Weekly Review — November 12, 2019, 12:03 pm

Weekly Review

For the first time in 26 years, both houses of the Virginia legislature turned Democratic; Rudy Giuliani was overheard discussing plans to launch an impeachment-themed podcast

In the Kentucky gubernatorial election, Democrat Andy Beshear, the son of the Kentucky governor who served from 2007 to 2015, defeated incumbent Matt Bevin, who, despite pleas from Republican colleagues to “let it go” and “call it quits,” refused to concede the election and blamed the results on “illegally counted” absentee ballots.1 2 3 4 For the first time in 26 years, both houses of the Virginia legislature turned Democratic; lawmakers now include Ghazala Hashmi, the first Muslim woman elected to the state’s Senate; Shelly Simonds, who lost an election for her House of Delegates seat in 2017 after her name was not picked from a hat; and Joe Morrissey, a lawyer who was once jailed for sleeping with his underage secretary.5 6 7 In Loudoun County, Virginia, a woman who had been fired from her job as a marketing analyst for giving Donald Trump’s motorcade the middle finger was elected to the Board of Supervisors.8 The U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, revised his testimony to congressional impeachment investigators, claiming to recall a conversation in which he explicitly made aid to Ukraine dependent on an investigation of Joe Biden, and it was revealed that Attorney General William Barr had denied a request from the president to hold a press conference declaring that he had not broken the law.9 10 Trump was reportedly in talks with Mark Burnett, the producer of The Apprentice, about future reality-show opportunities, including a project tentatively called The Apprentice: White House, and Rudy Giuliani was overheard discussing plans to launch an impeachment-themed podcast.11 12 During the first week of Roger Stone’s trial for witness tampering and lying to Congress, the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones threatened to release a juror’s personal information; a radio comedian accused of being Stone’s link to WikiLeaks testified that he cannot perform a credible impersonation of Frank Pentangeli, a character from The Godfather: Part II; the judge requested that the jury not watch the Godfather films during the trial; and a courtroom spectator suffered a seizure.13 14 15

A New Hampshire man attempted to register for the state’s presidential primary as “Jeffrey Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself”; a Missouri man broke into an adult store called Mi Dream Angels and tried to rescue its mannequins from “sex trafficking”; and the police chief of New South Wales defended the practice of strip-searching children, saying that he’d want his own “young children” strip-searched if they were expected of wrongdoing.16 17 18 Two turtles with white swastikas painted on their shells were spotted in a park in Renton, Washington, and an Italian youth soccer team abandoned plans to play in blackface as an anti-racism protest.19 20 “We received emails telling us it could be perceived as offensive in some cultures,” said the team’s manager. A man who had clubbed another man to death with an axe handle was unsuccessful in his attempt to appeal his life sentence on the basis that he had completed the sentence when doctors revived him after his “death” of septic poisoning, and a woman in Texas was denied lifesaving medication because the Social Security Administration thought she was already dead.21 22 The city council of Vancouver, British Columbia, passed a law permitting grave-sharing. “It’s no different than the ride-sharing practices such as Uber and Lyft,” said one environmental planner. “Except the person has reached their final destination.”23 A Winnipeg man whose curb was damaged by city snow-removal equipment in 1993 received word that repair work would be completed by 2037, and 168,149 text messages originally sent on Valentine’s Day were successfully delivered.24 25

A warrant was issued for the arrest of a Michigan woman for failing to return overdue copies of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends and Elie Wiesel’s Night to her local library; officials in Citrus County, Florida, denied a library’s request for a New York Times subscription, calling it “fake news”; and Vladimir Putin announced his intention to replace Wikipedia with a digital version of the Great Russian Encyclopedia to ensure the dissemination of “reliable information.”26 27 28 Two former Twitter employees were charged with spying for Saudi Arabia by accessing the personal information of the kingdom’s critics; one of the former employees was given $300,000 and a designer watch worth at least $20,000 for his services.29 China imposed spending and time restrictions on gamers under the age of 18; it was reported that the erotically suggestive usage of the eggplant and peach emojis can cause users on Facebook and Instagram to be flagged or banned; and Sebastian Gorka, the former deputy assistant to the president who now hosts a radio show called America First, was banned from YouTube for repeatedly uploading audio from the rock band Imagine Dragons without copyright permission.30 31 32 The Defense Department announced that male Marines can now use umbrellas.33 Amid an ongoing smog crisis in Delhi, in which pollution levels have reached over nine times the standard for unhealthy air, Harsh Vardhan—who is jointly the minister of science and technology, the minister of health and family welfare, and the minister of earth sciences—suggested that citizens protect themselves by eating carrots, and Prakash Javadekar—who is both the minister of environmental, forest, and climate change and the minister of information and broadcasting—recommended listening to music in the morning.34 Scientists determined that dogs direct their bowel movements along a north-south axis in accordance with the earth’s magnetic field.35

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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.

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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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