attack that referred to Jesus as the Messiah and did not name any of the deceased.19 In Louisville, Kentucky, a white supremacist entered a Kroger grocery store with a handgun and proceeded to kill two black senior citizens by shooting both in the back of the head, minutes after trying to enter a nearby church with a predominantly black congregation.20 A white nationalist with the Rise Above Movement, known to be a hate group, surrendered to the FBI in California after attending political rallies where the group used “formation fighting training” to incite violence.21 It was reported that Representative Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, had met with members of an Austrian far-right political party, founded by a former Nazi SS officer in 1956, while on a trip intended for Holocaust education.22 “Western civilization is on the decline,” King said in an interview with the group, noting that the United States already had enough diversity, such as “Mexican food, Chinese food, those things,” which, he said, are “fine.” In Gujarat, India, farmers complained that the government had spent $430 million building the world’s tallest statue, a 600-foot likeness of a former nationalist leader.23 The public prosecutor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, issued a statement acknowledging that the murder of the Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey had been “premeditated.”24

A 75-year-old woman was arrested in Minnesota after shooting her grandson because he had repeatedly placed a cup of tea on her furniture.25 In Belgium, thieves who attempted to rob an e-cigarette store and were told to return later, when the clerk would have more money, returned later and were arrested; and in Topeka, Kansas, a man who had been released from the Shawnee County Jail in the morning was arrested a few hours later for stealing a car from the parking lot of the jail.26 27 Police in Australia rescued a drowning kangaroo.28 A robot named Sophia chatted with the president of Azerbaijan, after receiving the world’s first visa issued to a robot; a portrait created by artificial intelligence was sold for the first time at Christie’s auction house, for $432,500, over 40 times the amount it had been estimated to be worth; and Microsoft announced that it would sell its technologies to intelligence agencies and the military. Scientists in China announced a plan to launch a new artificial moon into space, 310 miles above Earth, to provide cheaper artificial light.29 30 31 32 It was reported that Buddhist temples in Japan had started to install disco balls to try to attract younger crowds, and the Vatican endorsed the release of an app for smartphones, similar to Pokémon Go, named Jesus Christ Go, in which users search for biblical characters and Catholic saints, and can pray for extra points.33 34 At a Russian research station in Antarctica, an engineer stabbed a coworker for spoiling the endings of books in the outpost’s library.35Sharon J. Riley

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On any given day last summer, the smoke-choked skies over Missoula, Montana, swarmed with an average of twenty-eight helicopters and eighteen fixed-wing craft, a blitz waged against Lolo Peak, Rice Ridge, and ninety-six other wildfires in the Lolo National Forest. On the ground, forty or fifty twenty-person handcrews were deployed, alongside hundreds of fire engines and bulldozers. In the battle against Rice Ridge alone, the Air Force, handcrews, loggers, dozers, parachutists, flacks, forecasters, and cooks amounted to some nine hundred people.

Rice Ridge was what is known as a mega-fire, a recently coined term for blazes that cover more than 100,000 acres. The West has always known forest fires, of course, but for much of the past century, they rarely got any bigger than 10,000 acres. No more. In 1988, a 250,000-acre anomaly, Canyon Creek, burned for months, roaring across a forty-mile stretch of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness in a single night. A few decades on, that anomaly is becoming the norm. Rice Ridge, for its part, swept through 160,000 acres.

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Over the past three years, the city of South Tucson, Arizona, a largely Latino enclave nestled inside metropolitan Tucson, came close to abolishing its fire and police departments. It did sell off the library and cut back fire-truck crews from four to three people—whereupon two thirds of the fire department quit—and slashed the police force to just sixteen employees. “We’re a small city, just one square mile, surrounded by a larger city,” the finance director, Lourdes Aguirre, explained to me. “We have small-town dollars and big-city problems.”

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When I saw Ted Cruz speak, in early August, it was at Underwood’s Cafeteria in Brownwood. He was on a weeklong swing through rural central Texas, hitting small towns and military bases that ensured him friendly, if not always entirely enthusiastic, crowds. In Brownwood, some in the audience of two hundred were still nibbling on peach cobbler as Cruz began with an anecdote about his win in a charity basketball game against ABC’s late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. They rewarded him with smug chuckles when he pointed out that “Hollywood celebrities” would be hurting over the defeat “for the next fifty years.” His pitch for votes was still an off-the-rack Tea Party platform, complete with warnings about the menace of creeping progressivism, delivered at a slightly mechanical pace but with lots of punch. The woman next to me remarked, “This is the fire in the gut! Like he had the first time!” referring to Cruz’s successful long-shot run in the 2011 Texas Republican Senate primary. And it’s true—the speech was exactly like one Cruz would have delivered in 2011, right down to one specific detail: he never mentioned Donald Trump by name.

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H

e is a nondescript man.

I’d never used that adjective about a client. Not until this one. My seventeenth. He’d requested an evening time and came Tuesdays at six-thirty. For months he didn’t tell me what he did.

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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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