Weekly Review — July 20, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Calvin Burning, 1875]

The United Nations continued to issue warnings about the ongoing genocide in Sudan, where Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, have been slaughtering and raping black farmers in Darfur; more than one million people have fled their homes and hundreds of thousands of refugees could soon die of cholera and other diseases.Reuters, Associated PressA court in southern Darfur sentenced ten Janjaweed fighters to have their left hands and right feet amputated; the Sudanese ambassador in London denied that his government was supporting the militias.BBCYasir Arafat rejected the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, and the Palestinian National Security Council declared a state of emergency after militants seized several security officials and four French charity workers.Associated PressThe Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades assassinated an Israeli judge.ReutersA Sunni cleric in Ramadi declared a holy war on American forces.Agence France-PresseIraqi militants killed the governor of Mosul in an ambush, andReutersIraq’s justice minister narrowly escaped when a suicide car bomber attacked a convoy in Baghdad.ReutersAn audit of the Coalition Provisional Authority found that American officials did not know how much oil Iraq was producing or how oil revenues were being spent, andUSA TodayPhilippine forces were withdrawn from the country in response to the kidnapping of a truck driver. The Bush Administration was not pleased.CNNMike Ditka, the former coach of the Chicago Bears football team, said that he might make a run for the Senate, andReutersGovernor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California called his Democratic opponents “girlie men.”New York Times

The United Nations estimated that southern Africa will have 50 million AIDS orphans by 2010, and the World Bank reported that only 700,000 orphans receive support from AIDS resources.New ScientistMexico’s attorney general was implanted with computer chips that broadcast his location and his identity; security experts said that publicly revealing the existence of the location chip was unwise, since kidnappers could simply remove the chip.AnanovaCanadian patients were complaining about the quality of government-grown pot.Canadian PressCharges were dismissed against a Texas woman who holds “Tupperware-type” parties for housewives interested in buying dildos.Associated PressMartha Stewart was sentenced to five months in prison, andAssociated PressCondoleezza Rice said that there was no plan to cancel the November presidential elections.Associated PressGraduate students at the University of North Carolina discovered that 75 percent of the fish sold as red snapper was some other kind of fish.University of North CarolinaA first draft of the doggenome was released.NIHSenator John Kerry promised to double the number of American spies.Reuters

The Los Alamos National Laboratory suspended all classified research after it was discovered that two computer disks had been lost.Los Angeles TimesThe inspector general of the USDA said that the agency’s mad-cow surveillance system is weak, that the testing is not random, that it fails to require rendering plants to participate, and that it is based on flawed, unscientific assumptions.Seattle TimesA runaway cement truck killed 17 guests at a wedding party in Java, Indonesia.Straits TimesResearchers found that east Asians are not naturally nearsighted.New ScientistA large survey by the British Ministry of Health of male Gulf War veterans found that they suffer significant fertility problems.New ScientistA mule reportedly gave birth in Bhutan.AnanovaThe Senate killed a proposal for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, andNew York TimesBoston Scientific Corporation recalled 85,000 drug-coated heart stents.ReutersPublic-health experts said that 40 percent of the residents of Los Angeles County get no more than 10 minutes of exercise per week.Center for the Advancement of HealthResearchers in Montreal found that people who go blind as infants have better pitch than sighted people.ReutersPacific Gas & Electric revealed that it lost three segments of a used nuclear fuel rod.ReutersBritain’s Science Museum was thinking about using visitors’ excrement to cut down on its electricity bills.ReutersA study found that children who watch two hours of TV a night risk becoming fat smokers with high cholesterol.Associated PressSome drug companies were thinking about banning people who respond to placebos from clinical trials.New ScientistA plague of locusts was massing in Africa.New ScientistScientists said that they could estimate how many years a woman has left before the onset of menopause by using a technique called transvaginal sonography.New ScientistIn Florida, a man was accused of beating his girlfriend with a pet alligator.IndependentA British man was jailed for shooting off his testicles.Reuters

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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.”

Even though it’s only the second day of the Evryman retreat, it’s worth noting that I’ve already been the subject of light fraternal teasing. Already I’ve been the recipient of countless unsought hugs. Already I have sat in Large Groups and Small Groups, and watched dozens of middle-aged men weep with shame and contrition. I’ve had a guy in the military tell me he wants to be “a rock for his family.” I’ve heard a guy from Ohio say that his beard “means something.” Twice I’ve hiked through the woods to “reconnect with Mother Nature,” and I have been addressed by numerous men as both “dude” and “brother.” I have performed yoga and yard drills and morning calisthenics. I’ve heard seven different men play acoustic guitar. I’ve heard a man describe his father by saying, “There wasn’t a lot of ball-tossing when I was growing up.” Three times I’ve been queried about how I’m “processing everything,” and at the urinal on Friday night, two men warned me about the upcoming “Anger Ceremony,” which is rumored to be the weekend’s “pièce de résistance.”

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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.

I used to visit one of those friends in the Hamptons, in the 1970s, when the area was about wood-paneled Ford station wagons, not Lamborghinis. There was some money in the family, but not gobs, yet they lived two blocks from the beach—prime real estate. Now, down the road from what used to be their house is the residence of Ira Rennert. It’s one of the largest private homes in the United States. The union-busting, pension-fund-looting Rennert, whose wealth comes from, among other things, chemical companies that are some of the worst polluters in the country, made his first money in the 1980s as a cog in Michael Milken’s junk-bond machine. In 2015, a court ordered him to return $215 million he had appropriated from one of his companies to pay for the house. One-hundred-car garages and twenty-one (or maybe twenty-nine) bedrooms don’t come cheap.

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I slept for a good seven hours on the overnight flight from Spain to Peru, and while I slept I dreamed that I was leading American visitors around a park in Berlin, looking for birds on a hazy, overcast day. There wasn’t much to see until we noticed a distant commotion in the sky. Large raptors were panicking, driven back and forth by something threatening them from above. The commotion moved closer. The clouds parted, an oval aperture backed with blue. In it two seraphim hovered motionless. “Those are angels,” I told the group.

They were between us and the sun, but an easy ­I.D. Size aside, no other European bird has two sets of wings. The upper wings cast their faces into shadow. Despite the glare I could make out their striking peaches-­and-­cream coloration. Ivory white predominates, hair a faint yellow, eyes blue, wings indescribably iridescent. Faces blank and expressionless, as with all birds.

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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.

Founded in 2015, a decade after New Orleans became the nation’s first city to begin replacing all its public schools with charters, Cypress was something of a rarity. Like about nine in ten of the city’s charter schools, it filled spaces by lottery rather than by selective admission. But while most of the nonselective schools in New Orleans had majority populations of low-income African-American students, Cypress mirrored the city’s demographics, drawing the children of professionals—African-American and white alike—as well as poorer students. Cypress reserved 20 percent of its seats for children with reading difficulties, and it offered a progressive education model, including “learning by doing,” rather than the strict conduct codes that dominated the city’s nonselective schools. In just three years, the school had outperformed many established charters—a particular feat given that one in four Cypress students had a disability, double the New Orleans average. Families flocked to Cypress, especially ones with children who had disabilities.

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how high? that high

He had his stick that was used mostly to point at your head if your head wasn’t held up proudly.

I still like that man—Holger! He had been an orphan!

He came up to me once because there was something about how I was moving my feet that wasn’t according to the regulations or his expectations.

The room was a short wide room with a short wide window with plenty of artificial light.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

The first person awarded the title of royal consort in Thailand had her title removed for trying to “elevate herself to the same state as the queen” and “disloyalty.”

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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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