Weekly Review — November 20, 2018, 3:10 pm

Weekly Review

Theresa May’s Brexit proposal was rejected; Trump suggested raking to prevent forest fires; Jair Bolsonaro insulted Cuban doctors working in Brazil

The British prime minister, Theresa May, capped more than a year of fraught negotiations by introducing a document titled “Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community,” a blueprint for the process known as Brexit, for which Britons voted in a 2016 referendum.1 The agreement, which included the suggestion that the United Kingdom temporarily remain inside the European Union’s customs area to avoid a border check between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland until a better work-around is devised, was attacked by both Brexit supporters and opponents; inspired the resignation of two of May’s cabinet secretaries, including the chief Brexit negotiator, Dominic Raab; caused members of her own party to write letters calling for a vote of no confidence in her leadership; and inspired intraparty pressure upon May to return to the EU negotiating table.2 3 4 Hard-right Conservative member of Parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg said the deal would make the United Kingdom “not a vassal state but a slave state,” while Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn disdained what he characterized as the agreement’s vagueness, “a leap in the dark, an ill-defined deal by a never-defined date.”5 6 The United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, who normally reports on conditions in the developing world, released an audit of the United Kingdom’s welfare system and inequality caused by austerity measures, excoriated the system as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” and “misogynist,” and called the levels of child poverty “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster.”7

After over a week of vote counting, Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for Georgia governor, ended her candidacy in a speech to supporters, stopping short of conceding victory to the Republican, Brian Kemp, who oversaw his own election while serving as secretary of state of Georgia, “because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true, or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that,” and vowed to file litigation challenging election policies.8 After a machine recount showed Republican Ron DeSantis as the winner of the Florida gubernatorial race, the Democratic candidate, Andrew Gillum, conceded for the second time and congratulated his opponent in a video posted to Facebook.9 Also in Florida, sitting Democratic senator Bill Nelson conceded to current Florida governor Rick Scott after a long recount, though Republicans elsewhere were less fortunate in the post-election-night tallying, losing the senate race in Arizona and surrendering crucial house seats in Virginia, Nevada, New Mexico, and California, among other states.10 11 12 While visiting Paradise, a town where dozens of people lost their lives and thousands of houses were destroyed in the northern California Camp Fire, and with hundreds of people still missing, President Trump suggested that forest managers should take a page from Finland and “rake” the forest floors, elaborating by saying, “I was with the President of Finland and he said, ‘We have a much different — we’re a forest nation.’ He called it a ‘forest nation.’ And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem. And when it is, it’s a very small problem.”13 When asked if, in his view, climate change contributed to the fires, Trump said that “a lot of factors” were involved, and “we’re going to make it a lot better.”14 Trump intends to nominate Andrew R. Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, to be the permanent administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Wheeler has previously lobbied for the administration’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and the rolling back of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was designed to curb emissions from coal plants and encourage renewable energy.15 In a White House ceremony, Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to seven Americans: Orrin Hatch, George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Antonin Scalia, two football players, Elvis, and the wife of a Trump campaign donor.16 At least seven LGBTQ couples who were part of the migrant caravan were married in Tijuana, Mexico.18

A UN-backed tribunal convicted two leaders of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia of genocide despite the insistence of one of them, Nuon Chea, the regime’s resident ideologue who oversaw numerous purges, that “we only killed the bad people, not the good.”19 Cuba will pull out doctors working in Brazil, who had been deployed as part of a program to assist the South American country’s poorest regions, following comments by Brazil’s far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro that characterized the help as “slave labor.”20 President Trump and his administration have been seeking ways to expedite the extradition of an exiled cleric living in Pennsylvania who is an enemy of Turkish president Recep Erdogan, in an attempt to placate Turkey and convince Erdogan to go easier on Saudi Arabia for the extrajudicial killing of a journalist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a killing that the CIA concluded was ordered by the Saudi crown prince.21 22 New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who campaigned for reelection on the promise that he would repair New York City’s deteriorating subways, joked that he’d rename himself “Amazon Cuomo” while offering Amazon nearly $1.7 billion worth of financial incentives and a private helipad for Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, so that the company would locate their new “HQ2” in Queens, New York.23 24 Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta determined that wombats produce cube-shaped feces because the the last section of the intestine does not stretch evenly.25Justin Stewart

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Addressing the graduating cadets at West Point in May 1942, General George C. Marshall, then the Army chief of staff, reduced the nation’s purpose in the global war it had recently joined to a single emphatic sentence. “We are determined,” he remarked, “that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other.”

At the time Marshall spoke, mere months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. forces had sustained a string of painful setbacks and had yet to win a major battle. Eventual victory over Japan and Germany seemed anything but assured. Yet Marshall was already looking beyond the immediate challenges to define what that victory, when ultimately— and, in his view, inevitably—achieved, was going to signify.

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A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition, as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he.

I rose long before dawn, too thrilled to sleep, and set off to find my tribe. North from Greenville in the dark, past towns with names like Sans Souci and Travelers Rest, over the border into North Carolina, through land so choked by kudzu that the overgrown trees in the dark looked like great creatures petrified in mid-flight. The weirdness of this scene would, by the end of the weekend, show itself to be appropriate: my trip would be all about romanticism, and romanticism is a human collision with place that results, as Baudelaire put it, “neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in a way of feeling.” My rental car’s engine whined as it climbed the mountains. Day was just breaking when I nosed down a hill to Orchard Lake Campground, where tents were still being erected in the dimness.

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Harold Jamieson, once chief engineer of New York City’s sanitation department, enjoyed retirement. He knew from his small circle of friends that some didn’t, so he considered himself lucky. He had an acre of garden in Queens that he shared with several like-minded horticulturists, he had discovered Netflix, and he was making inroads in the books he’d always meant to read. He still missed his wife—a victim of breast cancer five years previous—but aside from that persistent ache, his life was quite full. Before rising every morning, he reminded himself to enjoy the day. At sixty-eight, he liked to think he had a fair amount of road left, but there was no denying it had begun to narrow.

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1. In 2014, Deepti Gurdasani, a genetic epidemiologist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in England, coauthored a paper in Nature on human genetic variation in Africa, from which this image is taken. A recent study had found that DNA from people of European descent made up 96 percent of genetic samples worldwide, reflecting the historical tendency among scientists and doctors to view the male, European body as a global archetype. “There wasn’t very much data available from Africa at all,” Gurdasani told me. To help rectify the imbalance, her research team collected samples from eighteen African ethnolinguistic groups across the continent—such as the Kalenjin of Uganda and the Oromo of Ethiopia—most of whom had not previously been included in genomic research. They analyzed the data using an admixture algorithm, which visualizes the statistical genetic differences among groups by representing them as color clusters. The top chart shows genetic differences among the sampled African populations, in increasing degrees of granularity from top to bottom, and the bottom chart shows how they compare with ethnic groups in the rest of the world. The areas where the colors mix and overlap imply that groups commingled. The Yoruba, for instance, show remarkable homogeneity—their column is almost entirely green and purple—while the Kalenjin seem to have associated with many populations across the continent.

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Ten yards was the nearest we could get to the river. Any closer and the smell was too much to bear. The water was a milky gray color, as if mixed with ashes, and the passage of floating trash was ceaseless. Plastic bags and bottles, coffee lids, yogurt cups, flip-flops, and sodden stuffed animals drifted past, coated in yellow scum. Amid the old tires and mattresses dumped on the riverbank, mounds of rank green weeds gave refuge to birds and grasshoppers, which didn’t seem bothered by the fecal stench.

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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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