Weekly Review — March 7, 2006, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Devil Spanker]

More than 100 people were killed in fighting in Iraq. “I think,” said the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, “the country came to the brink of civil war. But Iraqis decided that they didn’t want to go down that path.”The New York TimesThe New York TimesIn the Baghdad area, Sunni militants were evicting Shiites from their homes. “We want you out of here by 8 p.m. tomorrow,” one man was told. “If we find you here, we will kill you.”The Washington PostPresident George W. Bush said that Iraq’s choice was between “chaos or unity,”The New York Timesand it was reported that the White House had ignored repeated warnings about the growing capabilities of the Iraqi insurgency. “This was stuff,” said a former high-ranking intelligence official, “the White House and the Pentagon did not want to hear.”The U.S. State Department asked for $100 million for the reconstruction of Iraqiprisons.Democracy Now!Saddam Hussein told a court that, after a 1982 attempt to assassinate him failed in Dujail, north of Baghdad, he ordered trials for 148 Iraqis and had the local orchards razed. Hussein insisted that his actions were lawful; all of those tried were later executed or tortured to death.The Washington PostOnly 75 psychiatrists remained in Iraq.Democracy Now!In Pakistan, four people, including a U.S. diplomat, were killed in a suicide bombing.The New York TimesThe European Union approved a $140 million aid package for Palestine.BBC NewsIn France far-right groups were criticized for serving pork soup to the poor with the intent of discriminating against observant Muslims and Jews. “We are all pig eaters!” chanted a crowd of soup activists. “We are all pig eaters!”The New York TimesAn Italian commission found that the Soviet Union organized the shooting of Pope John Paul II in 1981.A videotape emerged showing President Bush being warned that Hurricane Katrina could flood New Orleans,AP via Yahoo! Newsand it was revealed that the Bush Administration had lowered the fines for mine safety violations and failed to collect nearly one half of the fines levied.The New York TimesPresident Bush’s approval rating fell to 34 percent,CBS Newsand Vice President Dick Cheney’s approval rating fell to 18 percent.CBS NewsBush proposed legislation to give the President a line-item veto, even though the Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that a line-item veto was unconstitutional, The New York Timesand it was rumored that Cheney would retire in 2007.Insight on the News

A physicist at Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam, India, speculated that the “red rain” that fell in the Kerala district of western India in 2001 was filled with extraterrestrial, bacteria-like material from a passing comet.The GuardianPresident Bush, after a brief stop in Afghanistan, visited India, where he was met by 100,000 protesters in New Delhi; he promised to provide India with nuclear fuel and expertise.Democracy Now!CNN.comAt least 65 dogs in the President’s security detail were put up at a five-star hotel in New Delhi; hotel staff were told to address the dogs as “sergeant” or “major.”New KeralaLaura Bush counted to five on Indian children’s TV. “She loved Boombah,” said an official from a television studio, “the giant, cuddly, Punjabi-rapping lion.”Express IndiaCondoleezza Rice appeared on television lifting weights and stretching at the gym. “You’d be surprised,” she said, “how many places around the world have gyms or exercise machines.”NBC News via WonketteIt was reported that U.S. prisons often shackle women prisoners during childbirth,The New York Daily Newsand a study found that laws requiring minors to obtain parental consent before receiving an abortion have had almost no effect on the number of abortions performed. “I would have told my mother anyway,” said a 16-year-old abortionee in Pennsylvania.The New York TimesWal-Mart announced that it would begin to sell the morning-after pill, but would not require pharmacists to fill prescriptions if the pill offends them.The New York TimesIn Vietnam musician Paul Gadd, also known as Gary Glitter, was found guilty of sexually abusing two preteen girls. He will be jailed for three years and must pay the girls’ families 5 million dong.BBC News

AT&T announced that it would purchase Bell South for $67 billion and eliminate 10,000 jobs.The New York TimesA cat died of bird flu in Germany. The New York TimesScientists, some funded by the U.S. military, continued their research into controlling the brains of monkeys and sharks. “We believe,” said a researcher at the University of Washington, Seattle, “we are the first to record neural activity from a monkey doing a somersault.”New ScientistResearchers in Chicago verified that a quantum computer does not have to perform any calculations in order to arrive at results. Science NewsA Rhode Island man who attempted to pay down a large balance on his JCPenney charge card was told that the payment would be delayed because it first had to be approved by Homeland Security.The Providence JournalThe Senate renewed the Patriot Act and sent it to the House; the House is expected to pass the legislation soon.MSNBCFormer U.S. Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham was sentenced to eight years, four months in federal prison for accepting bribes,CNN.comand the Pentagon released the names of the inmates at Guantánamo Bay as part of 5,000 pages of hearing transcripts; one man, Abdur Sayed Rahman, a Pakistani chicken farmer, was apparently held because his name was similar to that of Taliban deputy minister Abdur Zahid Rahman.ABC NewsThe Kenyan government raided a newspaper that had been critical of government corruption, along with an affiliated TV station. “If you rattle a snake,” said Internal Security Minister John Michuki, “you must be prepared to be bitten by it.”BBC NewsIn Columbus, Ohio, a 54-year-old man was in jail after being caught hiding in bathrooms to collect the urine of adolescent boys. “I’m drinking their youth,” he explained.WJACTV.comThe White House announced that it would step up its efforts to control leaks.The Washington PostAuthor Octavia Butler died,The Los Angeles Timesand a Britishastronomer named Gerry Gilmore predicted that ground-based telescopes would be useless within 40 years because of climate change and jet contrails. “You either give up your cheap trips to Majorca,” he said, “or you give up astronomy.”BBC NewsIn Nassau County, New York, a newborn baby was run over by several different vehicles; its sex and race could not be determined.The New York TimesGlobal warming forced the organizers of Alaska’s Iditarod dogsledrace to move the race 30 miles north,Reutersand investigators found that termites had survived the flooding of New Orleans.Reuters via Yahoo! News

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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.

The exterior of my hermitage was washed the color of runny egg yolk. Two redwood French doors with plexiglass windows hung cockeyed from creaky hinges at the entrance, and a combination lock provided meager security against intruders. White beadboard capped the roof, its brim shading a front porch set on cinder blocks.

After living on the East Coast for eight years, I’d recently left New York City to take a job at an investigative reporting magazine in San Francisco. If it seems odd that I was a fully employed editor who lived in a thirty-two-square-foot shack, that’s precisely the point: my situation was evidence of how distorted the Bay Area housing market had become, the brutality inflicted upon the poor now trickling up to everyone but the super-rich. The problem was nationwide, although, as Californians tend to do, they’d taken this trend to an extreme. Across the state, a quarter of all apartment dwellers spent half of their incomes on rent. Nearly half of the country’s unsheltered homeless population lived in California, even while the state had the highest concentration of billionaires in the nation. In the Bay Area, including West Oakland, where my shack was located, the crisis was most acute. Tent cities had sprung up along the sidewalks, swarming with capitalism’s refugees. Telegraph, Mission, Market, Grant: every bridge and overpass had become someone’s roof.

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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.

But somebody has slipped. The school is putting on the musical South Pacific, and there are not enough roles for the girls, and she is as tall as or taller than the boys, and so they have done what is unthinkable in this striving 1980s town, in this place where the men do the driving and the women make their mouths into perfect Os to apply lipstick in the rearview. For the musical, they have made her a boy.

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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