Weekly Review — April 6, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Small Family, May 1874][Image: Killing Ground, May 1874]

A Small Family.
Killing Ground.

Four American mercenaries employed by Blackwater Security Consulting were pulled from their vehicles in Fallujah, Iraq, hacked to death, burned, and dragged through the streets; the remains of two were then hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River along with a sign that said “Fallujah is the cemetery for Americans.”BBC“Despite an uptick in local engagements,” said General Mark Kimmit at a press briefing a few hours later, “the overall area of operations remains relatively stable with negligible impact on the coalition’s ability to continue progress in governance, economic development, and restoration of essential services.”New York TimesPresident George W. Bush attended a fund-raiser that night and made fun of Senator John Kerry; he did not mention the killings in Fallujah.New York TimesA Shiite militia known as the Mahdi Army rose up across Iraq in response to a call by Moktada al-Sadr, a militant cleric, to “terrorize your enemy.” Last week Sadr announced that he is “the beating arm for Hezbollah and Hamas here in Iraq.”New York TimesAttacks on occupation forces were averaging about 26 per day, and Bell Pottinger, the British PR firm, was hired to teach Iraqis about democracy.International Herald TribuneBush Administration officials were said to be disturbed that Caribbean countries have refused to recognize the U.S.-backed government in Haiti, and aReutersUnited Nations envoy said that peacekeepers might have to remain in Haiti for 20 years.New York TimesPresident Bush signed a law making it a crime to harm a fetus while committing another crime, andAssociated PressCanadian hunters were busy trying to club 350,000 helpless three-week-old baby harp seals to death.New York Times

The International Court of Justice ruled that U.S. courts must review the death sentences of 51 Mexican citizens whose rights under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations were violated; although international treaties are “the supreme law of the land,” according to the U.S. Constitution, Governor Rick Perry declared that “the International Court of Justice does not have jurisdiction in Texas.”New York TimesGeorge Soros, the billionaire philanthropist, was splattered with mayonnaise by Ukrainian militants.GuardianFifty thousand protesters filled the streets of Katmandu, Nepal, demanding a restoration of democracy.Associated PressTaiwan’s opposition asked the country’s High Court to overturn the March 20 presidential election; the losing candidate, Lien Chan, has accused President Chen Shui-bian of election fraud and of staging his own shooting the day before the vote.Associated PressDozens of people died in a series of explosions and suicide attacks in Uzbekistan.New York TimesColin Powell admitted that the Iraqi National Congress, the U.S.-funded Iraqi exile group, was the source of “the most dramatic” bits in his notorious United Nations presentation on Iraq’s mythical weapons of mass destruction.Miami HeraldThe White House acknowledged that it has withheld three quarters of the 11,000 pages of Clinton Administration documents that were supposed to be handed over to the 9/11 commission; after an outcry, administration officials agreed to reconsider.ReutersPresident Bush backed down from his refusal to allow Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly under oath before the 9/11 commission, and aAssociated Pressformer FBI translator claimed that she could prove that the Bush Administration did in fact receive warnings in the spring and summer of 2001 that terrorists were planning to use aircraft to attack American cities.IndependentThe Treasury Department indicated that scholarly publications might be able to edit articles produced by evil countries such as Iran, Cuba, Libya, or North Korea without risking fines of up to $500,000 and ten years in prison.New York TimesRussia’s parliament agreed to amend a bill that would have banned almost all public demonstrations.New York TimesBudapest decided to revoke Joseph Stalin’s honorary citizenship, andAssociated PressSerbia’s parliament agreed to pay salaries and benefits to Slobodan Milosevic and other war criminals.Associated Press

The Department of Homeland Security announced that visitors from Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Japan, Australia, and 21 other countries will be photographed and fingerprinted when they enter the United States.New York TimesThe International Boundary Commission warned that the U.S.-Canadian border is becoming overgrown and could be lost in some places.New York TimesBulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined NATO; Russia was unhappy about NATO forces creeping so close to its border.New York TimesTreasury Secretary John Snow said that “outsourcing” of American jobs makes the American economy stronger.Cincinnati EnquirerThe trial of L. Dennis Kozlowski and Mark H. Swartz, the former CEO and CFO of Tyco International, ended in a mistrial.New York TimesMicrosoft and Sun Microsystems made peace.New York TimesThe founder of Ikea, the Swedish furniture company, denied that he is now the world’s richest man, and scientistsAssociated Pressfound that purebred dogs really do resemble their owners but that mutts do not.New ScientistA brawl broke out at an anger-management seminar at a high school in Maryland.Baltimore SunIt was reported that the U.S. government’s main laboratory for mad-cow testing, which is located in an Iowa strip mall, is not secure enough to store dangerous pathogens.ReutersPrime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand made his 17-year-old daughter get a job at a McDonald’s in Bangkok.ReutersTwo street children in Zimbabwe were arrested after they stole 100 million Zimbabwe dollars (about $23,000) and bought food, clothing, and household goods for other street children.New York TimesAngola was planning to outlaw genetically engineered cereals, which would jeopardize a United Nations program that feeds 2 million people.New York TimesAn Australian inventor created an electronic gun that can fire one million rounds per minute, and aAustralian ITJapanese robot conducted the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.New Scientist A new study found that toddlers who watch too much television are more likely to have a hard time concentrating by age seven; anotherSeattle Post-Intelligencerstudy found that preschoolers are the fastest growing market for antidepressant drugs.Express ScriptsVillagers in Romania were having trouble with vampires.Seattle Times

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It has become something of a commonplace to say that Mike Pence belongs to another era. He is a politician whom the New York Times has called a “throwback,” a “conservative proudly out of sync with his times,” and a “dangerous anachronism,” a man whose social policies and outspoken Christian faith are so redolent of the previous century’s culture wars that he appeared to have no future until, in the words of one journalist, he was plucked “off the political garbage heap” by Donald Trump and given new life. Pence’s rise to the vice presidency was not merely a personal advancement; it marked the return of religion and ideology to American politics at a time when the titles of political analyses were proclaiming the Twilight of Social Conservatism (2015) and the End of White Christian America (2016). It revealed the furious persistence of the religious right, an entity whose final demise was for so long considered imminent that even as white evangelicals came out in droves to support the Trump-Pence ticket, their enthusiasm was dismissed, in the Washington Post, as the movement’s “last spastic breath.”

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Just after dawn in Lhamo, a small town on the northeastern corner of the Tibetan Plateau, horns summon the monks of Serti Monastery to prayer. Juniper incense smolders in the temple’s courtyard as monks begin arriving in huddled groups. Some walk the kora, a clockwise circumambulation around the building. Others hustle toward the main door, which sits just inside a porch decorated in bright thangka paintings. A pile of fur boots accumulates outside. When the last monks have arrived, the horn blowers leaning out of the second-floor windows retire indoors.

When I visited Lhamo in 2015, most monks at Serti attended the morning prayers, but not Ngawang Chötar, the vice president of the monastery’s management committee, or siguanhui. Instead, he could usually be found doing business somewhere on Lhamo’s main street. Like all Tibetan monks, he sports a buzz cut, and his gait, weighed down by dark crimson robes, resembles a penguin’s shuffle. When he forgets the password to his account on WeChat, China’s popular messaging service—a frequent occurrence—he waits for the town’s cell phone repairman at his favorite restaurant, piling the shells of sunflower seeds into a tidy mound.

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As he approached his death in 1987, the photographer Peter Hujar was all but unknown, with a murky reputation and a tiny, if elite, cult following. Slowly circling down what was then the hopeless spiral of ­AIDS, Peter had ceaselessly debated one decision, which he reached only with difficulty, and only when the end drew near. He was in a hospital bed when he made his will that summer, naming me the executor of his entire artistic estate—and also its sole owner.

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Photograph by Peter Hujar
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The truth—that thing I thought I was telling.—John Ashbery To start with the facts: the chapter in my book White Sands called “Pilgrimage” is about a visit to the house where the philosopher Theodor Adorno lived in Los Angeles during the Second World War. It takes its title from the story of that name by Susan Sontag (recently republished in Debriefing: Collected Stories) about a visit she and her friend Merrill made to the house of Adorno’s fellow German exile Thomas Mann in the Pacific Palisades, in 1947, when she was fourteen. It seemed strange that the story was originally …
Photograph by Augusta Wood

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