Weekly Review — July 17, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

As President Bush continued to ponder the political expediencies of permitting or banning federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, science was marching on, aided and comforted by medical ethicists. One company was using donated eggs and sperm to create human embryos from which stem cells could be harvested, a procedure that destroys the embryos. Another company, called Advance Cell Technology, was preparing to create human embryo clones, using a technique similar to that used to clone Dolly the sheep, in order to extract their stem cells. A French court upheld a “right not to be born” and awarded damages to the families of three children who would have been aborted if doctors had detected their deformities. Hawaii raised its age of sexual consent from 14 to 16. Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered federal marshals to protect an abortion doctor. People in Congo were still killing suspected witches. 401-K retirement plans were losing money for the first time. Conservative Republicans are three times more likely than liberal Democrats to have nightmares, a new study found. Police in Braintree, Massachusetts, suspected devil worship after they searched a man’s apartment and found a fetus in a jar on a dresser next to a skull, a brain, and some pot. The White Witches of Britain cast a spell on Warner Brothers to protest a depiction of Harry Potter, the popular fictional character, riding a broomstick with the brush behind him. Brooms should be ridden with the brush in front, the witches say.

The Pentagon conducted an antimissile test in which an interceptor rocket destroyed a Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile; critics said the test was flawed because it used a shiny round decoy balloon that looked nothing like a missile and thus was unlikely to confuse the interceptor. A 15-year-old boy won the world open pea-shooting championship in Witcham, England, for the third year in a row with a homemade laser-sighted peashooter. There was a bomb scare at the White House. Chinese president Jiang Zemin went to Russia to sign a treaty of friendship and cooperation. The Pentagon did away with its “two-war” doctrine. The air force decided not to retrieve a 7,600 pound nuclear bomb that was dumped off the coast of Georgia in 1958 after a B-47 bomber collided with another plane during training; the air force claims that the bomb is safe. The United States was opposing a treaty meant to cut down on the illegal trade in small arms, saying it might infringe on Americans’ right to possess guns. Bush Administration officials said that the United States would oppose an international plan to encourage nonpolluting energy sources. A Kazakhstani contortionist in the Netherlands National Circus got stuck with his right foot over his left shoulder. Russian officials said that the reappearance of crop circles in a wheat field near Maikop, Krasnodar, was evidence of space aliens taking soil samples from the Earth. One hundred and five garden gnomes were stolen and placed in the middle of a roundabout in Chavelot, France, by the Liberation Front for Garden Gnomes, a group that aims to free all garden gnomes.

Yohannes Haile-Selassie, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, reported his discovery in his native Ethiopia of 5.2-million-year-old fossils belonging to a hominid, a subspecies of Ardipithecus ramidus; the fossils are the earliest known human ancestor. President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya told his compatriots that they should refrain from sex for two years to stop the spread of AIDS. A 16-year-old Egyptian boy threatened to jump in the Nile if his girlfriend didn’t kiss him and then did so, whereupon he drowned. A Britishfamily whose home is infested with 300 bats was told by authorities that the bats cannot be moved because they are protected wildlife. Florida officials discovered the West Nile virus in a dead crow. There were reports that Russian troops terrorized two Chechen villages, torturing and beating the men and looting the homes, after four soldiers were killed by mines. One man was tortured with electricity in an attempt to make him talk; he was a deaf mute, as it turned out. Israel resumed the demolition of Palestinian homes. A police officer was stoned to death in Jamaica. Abner Louima won $8.75 million to compensate him for being tortured by New York City policemen, who shoved a broken plunger up his rectum. Astronomers discovered 12 more moons around Saturn. A judge in California ruled that Kaiser-Permanente, a health-maintenance organization, did not have to cover prescriptions for Viagra, the popular anti-impotence drug. Anna Nicole Smith, a former Playboy Playmate of the Year, was told to pay almost $2 million in court costs and legal fees resulting from lawsuits over the estate of her 90-year-old dead husband. There were floods and mud slides in West Virginia. Race riots continued in England. China was chosen to host the 2008 Olympic Games. A “deadbeat dad” in Wisconsin was told to stop fathering children or go to jail. Chinesepolice arrested a butcher named Guan Jiadong who hacked to death four health inspectors and wounded three others after they tried to confiscate his meat.

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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.”

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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.

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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

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