Weekly Review — April 16, 2019, 10:50 am

Weekly Review

Shakeups at the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Omar al-Bashir ousted; astronomers published the first-ever image of a black hole

President Donald Trump removed top Department of Homeland Security officials amid their move to a new headquarters (in a building formerly called the Government Hospital for the Insane) because, it was reported this week, the department did not pursue his calls for shutting down the U.S.–Mexico border, reinstating the policy of separating migrant children from their families, and releasing detained immigrants into “small- and mid-sized” sanctuary cities.1 2 3 A former DHS official called the latter aim, which was intended as retaliation against Democratic-majority states, “so illegal,” and the president appointed an ICE employee who said that detention centers for children were “more like a summer camp” director of the agency.4 5 “I told you so,” Julian Assange reportedly said to his lawyer from jail after he was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London; Assange’s Ecuadorian citizenship had been suspended several months after he had threatened to sue Ecuador for “violating his fundamental rights” following the embassy staff’s request that, among other things, he clean his bathroom and properly care for his pet cat.6 7 8 Maryanne Trump Barry, a federal judge and the president’s sister, stepped down from the bench, and a new investigation revealed that she and her family engaged in schemes to avoid paying taxes on millions of dollars funneled from her father’s real estate empire, for which she received $182.5 million in payment when it was sold; in retirement, she will be paid between $184,500 and $217,600 annually.9 A father and son in Michigan were charged with selling infected body parts for as much as $100,000 each.10

Following three decades of ruling Sudan after coming to power in a military coup, Omar al-Bashir, who was indicted in June 2008 by the International Criminal Court for his role in an ethnic cleansing of non-Arabs in Darfur, was overthrown in a military coup.11 12 The pope emeritus blamed sexual abuse in the Catholic Church on the sexual revolution of the Sixties; a Florida politician wants to name a bridge after an energy lobbyist; and in India, voting began in a six-week-long presidential election with up to 900 million eligible voters.13 14 15 “Quit with the attitude,” said a Louisville police officer to a black teen he pulled over for making a wide turn, and YouTube shut down the comments of a livestream of a House Judiciary Committee hearing on white nationalism because the comments section was filled with white nationalists.16 17 A report estimated it would cost $12.7 billion to permanently house the homeless in the Bay Area; Uber released its financial papers ahead of what it hopes is a $100 billion valuation at its initial public offering; and a judge ruled that the paranormal investigator Kade Jones will not go to jail for abusing Virgin Airlines workers—his fourth offense of this nature—because of his “excessive weight” but would, no matter his weight, go to jail if he did it again.18 19 20 “I couldn’t face her to tell her,” said Magic Johnson during an extempore news conference in which he announced he was stepping down as the president of basketball operations of the Los Angeles Lakers and had failed to notify owner Jeanie Buss.22 The United States struck Somalia with an air strike the day before its prime minister visited Washington.23

In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu’s party won him a fifth term as prime minister despite his three pending indictments; Jewish settlers filmed in the West Bank throwing rocks at a Palestinian family were not arrested; and an aerospace company tried to figure out why its spacecraft crashed on the surface of the moon.24 25 26 Astronomers published the first-ever image of a black hole.27 Researchers from the Minor Planet Center asked the public to vote on whether the largest unnamed planet in our solar system—currently called 2007 OR10—should be called Gonggong, Holle, or Vili.28 “We know enough about it now,” said the center’s workers, “where we think we can give it a fitting name.” In Taiwan, doctors removed from the swollen eye of a woman four small “sweat bees” that had been eating her tears, and the Cairo, New York, police department advised drivers to “overcome the fear” after a woman crashed her car when she saw a spider.29 30 “The evolution of our evolutionary group, Homo,” a scientist said after hearing that had someone discovered a new species of upright ape in a cave in the Philippines, “is getting weirder and weirder.”31Jacob Rosenberg

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In 1989 I published a book about a plutonium-producing nuclear complex in En­gland, on the coast of the Irish Sea. The plant is called Sellafield now. In 1957, when it was the site of the most serious nuclear accident then known to have occurred, the plant was called Windscale. While working on the book, I learned from reports in the British press that in the course of normal functioning it released significant quantities of waste—plutonium and other transuranic elements—into the environment and the adjacent sea. There were reports of high cancer rates. The plant had always been wholly owned by the British government. I believe at some point the government bought it from itself. Privatization was very well thought of at the time, and no buyer could be found for this vast monument to dinosaur modernism.

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Early in the morning on June 28, 1969, New York police raided the Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street, the city’s most popular gay bar. The police had raided Stonewall frequently since its opening two years before, but the local precinct usually tipped off the management and arrived in the early evening. This time they came unannounced, during peak hours. They swept through the bar, checking I.D.s and arresting anyone wearing attire that was not “appropriate to one’s gender,” carrying out the law of the time. Eyewitness accounts differ on what turned the unruly scene explosive. Whatever the inciting event, patrons and a growing crowd on the street began throwing coins, bottles, and bricks at the police, who were forced to retreat into the bar and call in the riot squad.

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The squat warehouse at Miami’s 5th Street Terminal was nearly obscured by merchandise: used car engines; tangles of coat hangers; bicycles bound together with cellophane; stacks of wheelbarrows; cases of Powerade and bottled water; a bag of sprouting onions atop a secondhand Whirlpool refrigerator; and, above all, mattresses—shrink-wrapped and bare, spotless and streaked with dust, heaped in every corner of the lot—twins, queens, kings. All this and more was bound for Port-de-Paix, a remote city in northwestern Haiti.

When I first arrived at the warehouse on a sunny morning last May, a dozen pickup trucks and U-Hauls were waiting outside, piled high with used furniture. Nearby, rows of vehicles awaiting export were crammed together along a dirt strip separating the street from the shipyard, where a stately blue cargo vessel was being loaded with goods.

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My father decided that he would end his life by throwing himself from the top of the parking garage at the Nashville airport, which he later told me had seemed like the best combination of convenience—that is, he could get there easily and unnoticed—and sufficiency—that is, he was pretty sure it was tall enough to do the job. I never asked him which other venues he considered and rejected before settling on this plan. He probably did not actually use the word “best.” It was Mother’s Day, 2013.

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