Weekly Review — September 4, 2019, 4:08 pm

Weekly Review

Hurricane Dorian strengthened; Donald Trump golfed; Mike and Karen Pence stayed at the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland

An Oklahoma judge ordered the drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for its role in the opioid crisis—which, between 2015 and 2018, was fueled by 18 million opioid prescriptions in a state with a population of approximately 3.9 million people—ruling that the company breached a “public nuisance” law by overstating the benefits and downplaying the risks associated with this class of painkiller; the settlement, the first such case concluded against an opioid manufacturer, is significantly less than the $17 billion sought by the state to redress the public-health crisis.1 After the ruling, Johnson & Johnson’s stock price rose by 4 percent, and the Sacklers, who are the 19th richest family in America and own Purdue Pharma, which produces OxyContin, tentatively offered to relinquish control of the company and pay $3 billion of their own money to settle the more than 2,000 lawsuits they’re facing around the nation.2 3 Near the West Texas cities of Midland and Odessa, a gunman, whom officers had attempted to pull over for failing to use a turn indicator, killed 7 people and injured at least 21 others while driving a stolen vehicle and firing an assault-style weapon at bystanders. The mother of a 17-month-old girl who was shot in her front teeth and underwent surgery to remove shrapnel from her chest told Texas governor Greg Abbott, “Toddlers are funny because they can get shot but still want to run around and play.”4 5 6 Nine hours after the killing spree, eight new Texas gun laws, which loosened weapon restrictions, went into effect.7 “More to follow,” tweeted President Trump after being briefed on the killings, and a Texas state representative tweeted that “the evil acts of a handful of people” were not a good enough reason to restrict gun access but that he would be “praying that God would transform the hearts of people with evil intent.”8 9 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints banned guns from houses of worship, and in the Vatican, Pope Francis was trapped in an elevator for 25 minutes before being rescued by firefighters.10 11

The Department of Homeland Security announced it would reallocate $155 million from FEMA’s disaster relief fund toward border security.12 Hurricane Dorian strengthened into a Category 5 storm and hit the Bahamas—the fifth such storm in the past four years, and the one with the second-highest sustained wind speeds among all Atlantic hurricanes—and continued toward the American South.13 14 Trump canceled a state visit to Poland in order to monitor the storm and “ensure that all resources of the federal government are focused on the arriving storm,” traveled by Marine One helicopter from Camp David to one of his properties in Virginia, golfed twice, and tweeted, “A Category 5 is something that I don’t know that I’ve even heard the term.”15 16 17 During their official state visit, Mike and Karen Pence stayed at the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland; following criticism, an aide explained that the vice president’s family was originally from Doonbeg, and that the couple chose to stay at the hotel at the president’s “suggestion.”18 The Trump Administration announced that children of some service members living overseas would no longer automatically qualify as American citizens, and it was reported that Citizenship and Immigration Services now permits its officers to use fake social media profiles to screen people applying to enter the country.19 20 India finalized a list effectively stripping 1.9 million people of citizenship in Assam, the state with the second-highest population of Muslims, in an ongoing campaign against what it says is a decades-long tide of illegal immigration from Bangladesh.21 The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it would honor Indian prime minister Narendra Modi for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a program that promotes a cleaner India.22

One hundred and twenty coffins were discovered beneath a housing complex in Tampa, Florida.23 It was reported that Jerry Falwell Jr.—one of the first evangelical leaders to announce support for Trump and who had previously lent $1.8 million to a pool boy he met in Miami Beach—approved a real estate deal that transferred a $2 million property from his nonprofit Christian university to his and his wife’s then-23-year-old fitness trainer.24 25 The French town Bourg-en-Bresse was fined 90,000 euros for flouting gender-parity rules by appointing too many women to management positions.26 In Insjön, Sweden, two people wearing rubber pig masks and shirts that said “King” and “Queen” pointed lasers at children who were playing Pokémon Go and had sex by the town’s waterwheel, which caused a traffic jam.27 Following permission from Queen Elizabeth II, U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson prorogued Parliament, drastically reducing the amount of time lawmakers would have to prepare for Brexit.28 After surrounding a house in West Jordan, Utah, in an hours-long standoff, police officers ascertained that the suspect was not at home; the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department fired an officer after determining that he had faked being attacked by a sniper.29 30 A security guard at a gas station in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was attacked by a man brandishing a didgeridoo.31 A new species of bloodsucking leech was identified near Washington, D.C.32Cameron French

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I.

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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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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