Weekly Review — August 6, 2019, 3:18 pm

Weekly Review

The mass-shootings in El Paso and Dayton; Ronald Reagan’s racist remark to then-president Richard Nixon was made public

A white gunman drove approximately 660 miles from his home in Allen, Texas, to a Walmart in El Paso and fatally shot 22 shoppers, including a 24-year-old mother and 23-year-old father, who were shielding their two-month-old son; at least 26 more were injured, including a four-month-old baby, a two-year-old, and a nine-year-old.1 2 Less than a day later, a white gunman opened fire outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio, and, in the 30 seconds before police arrived and shot him dead, killed nine people, including his sister; it was the third mass shooting of the week and the 251st of the year.3 4 The FBI’s Domestic Terrorism-Hate Crimes Fusion Cell and the Allen Police Department said that they would investigate the provenance of a manifesto said to be written by the El Paso shooter that was published, minutes before the attack, on 8chan, the same internet forum on which gunmen in the Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Poway synagogue shootings posted their manifestos; all three manifestos espouse the “great replacement” theory, which argues that nonwhite immigrants are being paid by Jews and other elites to replace white Western citizens.5 6 7 When asked what could be done to prevent mass shootings, Texas governor Greg Abbott, who has signed all 10 N.R.A.-supported bills passed by the Texas Legislature in 2019, and Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick, who spoke at the Texas State Rifle Association luncheon last year, argued, respectively, that mental health resources be improved and that the federal government should take action against the video game industry.8 9 10 11 12 Shouts of “Do something!” drowned out Ohio governor Mike DeWine, who was endorsed by the N.R.A. last year, as he spoke at a vigil for the Dayton victims.13 14 In an address at the White House, Donald Trump, who once said that Nigerian U.S.-visa recipients would never “go back to their huts” after seeing the United States, decried hate, racism, bigotry, mental illness, and violent video games, announced that he would direct the Department of Justice to give mass shooters the death penalty, and misidentified Dayton as Toledo; earlier that morning, the president had suggested combining legislation that would enhance background checks on guns “with desperately needed immigration reform.”15 16 17 

The Trump reelection campaign raised $460,000 from selling plastic straws.18 Tapes of a phone call between then-President Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were made public; in the conversation, Reagan said, “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!”19 Representatives from 54 African nations met to discuss a pan-continental free trade zone; Ethiopia set a new record by planting 350 million trees in one day; and Malawi reinstated a ban on plastic bags.20 21 22 Eleven billion tons of Greenland’s ice sheet melted in one day, and the ice-cream company Ben & Jerry’s released “Bernie’s Back,” a limited-edition flavor dedicated to Bernie Sanders, the second flavor named for the candidate.23 24 It was reported that Jeffrey Epstein, who is in prison awaiting trial for the sex trafficking of minors, wanted his head and penis to be cryogenically frozen, perhaps as part of his plan to seed the human race with his DNA, and the National Academy of Sciences published a study that found CEOs and CFOs who use the extramarital-affair website Ashley Madison are more than twice as likely to engage in corporate misconduct.25 26 Wells Fargo said that financial regulations had required the company to spend more on technology contractors this year, and asked those contractors to voluntarily return some of the money.27 “You will be disappointed with the amount you receive,” wrote the credit-monitoring agency Equifax in a letter to people whose information had been stolen in a 2017 data breach, after Equifax underestimated how many people would sign up to receive cash compensation.28

A black teenage girl was sentenced to three years in prison for manslaughter when an undercover police officer shot and killed her boyfriend while the pair were attempting a robbery.29 In Australia, documents revealed that police have been instructed to film suspects when they are being strip-searched, and three of the Labor Party’s most senior officials argued against creating a new anti-corruption agency because, one said, it would “make it very hard to govern.”30 31 After experiencing jaw discomfort since the age of three, a seven-year-old boy in India had 526 teeth removed.32 A Michigan man was convicted of poisoning his wife’s coffee after she filed for divorce and was sentenced to spend weekends in prison for 60 days.33 An Austrian triathlete was kidnapped and then released after she complimented her kidnapper’s orchids.34 A bee that was suspected of having been inadvertently transported to Britain from Turkey escaped the house it was first seen in, was sentenced to death by the U.K. government, defended by a Turkish newspaper, and then was spared when Britain’s Natural History Museum declared that its nests were “too untidy” to be foreign.35 Astronomers announced that they had discovered a potentially habitable “super-Earth” just 31 light-years away.36Cameron French

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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.

This second world war of the twentieth century, Marshall understood, was going to be immense and immensely destructive. But if vast in scope, it would be limited in duration. The sun would set; the war would end. Today no such expectation exists. Marshall’s successors have come to view armed conflict as an open-ended proposition. The alarming turn in U.S.–Iranian relations is another reminder that war has become normal for the United States.

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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.

The best part of those days—assuming it wasn’t raining, snowing, or too cold—was the nine-block walk to Central Park after breakfast. Although he carried a cell phone and used an electronic tablet (had grown dependent on it, in fact), he still preferred the print version of the Times. In the park, he would settle on his favorite bench and spend an hour with it, reading the sections back to front, telling himself he was progressing from the sublime to the ridiculous.

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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.

El Río de los Remedios, or the River of Remedies, runs through the city of Ecatepec, a densely populated satellite of Mexico City. Confined mostly to concrete channels, the river serves as the main drainage line for the vast monochrome barrios that surround the capital. That day, I was standing on a stretch of the canal just north of Ecatepec, with a twenty-three-year-old photographer named Reyna Leynez. Reyna was the one who’d told me about the place and what it represents. This ruined river, this open sewer, is said to be one of the largest mass graves in Mexico.

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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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