Weekly Review — May 21, 2019, 1:39 pm

Weekly Review

More states introduced abortion restrictions; Donald Trump gave Bill de Blasio advice; Australia reelected Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, invoking “Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God,” signed into law a bill—called “extreme” by televangelist Pat Robertson—that bans doctors from performing abortions during any stage of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape and incest, and that carries a punishment of up to 99 years in prison.1 The bill contains language contrasting death statistics from historical atrocities—such as the German concentration camps, the Soviet gulag, the Cambodian killing fields, and the Rwandan genocide—with a figure reflecting the number of abortions performed since Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, a death count the bill alleges is three times higher than that in the other listed events combined.2 A day after signing the bill, the pro-life Governor Ivey declined to halt the execution of the convicted murderer Michael Brandon Samra; in the past, she has said that she does not “relish the responsibility” of overseeing executions.3 The Missouri House voted to ban abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy, without exceptions for rape and incest, a so-called heartbeat bill similar to those recently introduced or passed in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio.4 5 A two-and-a-half-year-old Guatemalan boy died after spending weeks in the hospital following his family’s apprehension at the U.S.–Mexico border—the boy was the fourth migrant minor to die in U.S. custody since December; the fifth, a 16-year-old who was also from Guatemala, died four days later.6 7 Photographs leaked by a source with access to a McAllen, Texas, Border Patrol station showed migrants, many of whom were children, sleeping on the ground and covered by Mylar blankets.8 Mark Morgan, who is the White House’s choice to lead ICE, said that he can judge the likelihood that an unaccompanied minor is a “soon-to-be MS-13 gang member” by looking into that child’s eyes.9 A new analysis found that growth in a metro area’s population of unauthorized immigrants does not lead to higher local crime rates.10

The White House requested paperwork needed to pardon several military service members convicted of war crimes, including Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, who is charged with shooting two unarmed Iraqi civilians—a young woman and an elderly man—and fatally stabbing a teenage captive with a hunting knife and bragging about it in text messages.11 Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who in 2013 pleaded guilty to leaking military reports and State Department cables that revealed U.S. military war crimes, was sent to jail on Thursday after refusing, for a second time, to cooperate with a grand jury.12 President Trump pardoned Conrad Black, a Canadian-born citizen of Britain who was found guilty of mail fraud and obstruction of justice and is the author of the biography Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.13 Saudi Arabia’s government announced that Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels had damaged two of its oil tankers in an act of sabotage, and the following day, a Houthi spokesman took responsibility for drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities; President Trump said “I hope not” when asked if the U.S. was going to war with Iran, and later tweeted, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran . . . Never threaten the United States again!”; and Gene Simmons of the band Kiss addressed Department of Defense personnel in the Pentagon Briefing Room.14 15 16 17 Montana Governor Steve Bullock and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio became the 22nd and 23rd politicians to announce campaigns for president as Democrats; President Trump tweeted a video calling de Blasio “the worst mayor in the history of New York City” and, he closed by saying, “Really, it would be better if you went back to New York City and did your job for the little time you have left. Good luck. Do well.”18 19 The College Board tested a tool that would give S.A.T.-takers a score measuring factors such as the rate of teens who receive free or reduced-price lunch in students’ high schools, as well as information about their home life and neighborhoods, such as average family income, educational attainment, housing stability, and crime, in an effort to account for disadvantages.20 A high school lunch lady was fired for feeding a student who couldn’t pay after the vendor accused her of stealing the eight dollar tab.21 A billionaire technology investor told the graduating class at Morehouse College at their commencement ceremony that he would pay off their $40 million in student loans.22

A Pennsylvania school’s active-shooter simulation video featured a teacher in a Middle Eastern–style headdress posing as a gunman.23 It was reported that 200 U.S. school districts are using the Share911 app, which allows staff to report active-shooter events to colleagues and the police.24 An Israeli firm used spyware that exploits a security hole in WhatsApp to break into the digital communications of iPhone and Android phone users for the purposes of spying on human-rights activists and journalists; San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted to approve a ban on the use of facial-recognition technology by city agencies, including the police department; Uber added a “quiet mode” feature that allows passengers to choose from options such as “quiet preferred,” “happy to chat,” or “no preference”; $75 cups of exclusive Panamanian coffee sold out at several Southern California locations of Klatch Coffee Roasters; a 16-year-old Malaysian girl killed herself after posting an Instagram poll asking her followers whether or not she should die, and 69 percent of responders voting yes; a millionaire’s daughter’s victory on the Russian TV talent show The Voice Kids was rescinded after thousands of votes were found to have been cast by bots; and Study the Great Nation, the Chinese Communist Party’s new app, was the ninth most popular app worldwide in the App Store.25 26 27 28 29 30 31 Australia reelected Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a climate-change denier, following the country’s hottest summer on record.32 33 Taiwan’s parliament approved a bill that legalizes same-sex marriage, making it the first government in Asia to do so.34 A painting of haystacks by Claude Monet sold for $110.7 million, a record for an Impressionist work, and a Jeff Koons rabbit sculpture sold for $91.1 million, a record price for a work by a living artist.35 Dennis Rodman was accused of stealing a 400-pound amethyst crystal from a yoga studio.36Justin Stewart

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About fifteen years ago, my roommate and I developed a classification system for TV and movies. Each title was slotted into one of four categories: Good-Good; Bad-Good; Good-Bad; Bad-Bad. The first qualifier was qualitative, while the second represented a high-low binary, the title’s aspiration toward capital-A Art or lack thereof.

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America’s Constitution was once celebrated as a radical and successful blueprint for democratic governance, a model for fledgling republics across the world. But decades of political gridlock, electoral corruption, and dysfunction in our system of government have forced scholars, activists, and citizens to question the document’s ability to address the thorniest issues of modern ­political life.

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For time ylost, this know ye,
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I spent thirty-eight years in prison and have been a free man for just under two. After killing a man named Thomas Allen Fellowes in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight in 1980, when I was nineteen years old, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Former California governor Jerry Brown commuted my sentence and I was released in 2017, five days before Christmas. The law in California, like in most states, grants the governor the right to alter sentences. After many years of advocating for the reformation of the prison system into one that encourages rehabilitation, I had my life restored to me.

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In a Walmart parking lot in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 2015, a white police officer named Stephen Rankin shot and killed an unarmed, eighteen-­year-­old black man named William Chapman. “This is my second one,” he told a bystander seconds after firing the fatal shots, seemingly in reference to an incident four years earlier, when he had shot and killed another unarmed man, an immigrant from Kazakhstan. Rankin, a Navy veteran, had been arresting Chapman for shoplifting when, he claimed, Chapman charged him in a manner so threatening that he feared for his life, leaving him no option but to shoot to kill—­the standard and almost invariably successful defense for officers when called to account for shooting civilians. Rankin had faced no charges for his earlier killing, but this time, something unexpected happened: Rankin was indicted on a charge of first-­degree murder by Portsmouth’s newly elected chief prosecutor, thirty-­one-year-­old Stephanie Morales. Furthermore, she announced that she would try the case herself, the first time she had ever prosecuted a homicide. “No one could remember us having an actual prosecution for the killing of an unarmed person by the police,” Morales told me. “I got a lot of feedback, a lot of people saying, ‘You shouldn’t try this case. If you don’t win, it may affect your reelection. Let someone else do it.’ ”

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In 1973, when Barry Singer was a fifteen-year-old student at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the vice principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, stopped him in a stairwell. Claiming he wanted to check his tzitzit—the strings attached to Singer’s prayer shawl—Finkelstein, Singer says, pushed the boy over the third-floor banister, in full view of his classmates, and reached down his pants. “If he’s not wearing tzitzit,” Finkelstein told the surrounding children, “he’s going over the stairs!”

“He played it as a joke, but I was completely at his mercy,” Singer recalled. For the rest of his time at Yeshiva, Singer would often wear his tzitzit on the outside of his shirt—though this was regarded as rebellious—for fear that Finkelstein might find an excuse to assault him again.

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