Weekly Review — December 7, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A grasshopper driving a chariot, 1875]

Ukraine’s Supreme Court ordered a second presidential run-off to be held by December 26 after it ruled last month’s fraud-plagued election invalid.New York TimesSupporters of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, the winner in the November 21 run-off, threatened to form a separate nation in the country’s east; theNew York Timesopposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, who promises to increase Ukraine’s ties to the West, celebrated the court’s decision with thousands of protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square. Stricken by a mysterious illness that has left his face a mask of puffy, red cysts and lesions, Yushchenko said to the crowd, “This is the face of today’s Ukraine.”New York TimesAt a Moscow airport Vladimir Putin told Ukraine’s outgoing president that new run-off elections were unnecessary, andNew York TimesRussia blocked all exports from a breakaway region of Georgia because it did not support the candidate whom the region elected.New York TimesHours before a registration deadline, Marwan Barghouti gave word from his prison cell in Israel, where he is serving five life sentences, that he would run for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority. Barghouti’s popularity among Palestinian youths has caused fears that he could siphon votes from PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas and cause a split in the Fatah Party; Palestinian leaders urged Barghouti to withdraw his candidacy, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak endorsed Abbas, and Ariel Sharon said Barghouti would be able to campaign only from behind bars.New York TimesA French court reduced a political ban on former Prime Minister Alain Juppé for illegal party financing from ten years to one, making him eligible to succeed Jacques Chirac in the 2007 presidential election, andNew York TimesColombia’s congress voted to overturn a rule that restricts presidents from running for reelection, allowing Alvaro Uribe, an ally of George W. Bush, to run again in 2006.New York TimesJesse Jackson and candidates from the Green and Libertarian parties, citing numerous voting irregularities in Ohio, demanded a recount in the state, whose voting results John Kerry conceded on the morning of November 3.The GuardianA report filed with the Federal Election Commission last week revealed that Kerry did not spend $14 million of his campaign funds, money he kept in reserve in case legal challenges or recounts became necessary.New York TimesThe number of jobs created in November was half of what analysts expected, theAPdollar continued to fall, andBBCretail sales during the Thanksgiving weekend disappointed.ReutersPresident Bush, on his first official visit to Canada, ate local beef and announced that he was “still standing,” but heNew York Timesdid not say when he would lift a U.S. ban on Canadian beef or end tariffs on the country’s timber.New York TimesCanada announced that it would no longer grant temporary work permits to foreign strippers.New York Times

A team from the Red Cross that spent much of last June at the naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, accused the U.S. military of physically and psychologically torturing its detainees there, and moreNew York Timesphotos documenting the mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq were acquired by American news sources. The pictures, many taken in the aftermath of raids, show Navy Seals abusing hooded and handcuffed men by sitting on them, holding guns to their heads, and stepping on their chests. A woman whose husband had served in Iraq had posted the pictures on a photo-sharing website, and an AP reporter found them through a Google search.APFormer head of the CIA George Tenet said it might be necessary to limit access to the Internet because terrorists could use it to attack the United States.Washington TimesSecretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson became the eighth member of Bush’s fifteen-member cabinet to resign since Election Day. At a press conference, Thompson expressed concern about the FDA’s flawed drug approval process, a possible global flu pandemic, and the vulnerability of the nation’s food supply. “For the life of me,” Thompson said, “I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it’s so easy to do.”New York TimesTom Ridge, who raised the color-coded terror alert to orange six times, announced that he would step down as secretary of homeland security. There were no terrorist attacks on U.S. soil during his tenure.New York TimesPresident Bush selected former bodyguard, undercover cop, corrections officer, and New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik to replace Ridge; Kerik has made millions of dollars in partnership with Rudolph Giuliani in a post-9/11 security consulting firm and recently has been in Iraq training its police officers.New York TimesIn attacks this weekend in and around Baghdad, Mosul, and Tikrit, insurgents killed more than eighty Iraqis, mostly security officers and those working with American authorities, and 135New York TimesAmerican soldiers died in Iraq in November, tying last April as the deadliest month for U.S. forces during the war.CNNThe U.S. ordered more than 10,000 troops to extend their tours, raising the number of soldiers in Iraq to its highest levels since last year’s invasion. “It’s mainly to provide security for the election,” a military spokesman said.New York TimesRepresentatives from forty Iraqi political parties called for the January 30 elections to be delayed.New York TimesPresident Bush announced that he would be awarding the Medal of Freedom to George Tenet, retired Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, and former Iraq viceroy L. Paul Bremer.Washington PostThe State Department was discouraging smiles on passport photos.AP

In testimony before a federal grand jury that was leaked to the press, several professional baseball players confessed to using performance-enhancing steroids. Barry Bonds, who has hit more home runs in a season than any other player, told the court that his steroid use was accidental; he believed he was rubbing flaxseed oil and arthritis ointment on his aching muscles.San Francisco ChronicleThe International Atomic Energy Agency voted to accept Iran’s promises that it was halting its nuclear weapons program, and cocaineNew York Timesand heroin prices hit a twenty year low.Knight RidderFour people who received Botox injections in south Florida were hospitalized for botulism poisoning.New York TimesBrian Williams replaced Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News.New York TimesSheriff’s deputies searched the Neverland estate for two days and took a DNA sample from inside Michael Jackson’s mouth, andAPSotheby’s announced it would auction off items from five Kennedy family homes; items to be sold include Mason jars, broken china, used records, and old magazines.New York TimesPo’ouli birds took another step toward extinction, and theNew York TimesU.S. government refused to protect sage grouse and salmon.New York TimesA British artist publicly ate a fox to protest all the attention being paid to a ban on fox hunting. “Everyone gets really worked up about a furry animal,” the performance artist said after his meal, “but no one cares about each other.”Seattle Post-IntelligencerThe U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, resigned in order to spend more time with his wife of forty-seven years.New York TimesThailand was planning to drop origami birds on three restive provinces, and the prime minister called on each of the sixty-three million Thais to make at least one paper bird; television stations showed troops busily constructing flocks of doves, cranes, and pigeons.The GuardianMudslides killed more than 1,100 in the Philippines.New York TimesIt was revealed that a Hmong who recently shot five hunters in Wisconsin is a shaman.New York TimesA twenty-four-year-old man was killed in his trailer home by an exploding lava lamp.Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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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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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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