Weekly Review — April 11, 2006, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Christian martyr, 1855]

A Christian martyr.

A car bomb killed 10 people at a Shiite shrine in Najaf, Iraq, and a suicide bombing killed 85 people at a Shiite mosque in Baghdad. BBC NewsThe U.S. military announced that 1,313 Iraqi civilians had been killed in the sectarian violence of March. “Civil war,” said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, “has almost started among Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, and those who are coming from Asia.”BBC NewsChron.comThe case against Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, an Iraqi cameraman for CBS who was arrested in April 2005 after filming the wreckage of a car bomb, was finally dismissed for lack of evidence.ABC NewsThe Bush Administration continued to plan a major air attack on Iran; a highly placed government consultant said that President George W. Bush believes that “saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”The New YorkerDoctors in London reported that a man who has taken 40,000 doses of Ecstasy was having trouble with his short-term memory.The GuardianA physicist in Connecticut was looking for funding for time-travel experiments. His proposed machine, he said, “uses light in the form of circulating lasers to warp or loop time.”PhysOrg.comA chiropractor in Ohio was in trouble for telling his patients that he could cure their ills by traveling back in time to when the injury occurred (a practice he calls “Bahlaqeem”), MSNBCand a Swedish doctor in Norway was fired for using an “anal massage” technique to cure different kinds of pain, such as headaches. “I am different,” explained the doctor.The LocalDoctors reattached a section of Ariel Sharon’s skull.The New York TimesThe Massachusetts legislature voted to make health insurance mandatory for all state residents by July 2007.The New York TimesAustralia agreed to sell uranium to China,The Australianand an Australian nudist, attempting to kill a spider, suffered burns over 18 percent of his body after he poured gasoline into the spider’s hole and lit a match.The Sydney Morning Herald

A translation of the Gnostic Gospel of Judas was released. In the text, originally written in Greek and translated into Coptic around 300 A.D., Jesus Christ asks his favorite disciple Judas Iscariot to turn him over to the Romans for sacrifice.The New York TimesIt emerged that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby told a grand jury that when he leaked classified information favorable to the case for war in Iraq to New York Times reporter Judith Miller, he was acting under the specific authorization of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Bush authorized the leak even though the intelligence in question (regarding Saddam Hussein’snuclear ambitions) was considered unreliable by key administration members such as then Secretary of State Colin Powell.The New York TimesAn independent study of AIDS in Africa, funded by an international consortium and performed in partnership with Johns Hopkins University, found that 3 percent of Rwandans age 15 to 49 are infected with HIV, a much lower figure than the 30 percent estimated by some researchers or the 13 percent estimated by the United Nations. Infection rates, the study found, were similarly overstated throughout East and West Africa, although in southern Africa the rate of infection remained extremely high: for example, 34.9 percent of Botswanans in the 15 to 49 age group are infected with HIV. “From a research point of view,” a British economist said of UNAIDS, “they’ve done a pathetic job.”The Washington PostThe 7,000-man African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur was under investigation for raping and abusing local women and girls.The New York TimesA whistleblower accused AT&T of providing the NSA with full access to customer phone calls and Internet usage records.Wired NewsGermanscientists announced that cells from mice testes can act like embryonic stem cells; a private company in California said that it had achieved similar results with cells from human testes, and that it had grown new brain, heart, and bone cells from the human testes cells.CBS NewsReutersFirst Lady Laura Bush welcomed 51 egg artists to the White House for the annual egg display.New KeralaKatie Couric announced that she would leave NBC’s “Today” show to become the anchor of “The CBS Evening News,”The New York Timesand a dead, noseless, cyclops kitten was sold to a creationist museum in New York.KSAT.comPaleontologists announced that they had discovered a 375-million-year-old fossil in Canada that they believe is the “missing link” between water-dwelling and land-dwelling animals.Practical fishkeepingScientists in Brazil discovered a new species of tube-snouted ghost knifefish.Practical fishkeepingIn China a woman was selected from 70 volunteers to live for seven days in a cage with Internet access and 300 birds,All Headline Newsand three New York women were suing a plastic surgeon for making their breasts too large.All Headline News

It was announced that Slobodan Milosevic had died of natural causes.The New York TimesIn North Carolina, Duke University cancelled its lacrosse season after an African-American stripper was allegedly gang-raped by white lacrosse-team members. Soon after the allegations emerged, Duke lacrosse player Ryan McFadyen sent an email to fellow team members inviting them to another party featuring strippers. “i plan on killing the bitches as soon as the walk in,” he wrote, “and proceding to cut their skin off while cumming in my duke issue spandex.”The Smoking GunCalifornia legislators were considering a law that would make it a significant crime for a murderer to rape a victim’s corpse; corpse rapists currently receive only 16 months of prison time for that portion of their crimes.RecordNet.comSomeone was mutilating and killing the dogs of Superior Township, Michigan,WHIO-TVand former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R., Tex.) announced that he would not run for reelection to Congress. “I’ve never done anything in my political career,” said DeLay, “for my own personal gain.”TimeResearchers in Connecticut said that global warming has led to a massive decline in the lobster population of the Long Island Sound; however, if the polar ice caps melt and sea levels rise 30 feet, colder water might bring the lobsters back.The Stamford AdvocateCTV.caChicago Sun-TimesPolls found that while only 36 percent of Americans worry a great deal about global warming, 90 percent were prepared to fight its effects by caulking.Jurnalo.comMany scientists said that it was too late to stop climate change and that the earth was “past the point of no return.” “We are looking for the devil,” said a geochemist, “and we have found ourselves.”Jurnalo.comThe Stamford AdvocateThe Connecticut Post

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I.

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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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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