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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What China Threat?·

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Within about fifteen years, China’s economy will surpass America’s and become the largest in the world. As this moment approaches, meanwhile, a consensus has formed in Washington that China poses a significant threat to American interests and well-­being. General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), has said that “China probably poses the greatest threat to our nation by about 2025.” The summary of America’s 2018 National Defense Strategy claims that China and Russia are “revisionist powers” seeking to “shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.” Christopher Wray, the FBI director, has said, “One of the things we’re trying to do is view the China threat as not just a whole-­of-­government threat, but a whole-­of-­society threat . . . and I think it’s going to take a whole-­of-­society response by us.” So widespread is this notion that when Donald Trump launched his trade war against China, in January 2018, he received support even from moderate figures such as Democratic senator Chuck Schumer.

Shanghai Broadcasting Building, by Cui Jie (detail) © The artist. Courtesy private collection
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Without a Trace·

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In December 2015, a twenty-­two-year-­old man named Masood Hotak left his home in Kabul, Afghanistan, and set out for Europe. For several weeks, he made his way through the mountains of Iran and the rolling plateaus of Turkey. When he reached the city of Izmir, on the Turkish coast, Masood sent a text message to his elder brother Javed, saying he was preparing to board a boat to Greece. Since the start of the journey, Javed, who was living in England, had been keeping tabs on his younger brother’s progress. As Masood got closer to the sea, Javed had felt increasingly anxious. Winter weather on the Aegean was unpredictable, and the ramshackle crafts used by the smugglers often sank. Javed had even suggested Masood take the longer, overland route, through Bulgaria, but his brother had dismissed the plan as excessively cautious.

Finally, on January 3, 2016, to Javed’s immense relief, Masood sent a series of celebratory Facebook messages announcing his arrival in Europe. “I reached Greece bro,” he wrote. “Safe. Even my shoes didn’t get wet.” Masood reported that his boat had come ashore on the island of Samos. In a few days, he planned to take a ferry to the Greek mainland, after which he would proceed across the European continent to Germany.

But then, silence. Masood stopped writing. At first, Javed was unworried. His brother, he assumed, was in the island’s detention facility, waiting to be sent to Athens with hundreds of other migrants. Days turned into weeks. Every time Javed tried Masood’s phone, the call went straight to voicemail. After a month passed with no word, it dawned on Javed that his brother was missing.

A screenshot of a December 2015 Facebook post by Masood Hotak (left), in Istanbul
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Going to Extremes·

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When Philip Benight awoke on January 26, 2017, he saw a bright glow. “Son of a bitch, there is a light,” he thought. He hoped it meant he had died. His mind turned to his wife, Becky: “Where are you?” he thought. “We have to go to the light.” He hoped Becky had died, too. Then he lost consciousness. When he opened his eyes again, Philip realized he wasn’t seeing heaven but overhead fluorescents at Lancaster General Hospital. He was on a hospital bed, with his arms restrained and a tube down his throat, surrounded by staff telling him to relax. He passed out again. The next time he came to, his arms and legs were free, but a drugged heaviness made it hard to move. A nurse told him that his wife was at another hospital—“for her safety”—even though she was also at Lancaster General. Soon after, two police officers arrived. They wanted to know why Becky was in a coma.

Three days earlier, Philip, who was sixty, tall and lanky, with owlish glasses and mustache, had picked up his wife from an HCR ­ManorCare nursing home. Becky had been admitted to the facility recently at the age of seventy-­two after yet another series of strokes. They drove to Darrenkamp’s grocery store and Philip bought their dinner, a special turkey sandwich for Becky, with the meat shaved extra thin. They ate in the car. Then, like every other night, they got ice cream from Burger King and drove to their home in Conestoga, a sparse hamlet in southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Philip parked in the driveway, and they sat in the car looking out at the fields that roll down to the Susquehanna River.

They listened to the radio until there was nothing more to do. Philip went into the house and retrieved a container of Kraft vanilla pudding, which he’d mixed with all the drugs he could find in the house—Valium, Klonopin, Percocet, and so on. He opened the passenger-­side door and knelt beside Becky. He held a spoon, and she guided it to her mouth. When Becky had eaten all the pudding, he got back into the driver’s seat and swallowed a handful of pills. Philip asked her how the pudding tasted. “Like freedom,” she said. As they lost consciousness, the winter chill seeped into their clothes and skin.

Illustration by Leigh Wells (detail)
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America in the Middle East: learning curves are for pussies.
—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, June 2, 2015

In January 2017, following Donald Trump’s inauguration, his national security staffers entered their White House offices for the first time. One told me that when he searched for the previous administration’s Middle East policy files, the cupboard was bare. “There wasn’t an overarching strategy document for anywhere in the Middle East,” the senior official, who insisted on anonymity, told me in a coffee shop near the White House. “Not even on the ISIS campaign, so there wasn’t a cross-governmental game plan.”

Syrian Arab Red Crescent vehicles in eastern Ghouta, March 24, 2018 (detail) © Anas Alkharboutli/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Amount Arizona’s Red Feather Lodge offered to pay to reopen the Grand Canyon during the 2013 government shutdown:

$25,000

In England, a flutist stole 299 rare bird skins from an ornithology museum in order to pay for a new flute.

The 70th governor of Ohio was sworn in on nine Bibles, which were held by his wife.

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