Weekly Review — May 6, 2003, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

The United States, the United Nations, Russia, and the European Union, acting collectively as “the Quartet,” presented Israel and Palestine with the famous “road map” to peace that President Bush promised to reveal once the Palestinians acquired a prime minister independent of Yasir Arafat. A suicide bomber, who turned out to be a British citizen, responded to the confirmation of Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister by blowing up a nightclub in Tel Aviv, leaving body parts scattered along the shore. A day later Israeli tanks invaded a crowded neighborhood in Gaza and killed 12 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including a two-year-old boy, in a hunt for a Hamas weapons smuggler.New York TimesUNICEF reported that since the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada 92 Israeli and 436 Palestinian children have been killed. American soldiers shot and killed 15 Iraqi civilians who were demonstrating against the occupation on Saddam Hussein’s birthday; a few days later another demonstration was held to protest the killings, and soldiers shot a few more.New York Times Anonymous Bush Administration officials were beginning to speak more candidly about the president’s rationale for invading Iraq, saying that Iraq’s potential as a military threat was less important than its strategic location and the president’s desire to make a “global show of power and democracy.”Independent.co.uk Officials continued to play down the possibility that any significant weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq; one senior White House source speculated that what might turn up were some “precursors,” and said that Saddam Hussein “couldn’t put them together as long as the inspections were going on.”New York TimesPresident Bush landed on an aircraft carrier in an S-3B Viking airplane and, clad in a military jumpsuit with the words “Commander in Chief” printed on the back, he informed the assembled sailors, whom he said were “the best of our country,” that the war on Iraq had been won. The commander in chief, who served as a pilot in the Texas National Guard during the Vietnam War, told reporters that he had briefly flown the airplane. “I miss flying,” he said. Few publications mentioned the president’s long unexplained failure to report for duty during that period, and his daring arrival was widely hailed as a “Top Gun moment.”New York Times NBC officials confirmed that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman will both appear on a future episode of Friends.Denver Post

William J. Bennett, the author of The Book of Virtues, The death of Outrage, and The Moral Compass, among other books, was revealed to be a high-stakes gambler who has blown up to $8 million over the last decade playing high-limit slot machines and video poker. Bennett acknowledged that he has never condemned the vice of gambling.Washington Monthly Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared that “major combat” was over in Afghanistan;New York Times Rumsfeld also made a victory tour of Iraq and was photographed autographing a Baghdad street sign that some soldiers had apparently taken as a souvenir.New York TimesResearchers in England discovered that wood mice construct signposts out of leaves and twigs to keep themselves from getting lost.New Scientist Consultants concluded that the Davis-Besse nuclear reactor in Ohio, which was shut down more than a year ago after it was discovered that acid had nearly eaten through its reactor vessel, still has problems with its “safety culture.”New York TimesSalomon Smith Barney, Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse First Boston, and several other firms agreed to a $1.4 billion settlement for fraudulently enticing millions of investors to buy billions of dollars’ worth of stock they knew to be essentially worthless.New York TimesEnron, MCI, and other companies that overstated their earnings in order to inflate the value of their stock were in the process of filing for hundreds of millions of dollars in tax refunds from the government on the profits they fraudulently claimed.Wall Street JournalTom Ridge, the secretary of homeland security, acknowledged that a number of his former aides are now actively lobbying him but denied that he would be swayed by personal connections.New York Times A few days later Ridge’s department announced that it was establishing ethics rules.New York Times German archaeologists working in Iraq announced that they might have found the tomb of Gilgamesh.BBC

The Bush Administration proposed giving the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon the power to issue “administrative subpoenas” for personal and financial information on American citizens without court approval.Attorney General John Ashcroft revealed that the Justice Department used secret warrants 1,228 times last year.New York Times The U.S. State Department complained in a report that Canada’s contribution to the war on terrorism was being hampered by its obsession with civil liberties and personal privacy: “Canadian laws and regulations intended to protect Canadian citizens and landed immigrants from government intrusion sometimes limit the depth of investigations.”The Ottowa Citizen via Canada.com The United States Commission on Civil Rights was ordered to pay an Hispanic employee $165,000 in damages for discriminating against her.Washington TimesPresident Bush issued a proclamation declaring May 1 “Loyalty Day,”Whitehouse.gov and Prime Minister John Howard of Australia was rewarded for his country’s service in the invasion of Iraq with a sleepover down at the Presidential Ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he was served green-chili cheese grits for supper.New York TimesUnited Nations employees looted restaurants at the organization’s headquarters in New York after food-service workers staged a wild-cat strike. “It was chaos, wild, something out of a war scene,” said one witness. “They took everything, even the silverware.”Time.com India said it would reestablish diplomatic relations with Pakistan, Nepal opened negotiations with its rebels, the United States made a truce with an Iranian-backed guerrilla army in Iraq, and mercenaries in Ivory Coast murdered a rebel leader who told them to lay down their weapons.New York Times It was reported that Hilary Rosen, the CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, has agreed to help rewrite Iraq’s copyright laws.Register.com Pilgrims who bought tickets to see the pope on his visit to Spain were given a McDonald’s hamburger, medium fries, medium drink, and either an ice cream sundae or an apple pie. Also included in the ticket price was a “pilgrim’s bag” with a baseball cap, a rosary, a copy of the Gospel According to St. Mark.BBC A new study estimates that a shadow economy largely driven by marijuana, porn, and the labor of illegal aliens now constitutes up to 10 percent of the American economy.Guardian Automobile pollution damages human sperm, Italian scientists found.New Scientist Tissue engineers in Boston succeeded in growing penile tissue that contains nerve cells. “This is exciting and extends their work logically in several directions,” said a reconstructive surgeon.New Scientist Kroger and Albertsons agreed to label farm-raised salmon so that consumers will be made aware of the fact that such salmon, which is naturally gray, has been dyed pink.Associated Press Boston’s city council decided to repeal a law mandating that all Indians in the city be jailed.New York TimesNew ScientistScientists discovered that fish can feel pain.

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That year, the year of the Ghost Ship fire, I lived in a shack. I’d found the place just as September’s Indian summer was giving way to a wet October. There was no plumbing or running water to wash my hands or brush my teeth before sleep. Electricity came from an extension cord that snaked through a yard of coyote mint and monkey flower and up into a hole I’d drilled in my floorboards. The structure was smaller than a cell at San Quentin—a tiny house or a huge coffin, depending on how you looked at it—four by eight and ten feet tall, so cramped it fit little but a mattress, my suit jackets and ties, a space heater, some novels, and the mason jar I peed in.

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I am eight years old, sitting in my childhood kitchen, ready to watch one of the home videos my father has made. The videotape still exists somewhere, so somewhere she still is, that girl on the screen: hair that tangles, freckles across her nose that in time will spread across one side of her forehead. A body that can throw a baseball the way her father has shown her. A body in which bones and hormones lie in wait, ready to bloom into the wide hips her mother has given her. A body that has scars: the scars over her lungs and heart from the scalpel that saved her when she was a baby, the invisible scars left by a man who touched her when she was young. A body is a record or a body is freedom or a body is a battleground. Already, at eight, she knows it to be all three.

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No, she thinks. They have allowed her to be a boy.

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The writer and filmmaker Virginie Despentes lives in a nondescript modern building in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris. I know it well: it has a Bricorama—like a French Home Depot—on the ground floor, where we sometimes had cause to shop back when we lived in the neighborhood. The people who work there seemed to hate their jobs more than most; they were often absent from the sales floor. In the elevator to Despentes’s apartment, I marvel that while I was trying to get someone to help me find bathroom grout she was right upstairs, with her partner, Tania, a Spanish tattoo artist who goes by the name La Rata, like someone out of one of Despentes’s novels.

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That night at the window, looking out at the street full of snow, big flakes falling through the streetlight, I listened to what Anna was saying. She was speaking of a man named Karl. We both knew him as a casual acquaintance—thin and lanky like Ichabod Crane, with long hair—operating a restaurant down in the village whimsically called the Gist Mill, with wood paneling, a large painting of an old gristmill on a river on one wall, tin ceilings, and a row of teller cages from its previous life as a bank. Karl used to run along the river, starting at his apartment in town and turning back about two miles down the path. He had been going through the divorce—this was a couple of years ago, of course, Anna said—and was trying to run through his pain.

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