Weekly Review — October 1, 2019, 11:18 am

Weekly Review

Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would begin impeachment hearings; Donald Trump, Greta Thunberg, and Boris Johnson spoke at the United Nations

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, who is accused of pressuring Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky—a former television actor who played a character who publicly criticized government corruption and was also elected president—to investigate the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for pushing Ukraine to fire a prosecutor investigating Biden’s son Hunter; the Trump Administration allegedly suppressed records of the president’s July phone call.1 2 3 The White House accidentally sent Republican talking points on Ukraine to House Democrats, and Pelosi accidentally left the first draft of her impeachment speech on a plane.4 5 The State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine resigned, and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, confirmed in TV interviews that he personally pressured the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens, and read text messages aloud suggesting that the State Department was complicit in his efforts.6 “I wish,” said one Republican congressperson, “that he would shut the heck up.”7 Trump implied that the whistle-blower who first drew attention to the phone call should be executed, suggested that the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, be tried for treason, and retweeted a megachurch pastor intimating civil war.8 9 10

Trump mockingly tweeted about a 16-year-old Swedish activist who scolded world leaders for inaction on climate change at the United Nations.11 12 The next day, Trump addressed the body and warned of the dangers of “globalism”; Wilbur Ross, the U.S. commerce secretary who has been criticized by White House personnel for his inability to stay awake during meetings, slept through the president’s speech.13 14 15 Boris Johnson’s disquisition to the United Nations described potential futures in which “your fridge will beep for more cheese,” “pink-eyed terminators” are sent back in time to “cull the human race,” and synthetic biologists create “terrifying limbless chickens.”16 Thomas Cook of Nottingham, England, was stranded on his honeymoon in Greece after the Thomas Cook travel company went bankrupt, and Donte Slash and Abraham Shears of Columbus, Ohio, were charged in connection with a knife attack.17 18 An unidentified woman was found dead inside a burning port-a-potty in Jacksonville, Florida, and two Dalit children were beaten to death in India after defecating in a public street.19 20 The Orlando Police Department announced that it would drop misdemeanor battery charges against two six-year-old children, and teachers at an Indiana elementary school gave fifth graders a deadline for breaking up with their significant others, assuring parents that they were “just attempting to lessen the number of broken hearts.”21 22 A German court ruled that hangovers are a disease.23

The pope decried the use of adjectives and adverbs, and the “OK” hand gesture, bowl cuts, and the McDonald’s character Mac Tonight—a crescent moon who wears sunglasses—were added to the Anti-Defamation League’s database of hate symbols.24 China was reportedly harvesting thousands of organs from its Uighur population, and the original breeder of the labradoodle described it as his life’s biggest regret.25 26 “I opened a Pandora’s box and released a Frankenstein monster,” he said. A Russian naval vessel was destroyed by a marauding walrus.27 Researchers suggested that Neolithic babies were fed milk from bottles, falling water levels in Spain revealed previously submerged Stone Age megaliths, NASA released video footage of a shredding black hole, and PBS released footage of an octopus that scientists suspect was dreaming.28 29 30 31 A hidden continent was discovered beneath Southern Europe, and an Irish fisherman who caught an eight-foot bluefin tuna worth $3.2 million released it back into the sea.32 33 

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Donald Trump was impeached but not removed from office; the novel coronavirus death toll in China rose above nine hundred; a hunting convention auctioned off a trip to shoot Sitka black-tailed deer in Alaska with “accomplished conservationist” Donald Trump Jr.

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Alan Dershowitz testified on behalf of Donald Trump; the United Kingdom left the European Union; the Iowa Democratic caucuses remained undecided in part because of an app programming error

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The city was not beautiful; no one made that claim for it. At the height of summer, people in suits, shellacked by the sun, moved like harassed insects to avoid the concentrated light. There was a civil war–like fracture in America—the president had said so—but little of it showed in the capital. Everyone was polite and smooth in their exchanges. The corridor between Dupont Circle and Georgetown was like the dream of Yugoslav planners: long blocks of uniform earth-toned buildings that made the classical edifices of the Hill seem the residue of ancestors straining for pedigree. Bunting, starched and perfectly ruffled in red-white-and-blue fans, hung everywhere—from air conditioners, from gutters, from statues of dead revolutionaries. Coming from Berlin, where the manual laborers are white, I felt as though I was entering the heart of a caste civilization. Untouchables in hard hats drilled into sidewalks, carried pylons, and ate lunch from metal boxes, while waiters in restaurants complimented old respectable bobbing heads on how well they were progressing with their rib eyes and iceberg wedges.

I had come to Washington to witness either the birth of an ideology or what may turn out to be the passing of a kidney stone through the Republican Party. There was a new movement afoot: National Conservatives, they called themselves, and they were gathering here, at the Ritz-Carlton, at 22nd Street and M. Disparate tribes had posted up for the potlatch: reformacons, blood-and-soilers, curious liberal nationalists, “Austrians,” repentant neocons, evangelical Christians, corporate raiders, cattle ranchers, Silicon Valley dissidents, Buckleyites, Straussians, Orthodox Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Tories, dark-web spiders, tradcons, Lone Conservatives, Fed-Socs, Young Republicans, Reaganites in amber. Most straddled more than one category.

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The second-worst thing about cancer chairs is that they are attached to televisions. Someone somewhere is always at war with silence. It’s impossible to read, so I answer email, or watch some cop drama on my computer, or, if it seems unavoidable, explore the lives of my nurses. A trip to Cozumel with old girlfriends, a costume party with political overtones, an advanced degree on the internet: they’re all the same, these lives, which is to say that the nurses tell me nothing, perhaps because amid the din and pain it’s impossible to say anything of substance, or perhaps because they know that nothing is precisely what we both expect. It’s the very currency of the place. Perhaps they are being excruciatingly candid.

There is a cancer camaraderie I’ve never felt. That I find inimical, in fact. Along with the official optimism that percolates out of pamphlets, the milestone celebrations that seem aimed at children, the lemonade people squeeze out of their tumors. My stoniness has not always served me well. Among the cancer staff, there is special affection for the jocular sufferer, the one who makes light of lousy bowel movements and extols the spiritual tonic of neuropathy. And why not? Spend your waking life in hell, and you too might cherish the soul who’d learned to praise the flames. I can’t do it. I’m not chipper by nature, and just hearing the word cancer makes me feel like I’m wearing a welder’s mask.

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When Demétrio Martins was ready to preach, he pushed a joystick that angled the seat of his wheelchair forward, slowly lifting him to a standing position. Restraints held his body upright. His atrophied right arm lay on an armrest, and with his left hand, he put a microphone to his lips. “Proverbs, chapter fourteen, verse twelve,” he said. “ ‘There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is . . .’ ”

The congregation finished: “ ‘Death.’ ”

The Assembly of God True Grapevine was little more than a fluorescent-lit room wedged between a bar and an empty lot in Jacaré, a poor neighborhood on Rio de Janeiro’s north side. A few dozen people sat in the rows of plastic lawn chairs that served as pews, while shuddering wall fans circulated hot air. The congregation was largely female; of the few men in attendance, most wore collared shirts and old leather shoes. Now and then, Martins veered from Portuguese into celestial tongues. People rose from their seats, thrust their hands into the air, and shouted, “Hallelujah!”

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On December 7, 2016, a drone departed from an Amazon warehouse in the United Kingdom, ascended to an altitude of four hundred feet, and flew to a nearby farm. There it glided down to the front lawn and released from its clutches a small box containing an Amazon streaming device and a bag of popcorn. This was the first successful flight of Prime Air, Amazon’s drone delivery program. If instituted as a regular service, it would slash the costs of “last-mile delivery,” the shortest and most expensive leg of a package’s journey from warehouse to doorstep. Drones don’t get into fender benders, don’t hit rush-hour traffic, and don’t need humans to accompany them, all of which, Amazon says, could enable it to offer thirty-minute delivery for up to 90 percent of domestic shipments while also reducing carbon emissions. After years of testing, Amazon wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration last summer to ask for permission to conduct limited commercial deliveries with its drones, attaching this diagram to show how the system would work. (Amazon insisted that we note that the diagram is not to scale.) Amazon is not the only company working toward such an automated future—­UPS, FedEx, Uber, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, have similar programs—­but its plans offer the most detailed vision of what seems to be an impending reality, one in which parce­l-toting drones are a constant presence in the sky, doing much more than just delivering popcorn.

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Every year in Lusk, Wyoming, during the second week of July, locals gather to reenact a day in 1849 when members of a nearby band of Sioux are said to have skinned a white man alive. None of the actors are Native American. The white participants dress up like Indians and redden their skin with body paint made from iron ore.

The town prepares all year, and the performance, The Legend of Rawhide, has a cast and crew of hundreds, almost all local volunteers, including elementary school children. There are six generations of Rawhide actors in one family; three or four generations seems to be the average. The show is performed twice, on Friday and Saturday night.

The plot is based on an event that, as local legend has it, occurred fifteen miles south of Lusk, in Rawhide Buttes. It goes like this: Clyde Pickett is traveling with a wagon train to California. He tells the other Pioneers: “The only good Injun’s a dead Injun.” Clyde loves Kate Farley, and to impress her, he shoots the first Indian he sees, who happens to be an Indian Princess. The Indians approach the Pioneers and ask that the murderer give himself up. Clyde won’t admit he did it. The Indians attack the wagon train and, eventually, Clyde surrenders. The Indians tie Clyde to the Skinning Tree and flay him alive. Later, Kate retrieves her dead lover’s body and the wagon train continues west.

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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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