Weekly Review — November 18, 2003, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

The Bush Administration, worried about the political cost of the Iraq war and increasingly plagued by comparisons with Vietnam, decided to speed up its “Iraqification” plan by transferring sovereignty to a provisional native government by June 30.New York Times, USA Today“They are, we believe, ready for it,” said Condoleezza Rice. “And they have very strong ideas about how it might be done.” President Bush said that he believes the Iraqis “have the capacity to run their own country.”ReutersThe American-appointed mayor of Sadr City, a suburb of Baghdad, was killed after he drove into a forbidden area and got into a “wrestling match” with an American soldier, whose gun went off.New York TimesFour soldiers just back from Iraq were charged with stabbing another soldier to death, setting his body on fire, and leaving it in the woods.Associated PressTwenty-six people were killed in the car bombing of the Italian paramilitary headquarters in Nasiriya; seventeen Italian military policemen died along with nine Iraqis, including three ten-year-old schoolgirls who happened to be driving by in a minibus.New York Times, Nelson ReportSeventeen U.S. soldiers died when two Black Hawk helicopters collided in Mosul after one of them came under fire.New York TimesGeneral John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said that it was “beyond my imagination” that Saddam Hussein had planned for a guerrilla war prior to the fall of Baghdad.New York TimesWesley Clark came out in favor of a constitutional amendment banning flag desecration, andNew York TimesSaddam Hussein released a new audiotape calling for jihad against Israel and America.It was noticed that more U.S. soldiers have died so far in Iraq than in the first three years of the Vietnam War.Reuters

Four former Israeli security chiefs criticized Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a newspaper interview and said that Israel was headed for a catastrophe if it continues its current policies toward the Palestinians. “We are taking sure, steady steps,” said one, “to a place where the state of Israel will no longer be a democracy and a home for the Jewish people.”Associated PressAl Qaedasuicide bombers blew up two synagogues in Istanbul, and aNew York Times Jewish school was burned in a Paris suburb.New York TimesThe president of the rump Yugoslavia apologized for “any evil or disaster that anyone from Serbia and Montenegro caused to anyone in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”Agence France-PresseKenya officially recognized the Mau Maus, andNew York TimesCanaan Sodindo Banana, the first black president of Zimbabwe and a convicted homosexual rapist, died at age 67.Associated PressThailand said that it will give amnesty to more than one million illegal foreign workers who perform dirty, dangerous jobs that Thais would rather not do.ReutersA judge in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, was in trouble for dressing up in blackface for Halloween.New York TimesRacists, a new study found, tend to be mentally exhausted by encounters with people from different races.New ScientistAmerican Roman Catholic bishops embarked on a new campaign against contraception. “The Church teaches us a lot of things we don’t practice,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver. “But it’s the constant of the Roman Catholic Church that contraception is wrong, sinful, and contrary to the meaning of married life.”The Food and Drug Administration approved a new chewable contraceptive for women.ReutersNewly declassified files from MI5, the British intelligence agency, revealed that in 1940 Germansaboteurs had planned to attack Buckingham Palace with exploding cans of French peas.New York TimesArnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in as governor of California.New York Times

American scientists at the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives created an artificial bacteria-eating virus in 14 days using synthetic genes.Agence France-PresseSpencer Abraham, the secretary of energy, suggested that synthetic microbes might someday remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.New York TimesEnvironmentalists and consumer groups sued the Department of Agriculture to prevent companies from planting experimentalcrops that have been engineered to produce pharmaceuticals; they said that planting in open fields risks spreading the modifications to other crops.ReutersThirteen million trees were damaged in a freaksnowstorm in Beijing, and partsAgence France-Presse of Los Angeles were covered in a foot of hail.New York TimesThere was severe flooding in central Vietnam, and peopleAgence France-Presse were still dying of Ebola fever in the Congo.Associated PressBiologists were trying to exterminate nonnative frogs that have invaded the Galpagos Islands.Associated PressA crocodile was on the run in Hong Kong.BBCCattle prices were up, and oneNew York Timesin seven Americanschoolchildren was found to be at risk of heart disease.New ScientistAstronomers speculated that Sagittarius A, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, is spinning.New ScientistResearchers at MIT and Harvard found that cancer tumors follow a universal law of growth,New Scientistand Australian scientists said they know why animals that live fast die young.New Scientist Magazine

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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.

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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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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.

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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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