Weekly Review — August 24, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A grasshopper driving a chariot, 1875]

Senator Pat Roberts, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, proposed eliminating the CIA, removing the National Security Agency from the Pentagon’s control, and creating three new spy agencies governed by a national intelligence director.New York TimesThe American Civil Liberties Union warned that the federal government has been using corporations to carry out surveillance of citizens because private firms are not subject to many privacy and civil-liberties laws.WiredSenator Ted Kennedy confirmed that he had been placed on the federal “no-fly” list designed to prevent terrorists from boarding commercial aircraft.ReutersOil prices rose above $49.Agence France-PresseThe U.S. Army announced that it will withhold 15 percent of the fees billed by the Halliburton Company but almost immediately decided to “withhold” the decision pending further review.New York TimesPresident Bush was concerned about the “Soviet dinar,” andAgence France-PressePresident Silvio Berlusconi of Italy underwent a hair transplant.TelegraphGerman men were being admonished to pee sitting down by a gadget called the WC ghost; when the device detects a lifted toilet seat, it says, in German: “Hey, stand peeing (“Stehpinkeln”) is not allowed here and will be punished with fines, so if you don’t want any trouble, you’d best sit down.” It was reported that the term for a man who pees sitting down, “Sitzpinkler,” is a synonym for “wimp.”Telegraph

A bioethicist writing in The Lancet called for an investigation into the role of doctors and nurses in the torture program that was exposed at Abu Ghraib; he cited evidence that doctors or medics covered up the abuse by falsifying death certificates and actively participated by reviving unconscious prisoners.Associated PressTwenty-seven inmates of the county jail in Clearwater, Florida, who were released so that they could flee Hurricane Charley were still at large; 256 inmates were let out of jail but most returned in four days as instructed.WTSP TampaThere was a prison uprising in Olmito, Texas.Associated PressMoktada al-Sadr refused to disarm the Mahdi Army,Washington Postbombs went off at United Nations voter registration offices in Afghanistan, andAssociated PressKathmandu was being blockaded by Maoist rebels.Associated PressAn audit by international observers confirmed that Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez fairly won the referendum on his rule.ReutersA 57-year-old partially deaf Texan veteran with skin cancer was called up to report for active duty.The MonitorThe Sierra Club released a report denouncing the Bush Administration for lying about the risks posed by the smoke and dust in lower Manhattan after 9/11; the EPA was aware of the risks, from asbestos, concrete dust, glass fibers, and other substances, by September 27 but continued to claim that the air was safe.NewsdayJohn Kerry’s war record continued to excite controversy.Washington PostPresident Bush said that he opposes “legacy” admissions to colleges and universities, andAssociated Pressan Australian drunk ate a cup of maggots, a pint of anchovies, drank a pint of mouthwash, and chewed off a mouse’s tail in a pub competition.BBCPeople were still starving in North Korea.BBC

A British scientist warned that a gigantic section of La Palma island in the Canaries is poised to fall into the ocean, an event that would trigger “mega-tsunamis” 50 to 100 meters high that will crash into Africa’s west coast, the Caribbean, and the eastern United States.GuardianTwenty people were stuck on a roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park after a power outage; eight people were stuck upside down.CBS 2 New YorkDemographers said that Japan’s population could decline 20 percent by 2050.CNNA 105-pound woman in Kennebunk, Maine, ate 38 lobsters (9.76 pounds of meat) in 12 minutes and won the World Lobster Eating Contest.Associated PressA new survey found that about 10 percent of the world’s food crops are irrigated with sewage.New ScientistChildren living next to gas stations, a French study found, are four times more likely to develop leukemia.New ScientistKorean researchers found that leukemia deaths are 70 percent higher among people who live near AM radio broadcasting towers.WiredA new report concluded that deaths from brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and motor neurone disease have tripled in the last 20 years.GuardianEdvard Munch’s The Scream was stolen by armed robbers from a crowded museum in Oslo, Norway.ReutersThe European Environment Agency said that winters on the continent could disappear by 2080.ReutersScience labs were experiencing a monkey shortage.New ScientistHippos were dying in Uganda.Agence France-Presse

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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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