Weekly Review — November 27, 2018, 12:04 pm

Weekly Review

Migrant children were teargassed; carbon dioxide levels have reached three to five million year high; missionary killed by remote tribe

In Afghanistan, 55 people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked the Uranus Wedding Palace in Kabul during a religious event; some 27 soldiers were killed on an Afghan Army base after a bomb exploded at a mosque during Friday prayers; 20 police officers were killed during an ambush in western Farah Province; and 10 soldiers were killed at an army checkpoint in northern Afghanistan.1 2 3 4 It was reported that the US-led coalition has dropped almost as many bombs on Afghanistan this year as it did in 2011, when a record high of 5,411 were dropped, and a report from the United Nations concluded that 289,867 people had been displaced as a result of violence in Afghanistan this year.5 Dozens of people were arrested in Tijuana, Mexico, when hundreds of migrants fleeing violence and poverty in Central America and who had been participating in a peaceful protest, pushed past the police, and attempted to climb a border fence and enter the United States, prompting the US Border Patrol to fire tear gas into the crowd and to temporarily close the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry between Tijuana and San Diego.6 7 President Donald Trump told reporters that the nearly six thousand soldiers positioned at the US–Mexico border were authorized to use lethal force against asylum seekers trying to enter the country from Central America, and the US Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that a record 14,000 unaccompanied immigrant children are currently in US custody.8 9 Trump said the CIA’s report that concluded Saudi Arabia’s crown prince ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was based on “feelings,” and insisted the US relationship with Saudi Arabia was too important to jeopardize.10 In a statement that began with “America First! The world is a very dangerous place!” the president elaborated, “If we foolishly cancel these contracts [with Saudi Arabia], Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!”11 It was reported that women’s rights advocates imprisoned in Saudi Arabia were being beaten, administered electric shocks, flogged, and otherwise tortured.12

On the busiest shopping day of the year, the federal government released its 1,656-page congressionally mandated National Climate Assessment, which found that the continental United States is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was 100 years ago; has suffered increased wildfires, more intense heat waves, and severe crop failures linked to climate change; and forecast the potential for hundreds of billions of dollars in crop losses, property damages, and reduced productivity.11 12 Carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere reached levels not seen in three to five million years, and were 46 percent higher than levels before the Industrial Revolution. Researchers found that climate change was forcing harvests of wine grapes to be carried out earlier in the season; that climate change may be increasing the rate of miscarriages among women on the east coast of Bangladesh; and that climate change in southern Europe could lead to the extinction of black truffles.13 14 15 16 Scientists found that heat waves linked to climate change could decrease the quality of the sperm of beetles.17 New York City celebrated its coldest Thanksgiving Day since 1901 and hundreds of sea turtles washed up on the shores of Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, after being “flash-frozen” by cold temperatures, “flippers in all weird positions like they were swimming.”18 19 The CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, said he was considering moving permanently to Mars.20

It was claimed that the world’s first gene-edited babies were born in China.21 A man in Ocala, Florida, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for plotting to bomb Target stores across the East Coast in the hopes of lowering the retailer’s stock price; a monk in Cambodia was arrested and defrocked for killing a former girlfriend he had met on Facebook; and a Moroccan woman living in the United Arab Emirates was accused of murdering her boyfriend and cooking his remains into a traditional rice and meat dish, after her boyfriend’s tooth was found in her blender.22 23 24 Farmers in Turkey have been accused of stockpiling onions in order to drive up prices.25 “Nobody has the right to sell expensive products to my citizens,” said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A man in Amsterdam was arrested and charged with money laundering after he was found to be hiding $400,000 in a washing machine.26 An 18-year-old caught speeding in Germany lost his driver’s license 49 minutes after having been issued it.27 It was determined that a man in England who died in a forklift accident was killed when his Jack Russell terrier pushed a lever in the cab and ran him over; a dog was found in Florida after going missing from its home in Brooklyn, New York, 18 months ago after its owner died in a gun accident; and it was reported that a woman in China was filing a lawsuit after she was paralyzed when a dog fell from a building and landed on her head.28 29 30 In Vancouver, British Columbia, an otter took up residence in a classical Chinese garden and began eating the garden’s prized koi population.31 A 26-year-old evangelical missionary from Vancouver, Washington, was killed by the Sentinelese, a tribe of a few dozen people living on an Indian island in the Bay of Bengal, after he approached the island by kayak, singing songs and offering fish.32 Writing in his journal shortly before his death, he mused, “Is this island Satan’s last stronghold?”33Sharon J. Riley

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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.

Migrant children were teargassed; carbon dioxide levels have reached three to five million year high; missionary killed by remote tribe

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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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