Weekly Review — November 2, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: The pope cast into hell.]

The Bush Administration reversed itself and declared that non-Iraqis captured fighting in Iraq are not protected by the Geneva Conventions; such prisoners, it was reported, have already been transferred out of Iraq in recent months and could be taken to Egypt or Saudi Arabia where torture is more common than it is in the United States.ScotsmanFour British citizens who were held without charges in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, filed suit against Donald Rumsfeld and other senior administration officials, and claimed that they were tortured while in custody. The Pentagon responded that the men were “enemy combatants” and thus had no right to sue.ReutersA newly released document revealed that F.B.I. agents witnessed Iraqi prisoners being abused at Abu Ghraib but failed to report it because they saw nothing unusual about the abuse. One agent said that what he saw at Abu Ghraib was similar to what goes on in prisons in the United States.New York TimesA new study found that Iraqis are 58 times more likely to die a violent death than before the American invasion; the study concluded that 100,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion, and that coalition air strikes, which mostly kill women and children, were the primary cause of civilian deaths.BBCPresident Bush suggested that the missing explosives from the Al Qaqaa military facility might have been removed before the invasion, and he claimed that by criticizing him John Kerry is “denigrating the action of our troops.”Washington PostSeveral news agencies confirmed that their embedded reporters were present at the facility with American troops and that they saw boxes labeled as explosives; KSTP Television in Minneapolis broadcast footage taken at Al Qaqaa of boxes of high explosives. KSTP also photographed the seal of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which indicates that the explosives were known to be associated with Iraq’s former nuclear program.KSTP.comRudolph Giuliani went on television and said that it wasn’t the president’s fault that the Al Qaqaa explosives weren’t secured; on the contrary, he said, “the actual responsibility for it would be for the troops that were there.”NBCThe Pentagon extended the Iraq tours of 6,500 soldiers, and aNew York Timesfederal judge ordered the Defense Department to stop giving troops the anthrax vaccine and said that the Food and Drug Administration broke its own rules by approving it.Washington PostCongress approved a measure that will permit soldiers and their families to seek reimbursement for combat equipment, such as body armor, that they have purchased with their own money.New York TimesU.S. forces were preparing for another large military assault on Falluja, and nearby Ramadi was said to be “slipping into chaos.”New York TimesOsama bin Laden released a new video message and said that it was U.S. foreign policy, particularly U.S. support for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, that led him to plan the September 11 attacks. “Bush says and claims that we hate freedom, let him tell us then, ‘Why did we not attack Sweden?'”CNNBush-Cheney campaign officials were happy to hear from Osama: “We want people to think ‘terrorism‘ for the last four days,” said one. Another said that “anything that makes people nervous about their personal safety helps Bush.”NY Daily News

Voter suppression campaigns were reportedly underway all around the country, though all indications were pointing to an historically high turnout.Talking Points MemoWisconsin Republicans were trying to challenge about 37,000 voter registrations in Milwaukee, and thereJournal Sentinelwere reports of gay-marriage push polls in Michigan.Talking Points MemoIn South Carolina a letter purporting to be from the NAACP claimed that voters will be arrested at the polls if they have outstanding parking tickets or child support payments and said that voters must provide a credit report, two forms of photo ID, a Social Security card, a voter registration card, and a handwriting sample.Associated PressEarly voters in Florida, especially in heavily Democratic districts, were standing in line to vote for up to six hours.Talking Points MemoBroward County’s election supervisor said that up to 15,000 absentee ballots would be resent to voters whose ballots mysteriously disappeared.New York TimesA federal judge said that political parties in Ohio may not station challengers at polling places and said that to do so would create a “substantial likelihood that significant harm will result not only to voters, but also to the voting process itself.”Associated PressA Sarasota man failed to run over Florida Republican representative Katherine Harris in his car. “I intimidated them with my car,” he said. “I was exercising my political expression.”Associated PressThe Bush Campaign was forced to withdraw an ad that had been digitally altered to increase the number of soldiers in an audience listening to the president speak.New York TimesThe IRS decided to investigate the tax-exempt status of the NAACP.New York Times

Mobs of machete-wielding Christians and Muslims were slaughtering one another in Liberia,Associated PressLatvia’s government collapsed, and thereNew York Timeswas violence between Han Chinese and Hui Muslims in central China.New York TimesA teenage suicide bomber killed three people in Tel Aviv when he set off his explosives in a vegetable stall.ReutersFidel Castro banned the U.S. dollar, andNew York TimesPakistan’s lower house of parliament passed a bill that would impose the death penalty for honor killings, which have traditionally been ignored.New York TimesGovernor Rick Perry of Texas refused to proclaim “UN Day,” and aNew York Timesnew study found that up to 21,000 people are injured every year from air rifles, paintball pistols, and BB guns.Associated PressChief Justice William Rehnquist, who underwent a tracheotomy last week, was recovering from treatment for thyroid cancer and was unable to return to work.ReutersA clinic in Cleveland was hoping to perform a face transplant using skin and the underlying fat from a donor.USA TodayScientists announced the discovery of a species of hobbit-like humans on Flores, an island 370 miles east of Bali, that lived as recently as 13,000 years ago. The adult hobbits, who apparently hunted pygmy elephants and Komodo dragons for food, were about the size of a three-year-old modern human child.National Geographic, New York TimesNew research found that it is better to be bullied for the first time as a young child than as an adolescent.New ScientistIt was discovered that the stem cell lines approved for federally funded research in the United States are tainted with mouse characteristics, theNew ScientistWorld Health Organization announced that avian flu probably has not mutated into a form that can pass from human to human, and researchersNew York Timesin South Carolina concluded that high-fat diets can cause brain damage.New ScientistYoung mice treated with Prozac, a study found, grow up to be depressed.New ScientistScientists in California successfully implanted a brain prosthesis in a dish of rat brain slices.New ScientistThe widow of former French president Francois Mitterrand auctioned off some of her designer furniture to raise money for the defense of her son Jean-Christophe, who is under investigation for selling arms illegally to Angola.New York TimesBritain’s House of Commons voted to stop calling visitors “strangers,” andAssociated PressRussia’s Federation Council ratified the Kyoto Protocol.New York TimesThe U.S. murder rate was up.New York TimesThe Boston Red Sox won the World Series.New York 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.

Illustration by Simon Pemberton
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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.

The move transformed my life and induced a seething fury in lots of decent people. I can see why. Peter did not make me his heir for any of the usual reasons. I was a good and trusted friend, but he had scads of those. I was not the first person he considered for the job, nor was I the most qualified. In fact, I was a rank amateur, and my understanding of his art was limited. I knew his photographs were stunning, often upsetting, unpredictably beautiful, distinctively his. I also knew they were under­rated and neglected. But I did not then really grasp his achievement.

Photograph by Peter Hujar
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The friendly waitress at the Pretty Prairie Steak House delivers tumblers of tap water as soon as diners take their seats. Across Main Street, the Wagon Wheel Café offers the same courtesy. Customers may also order coffee or iced tea, but it all starts at the same tap, and everyone is fine with that. This blasé attitude about drinking water surprised me: everyone in this little farm town in Reno County, Kansas, knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the liquid flowing from the municipal water tower was highly contaminated with nitrate, a chemical compound derived from fertilizer and connected to thyroid problems and various cancers. At the time I visited Pretty Prairie, last fall, nitrate levels there were more than double the federal standard for safe drinking water.

Illustration by Jen Renninger.
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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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