Weekly Review — December 31, 2008, 11:59 pm

Yearly Review

The United States marked the five-year anniversary of the
war in Iraq. Over four million Iraqis had fled the country
or been internally displaced, and the total cost of the
war, currently about $650 billion, was expected to rise to
$2 trillion over the next five years. Oil rose above $147
a barrel, and Abu Dhabi bought New York City’s Chrysler
Building for $800 million. Somali pirates stole a Saudi
supertanker. President George W. Bush announced that North
Korea was no longer a state sponsor of terrorism. The CIA
expanded its covert operations in Iran. Bozo the Clown
died, as did Jesse Helms, William F. Buckley Jr., Paul
Newman, Heath Ledger, Indonesian dictator Suharto,
comedian George Carlin, didgeridoo master Alan Dargin,
and, at age 110, Louis de Cazenave of the Fifth Senegalese
Rifles, one of the last two living French veterans of
World War I. “War,” he once explained, “is something
absurd, useless, that nothing can justify.” Ariel Sharon
was still alive, and Israel bombed Gaza in retaliation for
ongoing rocket attacks. Tom Jones insured his chest hair
for $7 million.

Australian police tasered a ram. France banned TV shows
for babies. Pope Benedict XVI toured the United States,
and the Vatican released a list of seven “social”
sins–including littering, genetic tampering, and creating
poverty–to complement the seven cardinal vices. The World
Health Organization announced that virtually untreatable
drug-resistant tuberculosis could now be found in 45
countries. Japanese men began to wear bras. The cost of
rice increased by 30 percent, and food riots broke out in
30 countries. The United Nations expected the number of
starving people in the world to rise to 950 million. North
Korean hunger scientists announced a new noodle. In an
expanding thousand-square-mile low-oxygen zone growing
along the coast of Oregon and Washington, every fish,
crab, and sea worm was dead. A 7.9-magnitude earthquake
centered in China’s Sichuan Province left tens of
thousands of people dead and millions homeless. The Summer
Olympics were held in Beijing, heralded on television by
fake, computer-generated fireworks. Structures built for
the 2004 Athens Olympics were falling into ruin. A man in
Swansea, Wales, died from eating too much fairycake, and
an elderly German woman filed a lawsuit against a hospital
in Bavaria after she went in for a leg operation and was
instead given a new anus. Paddington Bear turned 50; both
the cubicle and the assassination of Martin Luther King
turned 40; Viagra turned 10. One in 100 American adults
was behind bars.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that detainees held as “enemy
combatants” by the United States at Guantanamo Bay have a
constitutional right to challenge their detention through
habeas corpus petitions in federal courts. Scientists
located the part of the brain responsible for
understanding sarcasm. Global stock markets lost $3.1
trillion in four days, and the Dow Jones Industrial
Average fell below 10,000 for the first time in five
years. The real estate boom in Dubai slowed. Nobel
Laureate V. S. Naipaul declared that there are “no more
great writers,” and Bob Dylan won a Pulitzer Prize.
Illinois Senator Barack Obama was elected President of the
United States. Gunmen terrorized Mumbai, and inflation in
Zimbabwe reached 23 million percent. Iceland went
bankrupt. Zookeepers across the United States put their
animals on diets, feeding gorillas according to a Weight
Watchers point system and offering polar bears sugar-free
Jell-O. The thoughts of a monkey in North Carolina
controlled the actions of a robot in Japan. New York
researchers used carbon nanotubes to create the darkest
material known to man. Two teams of physicists, one in
Calgary and the other in Tokyo, successfully stored
nothing within a gas in the form of squeezed vacuum
composed of uncertainty.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Photograph (detail) by Brian Frank
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A Window To The World·

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Artwork by Imre Kinszki © Imre Kinszki Estate
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The Lords of Lambeau·

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Photograph (detail) by Balazs Gardi
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With Child·

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"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Photograph (detail) by Lara Shipley

Price of ten pencils made from “recycled twigs,” from the Nature Company:

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