Weekly Review — October 29, 2019, 1:18 pm

Weekly Review

A state of emergency was declared in California; about one million people demonstrated in Santiago, Chile; Rudy Giuliani butt-dialed a reporter for NBC News

Responding to more than a dozen wildfires across California, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency and ordered 180,000 people to evacuate Sonoma County, where winds gusting to 80 miles per hour had fanned the flames.1 Pacific Gas & Electric, which has admitted in court that sparks from its equipment had likely caused at least 10 wildfires in central and northern California this year, preemptively cut power to about three million people—interrupting cell-phone service and preventing some residents from receiving evacuation notices or placing emergency calls—the largest planned outage in state history and the fourth time this month the company has caused mass blackouts.2 3 4 A judge in Massachusetts ruled that the state attorney general could immediately begin a lawsuit against ExxonMobil for downplaying the risks of fossil fuels, following a suit filed by the New York attorney general’s office claiming that the company had “erected a Potemkin village to create the illusion that it had fully considered the risks of future climate change”; the Supreme Court blocked a group of oil companies from freezing a similar lawsuit in Baltimore; and the president of the United States, who had previously named a former Exxon executive to be secretary of state, suggested partnering with Exxon to tap oil fields in Syria.5 6 7 8 An inventor in Australia denied preying on desperate farmers who would pay as much as $50,000 for him to deliver 100 millimeters of rain; he claims his service, whose methods he won’t reveal lest they be stolen by competitors, includes a bridge in the space-time continuum and the application of small, strategic amounts of energy to guide the butterfly effect.9 Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine formally recognized a new species of beetle, which has “pigtail-like” antennae and is named after climate activist Greta Thunberg.10

Protesters formed a 105-mile human chain along the length of Lebanon, where civil unrest neared its third week; in Iraq, security forces clashed with demonstrators, leaving 30 dead and bringing the death toll to 179 this month; and the mayor of Santiago, Chile, estimated that about one million people demonstrated against income inequality.11 12 13 Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, whose wealth is estimated at $1.1 billion, celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary at Camp David.14 15 A Portuguese doctor was suspended for negligence after a baby was born without a nose, eyes, and part of his skull, and 900 children under the age of 12 tested positive for H.I.V. in Ratodero, Pakistan, possibly in connection to a pediatrician who allegedly reused syringes when treating poor children.16 17 Facebook removed 14 ads by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare that promoted free vaccinations for children, and it accepted as much as $500 for an ad that promised to reveal the truth about the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella.18 WeWork, which this month delayed firing thousands of employees because it was too cash-strapped to pay severance, was acquired by a Japanese conglomerate that planned to compensate founder Adam Neumann with a $425 million credit line, $1 billion in exchange for his shares of the company, and $185 million to consult for the next four years.19 20 Russian ornithologists sought help to pay roaming charges for cellular trackers on endangered steppe eagles that had flown across Kazakhstan, Iran, and Pakistan, and Rudy Giuliani butt-dialed a reporter for NBC News, unwittingly leaving a three-minute voice message in which he discussed dealings in Bahrain.21 22 “The problem is we need some money,” Giuliani said, prompting a nine-second silence.

A Bangladeshi parliamentarian was expelled from her university after a TV crew stormed an exam hall and revealed that she had hired a body double to take a test for her, reportedly the 13th time she had done so with as many as eight different dopplegängers.23 An Iranian music-streaming service bowdlerized album art by erasing women artists from their album covers or replacing them with swirls or smoke.24 A 56-year-old woman in Knoxville, Iowa, was killed by debris from an explosion at a gender reveal party.25 Low Yan Long, a Singaporean man who worked part-time at a casket company, pleaded guilty to mischief after masturbating into women’s shoes.26 Marijuana was found at a North Dakota nuclear base that, in 2007, mistakenly equipped a B-52 bomber with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.27 The credit-monitoring bureau Equifax was sued for using “admin” as a username and password to protect sensitive data.28 Six men in Guangxi, China, were sentenced to prison after one of the men hired a second to kill the leader of a competing firm; the second man subcontracted the hit to a third, a move that was repeated by each man until the fifth hit man met the target in a cafe, revealed the plot, and proposed staging a death so they could split the etiolated commission.29 The target agreed, posed gagged and bound, and alerted the police.—Cameron French

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To Serve Is to Rule

The not-so-good ol’ days: considering the WASP supremacy

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“You’re being reborn,” the voice says. “Exiting the womb of your mother. Coming into the earth as a small baby. Everything is new.” It is a Saturday morning in mid-March, and right now I’m lying on a yoga mat in a lodge in Ohio, surrounded by fifty other men who’ve come to the Midwest for a weekend of manhood-confirming adventures. The voice in question belongs to Aaron Blaine, a facilitator for Evryman, the men’s group orchestrating this three-day retreat. All around me, men are shedding tears as Blaine leads us on a guided meditation, a kind of archetypal montage of Norman Rockwell boyhood. “You’re starting to figure things out,” he says, in somniferous baritone. “Snow, for the first time. Sunshine. Start to notice the smells, the tastes, the confusion. The fear. And you’re growing. You’re about ten years old. The world’s huge and scary.”

Even though it’s only the second day of the Evryman retreat, it’s worth noting that I’ve already been the subject of light fraternal teasing. Already I’ve been the recipient of countless unsought hugs. Already I have sat in Large Groups and Small Groups, and watched dozens of middle-aged men weep with shame and contrition. I’ve had a guy in the military tell me he wants to be “a rock for his family.” I’ve heard a guy from Ohio say that his beard “means something.” Twice I’ve hiked through the woods to “reconnect with Mother Nature,” and I have been addressed by numerous men as both “dude” and “brother.” I have performed yoga and yard drills and morning calisthenics. I’ve heard seven different men play acoustic guitar. I’ve heard a man describe his father by saying, “There wasn’t a lot of ball-tossing when I was growing up.” Three times I’ve been queried about how I’m “processing everything,” and at the urinal on Friday night, two men warned me about the upcoming “Anger Ceremony,” which is rumored to be the weekend’s “pièce de résistance.”

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The WASP story is personal for me. I arrived at Yale in 1971 from a thoroughly mediocre suburb in New Jersey, the second-generation hybrid of Irish and Italian stock riding the postwar boom. Those sockless people in Top-Siders, whose ancestors’ names and portraits adorned the walls, were entirely new to me. I made friends with some, but I was not free of a corrosive envy of their habitus of ease and entitlement.

I used to visit one of those friends in the Hamptons, in the 1970s, when the area was about wood-paneled Ford station wagons, not Lamborghinis. There was some money in the family, but not gobs, yet they lived two blocks from the beach—prime real estate. Now, down the road from what used to be their house is the residence of Ira Rennert. It’s one of the largest private homes in the United States. The union-busting, pension-fund-looting Rennert, whose wealth comes from, among other things, chemical companies that are some of the worst polluters in the country, made his first money in the 1980s as a cog in Michael Milken’s junk-bond machine. In 2015, a court ordered him to return $215 million he had appropriated from one of his companies to pay for the house. One-hundred-car garages and twenty-one (or maybe twenty-nine) bedrooms don’t come cheap.

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I slept for a good seven hours on the overnight flight from Spain to Peru, and while I slept I dreamed that I was leading American visitors around a park in Berlin, looking for birds on a hazy, overcast day. There wasn’t much to see until we noticed a distant commotion in the sky. Large raptors were panicking, driven back and forth by something threatening them from above. The commotion moved closer. The clouds parted, an oval aperture backed with blue. In it two seraphim hovered motionless. “Those are angels,” I told the group.

They were between us and the sun, but an easy ­I.D. Size aside, no other European bird has two sets of wings. The upper wings cast their faces into shadow. Despite the glare I could make out their striking peaches-­and-­cream coloration. Ivory white predominates, hair a faint yellow, eyes blue, wings indescribably iridescent. Faces blank and expressionless, as with all birds.

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Last May, the families of students at Cypress Academy, an independent charter school in New Orleans, received an email announcing that the school would close when classes ended the following week and that all its students would be transferred to another nearby charter for the upcoming year. Parents would have the option of entering their children in the city’s charter-enrollment lottery, but the lottery’s first round had already taken place, and the most desirable spots for the fall were filled.

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how high? that high

He had his stick that was used mostly to point at your head if your head wasn’t held up proudly.

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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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