Weekly Review — August 27, 2019, 11:16 am

Weekly Review

Bolsonaro rejects international aid for fire relief; a U.S. citizen who had been held for almost a month at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility was released

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research announced that, between January and August of this year, there have been 72,843 fires across the country, an 83 percent increase from the previous year, a 35 percent increase compared to the average over the previous 8 years, and a 7 percent increase over the previous ten years.1 2 New satellite images showed that there are 9,507 new forest fires in states that have Brazil’s share of the Amazon rainforest, predominantly on land that had been cleared for cattle ranching or soy farming.3 4  Farmers, who use illegal controlled burns to promote agricultural regrowth during the dry season, have contributed to the deforestation of approximately 1,330 square miles of the Amazon this year.5 Though fires are common during this time of year, news of this increase sparked international outrage, with celebrities and the president of France decrying the destruction of the Amazon rainforest by tweeting photos of fires in the Amazon that were 20 to 30 years old, or of fires from Montana, India, and Sweden.6 7 When asked about the situation, Jair Bolsonaro, who appointed a member of the Congress’s agribusiness caucus to agriculture minister, said that he had a “feeling” that NGOs had set the fires in the Amazon to make him and his government look bad.8 9 “This is the war we face,” he contended. In light of changes the Brazilian government has made to how the organization and its funds are managed, the Norwegian government canceled its annual $33.2 million donation to the Amazon Fund, an institution founded to provide financial support to farmers and prevent deforestation.10 11  Leaders at the G7 agreed to give Brazil and other countries in the Amazon basin $20 million to provide training for fire brigades and specialized firefighting aircrafts; Bolsonaro’s chief of staff announced that the aid would be rejected, saying, “We are thankful, but maybe those resources would be more relevant to reforest Europe.”12 13 Amazon.com opened its largest campus in Hyderabad, India, which encompasses .065 square miles of office space; this is the firm’s first non-U.S. campus.14 NASA began investigating Anne McClain, who was unable to participate in the first all-female space walk earlier this year because of a lack of space suits that fit the astronauts, for allegedly accessing her estranged wife’s financial records while aboard the International Space Station; if she’s found guilty, this would be the first known crime committed in space.15 16

Following the dismissal of Daniel Pantaleo, the N.Y.P.D. officer who killed Eric Garner using an illegal choke hold, the president of the Police Benevolent Association said that there might be a slowdown in policing because officers could be “deemed ‘reckless’ just for doing their job.”17 18 A teacher and U.S. Marine Corps veteran in Lakeland, Florida, was put on administrative leave after he informed a class of 16 students that he would “be the best school shooter” with a “1,000-person body count” and laid out a hypothetical action plan.19 In Washington, D.C., a former Georgetown neighborhood advisory commissioner was charged after he told the owner of Charcoal Town Hookah and Shawarma, “I’m going to shoot you, your customers, and the Muslims standing outside.”20 A city council candidate in Marysville, Michigan, said, during a candidates’ forum, that the 95 percent Caucasian city should be kept “a white community as much as possible,” and, “In other words, no foreign-born. No foreign people.”21 When questioned later about her comments by reporters, the candidate voiced her opposition to interracial marriage.22 Dirk Fuckner, a supporter of the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD) who was handing out flyers titled “Resolute Deportation” in Meissen, Germany, a city that has a 5.6 percent foreign-born population, told a reporter, “The AfD is not racist. It is the only party that tells the truth.”23 An 18-year-old U.S. citizen who had been held for almost a month at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Pearsall, Texas, was released, and the Department of Homeland Security moved to end the Flores agreement, which stipulates that migrant children can only be detained for 20 days, and to implement new rules that would allow the government to hold minors indefinitely.24 25

A biotech venture capitalist and former science adviser to Bill Gates said he was “shocked” to be named “successor executor” of Jeffrey Epstein’s estate.26 The Duke of York, who resigned as U.K. trade envoy in 2011 after several photographs of him with Epstein in Manhattan were published, released a statement about his relationship with the convicted sex offender which claimed, “At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behavior of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction.”27 28 It was reported that Donald Trump, who had 14 different phone numbers listed in Epstein’s book of contacts, suggested that hurricanes headed toward the United States be nuked in the middle of the Atlantic in order to prevent them from making landfall; when asked about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the president, who has joked about walking into dressing rooms of the pageants he owned as women and teenagers were getting dressed, responded, “We’re talking about—this has been going on for decades and decades. Shooting. I don’t mean like shooting a rifle, I mean like major shooting, of Howitzers, of heavy arms. And it’s been going on for a long period of time.”29 30 31 32 In Connecticut, five men and one woman between the ages of 62 and 85 were charged with breach of peace and public indecency after they were caught having sex inside the Grace Richardson conservation area.33 Six people attending the P.G.A. Tour Championship in Atlanta were injured after two lightning strikes hit the green.34Violet Lucca

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That year, the year of the Ghost Ship fire, I lived in a shack. I’d found the place just as September’s Indian summer was giving way to a wet October. There was no plumbing or running water to wash my hands or brush my teeth before sleep. Electricity came from an extension cord that snaked through a yard of coyote mint and monkey flower and up into a hole I’d drilled in my floorboards. The structure was smaller than a cell at San Quentin—a tiny house or a huge coffin, depending on how you looked at it—four by eight and ten feet tall, so cramped it fit little but a mattress, my suit jackets and ties, a space heater, some novels, and the mason jar I peed in.

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The writer and filmmaker Virginie Despentes lives in a nondescript modern building in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris. I know it well: it has a Bricorama—like a French Home Depot—on the ground floor, where we sometimes had cause to shop back when we lived in the neighborhood. The people who work there seemed to hate their jobs more than most; they were often absent from the sales floor. In the elevator to Despentes’s apartment, I marvel that while I was trying to get someone to help me find bathroom grout she was right upstairs, with her partner, Tania, a Spanish tattoo artist who goes by the name La Rata, like someone out of one of Despentes’s novels.

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Discussed in this essay:

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That night at the window, looking out at the street full of snow, big flakes falling through the streetlight, I listened to what Anna was saying. She was speaking of a man named Karl. We both knew him as a casual acquaintance—thin and lanky like Ichabod Crane, with long hair—operating a restaurant down in the village whimsically called the Gist Mill, with wood paneling, a large painting of an old gristmill on a river on one wall, tin ceilings, and a row of teller cages from its previous life as a bank. Karl used to run along the river, starting at his apartment in town and turning back about two miles down the path. He had been going through the divorce—this was a couple of years ago, of course, Anna said—and was trying to run through his pain.

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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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