Weekly Review — December 5, 2018, 1:21 pm

Weekly Review

George H. W. Bush died; military law enforcement officers broke up a catfishing ring; a London ambulance trainee went rogue

George H. W. Bush, a prodigious writer of thank-you notes who, prior to becoming the 41st US president, established the first offshore drilling rig in Kuwait and was known as the “Saudi vice president,” died at the age of 94.1 2 At the G20 summit in Argentina, President Trump canceled his scheduled press conference out of respect for Bush, as well as a scheduled meeting with Vladimir Putin, and abruptly walked off the stage after meeting with the Argentinian president, saying, “Get me out of here” to an aide.3 4 Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, who, according to CIA intercepts, ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, was enthusiastically high-fived by Putin at the summit.5 6 Saudi Arabian officials considered cutting oil production but feared angering Trump, who has lauded the high Saudi output on Twitter as “a big Tax Cut for America and the World”; US crude-oil prices declined by the largest amount in a month since 2008.7 8 9 Over 100 people have been injured in Paris in the “Yellow Vest” protests, which began in response to increased gas taxes intended to reduce carbon emissions.10 “We cut off heads for less than this,” read one slogan painted on the Arc de Triomphe.11 The new Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, declined to move in to the presidential residence, instead opening its doors to the public, and a county commissioner in Georgia was sworn in with a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X instead of the Bible.12 13

Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to a federal crime for the second time in three months, admitting to lying to Congress about whether discussions concerning the Trump Tower project in Moscow continued after Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee.14 15 The president denied any wrongdoing, saying, “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gotten back into the business. And why should I lose lots of opportunities?”16 A Russian group of hackers known as Energetic Bear probed the US electric grid for vulnerabilities; Marriott revealed that 500 million of its guests may have had their personal details hacked in a security breach stretching back to 2014; and Dunkin’ Donuts warned customers that third parties had obtained access to an undisclosed number of customer loyalty accounts, likely to trade “DD Perks” on the dark web.17 18 19 Military law enforcement officers broke up a catfishing ring that had extorted over $560,000 from 442 service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, and, responding to the arrest of 16 of its employees for trafficking cocaine, the US Postal Service issued a statement, saying, “Postal employees are paid to deliver mail, not drugs.”20 21

Beijing lifted a ban on rice imports from a Japanese prefecture neighboring the Fukushima nuclear disaster following a concerted effort by the Japanese government to promote agricultural products from the region, which included a page on a government website called “Fukushima Foods: Safe and Delicious.”22 Researchers found that Costa Rican monkeys were developing bright yellow patches of fur as a result of ingesting sulfur from pesticides, and the head of an association of Danish Christmas tree growers noted that Caucasian firs were more vividly green than usual this year because of a drought.23 24 A woman was arrested after having sex with a wedding guest and urinating on a tree at a ceremony she had been hired to photograph. “Y’all families will be dead by Christmas, y’all’s daughters are dead,” said the woman, who also works as a swimsuit model.25 Germany’s interior ministry served blood sausage containing pork at the Federal Ministry of the Interior’s conference on Islam and was defended by the far-right AfD party, a member of whom said, “Tolerance starts at the point where the blood sausage is seen simply for what it is: a German delicacy that no one has to like, but that, just like our way of life, cannot be taken away from us.”26 A trainee in the London Ambulance Service was fired and arrested after it was revealed he had failed his exams, “gone rogue,” and treated more than 100 patients without authorization, and a memorabilia collector in Texas offered deals on all merchandise in an attempt to raise funds for his kidney transplant.27 28 A man in one of the wealthiest towns in New Jersey has been charged with murdering his brother, his brother’s wife, and their two children, and then setting their mansion on fire, likely over a business dispute, and two men racing to become the first person to cross Antarctica without support completed the first third of their journey; neither man had brought a change of clothes.29 30Willa Glickman

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The Gatekeepers·

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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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