Weekly Review — June 13, 2006, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

United States forces succeeded in killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, with two five-hundred-pound bombs that were dropped on a safe house north of Baghdad. Zarqawi reportedly survived the bombing at first and even tried to get away but was strapped to a stretcher, where he died. The U.S. military denied reports that American soldiers had beaten the dying terrorist. “He died while American soldiers were attempting to save his life,” said General George Casey. Al Qaeda promised to respond with “major attacks.”New York TimesBloombergNew York TimesTom DeLay, the former Republican majority leader who was forced to resign because he is corrupt, said farewell to the House of Representatives. Dozens of Democrats walked out during his speech. “I did a good job,” DeLay said. “I helped build the largest political coalition in the last 50 years.”UPITexasexecuted an axe murderer, andReutersit was reported that scientists have created a new type of synthetic snakebite antivenom.New ScientistFlorida’swildlife officials decided to remove the manatee, which has a mild taste that readily adapts itself to recipes for beef, from the state’s endangered-species list.New York TimesA new Gallup poll found that Muslim women are generally happy with their lot and think that Western values lead to moral decay, pornography, and promiscuity.Washington TimesNew computer viruses were exploiting World Cup fever,The Business Onlineand Britishscientists claimed that men drink heavily at sporting events in order to compensate for their masculine shortcomings.Economic & Social Research Council

President George W. Bush traveled to Artesia, New Mexico, to address the Border Patrol Academy and suggested that immigrants had better learn to speak good American. “I knew I was in pretty good country when I saw all the cowboy hats,” he said. “And I think I saw one guy spitting in a can.”San Francisco ChronicleThree detainees at the American prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, committed suicide using nooses made from clothing and bedsheets. “They have no regard for human life, neither ours nor their own,” said Navy Rear-Admiral Harry Harris. “I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us.” All three men had been in the camp for about four years and had recently engaged in a hunger strike.ScotsmanThe attorney for Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, one of the marines charged with the Haditha massacre, asserted that the massacre, though “tragic,” was nonetheless “lawful” and was the result of following “the rules of engagement and standard protocol.”Associated PressIt was reported that the Pentagon has decided to remove a reference to Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions from a new edition of the Army Field Manual on interrogation. That article bans torture and cruel treatment as well as “outrages on personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.” The change, which would reverse decades of military policy, follows President Bush‘s declaration in 2002 that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to “unlawful combatants” such as terrorists.Los Angeles TimesA report by the Council of Europe charged that European countries (including Germany,Spain,Sweden,Greece, and Italy) served as a “global spider web” for the CIA’s secret abduction and unlawful transfer of terrorism suspects to its network of torture camps around the world.New York TimesThe United States issued a report on the global sex trade and rebuked Germany for being “a source, transit, and destination country” for prostitutes.New York TimesDonald Rumsfeld, the American secretary of defense, traveled to Vietnam, where he complained that Russia is a bully and China is secretive; he also observed that when Vietnam’s first university was founded in 1070 American Indians were still living in mud huts. “That’s impressive,” he said.New York TimesIndonesia’s defense minister scolded Rumsfeld for being overbearing.New York TimesPresident Vladimir Putin of Russia had lunch with Henry Kissinger, who said afterward that he has confidence in “Russian evolution.” “What if my grandmother had certain sexual attributes?” Putin asked a reporter. “Then she would would be my grandfather.” New York TimesA new study found that the quality of men’s sperm deteriorates as they grow older and could lead to an increase in dwarf babies.AP

Armed gunmen abducted more than 50 bystanders at a Baghdad bus stop, and it was announced that May was the deadliest month for Baghdad residents since the beginning of the American occupation. A total of 1,398 bodies were found throughout the city, alongside roads, in garbage dumps, and in abandoned cars, though many others have been abducted, never to be seen again.Los Angeles TimesBritish special forces were being trained to use strap-on “batwings” rather than parachutes; the lightweight carbon wings permit the soldiers to be dropped at high altitudes and then glide for more than 100 miles before landing.Daily MailThe Senate failed to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage,Globe and Mailand Macy’s removed two gay-pride mannequins from a Boston display window after the store received complaints.Boston HeraldIt was reported that the United States carried out 750 air strikes in Afghanistan last month and thatFox Newsplans were being made to send United Nations troops to Darfur.UN.orgSerbia declared itself to be a sovereign state.Associated PressJavier Solana, Europe’s foreign-policy director, formally offered Iran a package of incentives designed to persuade the Islamic state to give up its nuclear ambitions; that same day, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran restarted its uranium-enrichment program.New York TimesNew York TimesAn Israeli artillery shell killed at least seven civilians, including five members of one family (including young children aged ten, three, and one) who were picnicking on a beach in Gaza. Israeli officials expressed regret and said that the shell had been aimed at a target 400 yards away from the picnic. Hamas declared that it would no longer abide by a 16-month-old cease-fire and fired a rocket into Israel.New York TimesThe Army Corps of Engineers admitted that its incompetence was largely to blame for the destruction of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.New York TimesThe Food and Drug Administration asked restaurants to help Americans eat less. “We must take a serious look at the impact these foods are having on our waistlines,” said a health-promotion official named Penelope Slade Royall.MSNBCWhole Foods was concerned about the well-being of its fresh lobsters, andNew York Timesthe New York Times reported that tar-paper shacks have been selling briskly in South African shanty towns.New York TimesA group of high school students in Florida found a real corpse at a fake crime scene.ReutersAmerican conservationists were airlifting endangered frogs out of Panama in their luggage.New York TimesSurgeons in Shanghai successfully removed a baby boy’s third arm.AP

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“You’re being reborn,” the voice says. “Exiting the womb of your mother. Coming into the earth as a small baby. Everything is new.” It is a Saturday morning in mid-March, and right now I’m lying on a yoga mat in a lodge in Ohio, surrounded by fifty other men who’ve come to the Midwest for a weekend of manhood-confirming adventures. The voice in question belongs to Aaron Blaine, a facilitator for Evryman, the men’s group orchestrating this three-day retreat. All around me, men are shedding tears as Blaine leads us on a guided meditation, a kind of archetypal montage of Norman Rockwell boyhood. “You’re starting to figure things out,” he says, in somniferous baritone. “Snow, for the first time. Sunshine. Start to notice the smells, the tastes, the confusion. The fear. And you’re growing. You’re about ten years old. The world’s huge and scary.”

Even though it’s only the second day of the Evryman retreat, it’s worth noting that I’ve already been the subject of light fraternal teasing. Already I’ve been the recipient of countless unsought hugs. Already I have sat in Large Groups and Small Groups, and watched dozens of middle-aged men weep with shame and contrition. I’ve had a guy in the military tell me he wants to be “a rock for his family.” I’ve heard a guy from Ohio say that his beard “means something.” Twice I’ve hiked through the woods to “reconnect with Mother Nature,” and I have been addressed by numerous men as both “dude” and “brother.” I have performed yoga and yard drills and morning calisthenics. I’ve heard seven different men play acoustic guitar. I’ve heard a man describe his father by saying, “There wasn’t a lot of ball-tossing when I was growing up.” Three times I’ve been queried about how I’m “processing everything,” and at the urinal on Friday night, two men warned me about the upcoming “Anger Ceremony,” which is rumored to be the weekend’s “pièce de résistance.”

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The WASP story is personal for me. I arrived at Yale in 1971 from a thoroughly mediocre suburb in New Jersey, the second-generation hybrid of Irish and Italian stock riding the postwar boom. Those sockless people in Top-Siders, whose ancestors’ names and portraits adorned the walls, were entirely new to me. I made friends with some, but I was not free of a corrosive envy of their habitus of ease and entitlement.

I used to visit one of those friends in the Hamptons, in the 1970s, when the area was about wood-paneled Ford station wagons, not Lamborghinis. There was some money in the family, but not gobs, yet they lived two blocks from the beach—prime real estate. Now, down the road from what used to be their house is the residence of Ira Rennert. It’s one of the largest private homes in the United States. The union-busting, pension-fund-looting Rennert, whose wealth comes from, among other things, chemical companies that are some of the worst polluters in the country, made his first money in the 1980s as a cog in Michael Milken’s junk-bond machine. In 2015, a court ordered him to return $215 million he had appropriated from one of his companies to pay for the house. One-hundred-car garages and twenty-one (or maybe twenty-nine) bedrooms don’t come cheap.

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I slept for a good seven hours on the overnight flight from Spain to Peru, and while I slept I dreamed that I was leading American visitors around a park in Berlin, looking for birds on a hazy, overcast day. There wasn’t much to see until we noticed a distant commotion in the sky. Large raptors were panicking, driven back and forth by something threatening them from above. The commotion moved closer. The clouds parted, an oval aperture backed with blue. In it two seraphim hovered motionless. “Those are angels,” I told the group.

They were between us and the sun, but an easy ­I.D. Size aside, no other European bird has two sets of wings. The upper wings cast their faces into shadow. Despite the glare I could make out their striking peaches-­and-­cream coloration. Ivory white predominates, hair a faint yellow, eyes blue, wings indescribably iridescent. Faces blank and expressionless, as with all birds.

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Last May, the families of students at Cypress Academy, an independent charter school in New Orleans, received an email announcing that the school would close when classes ended the following week and that all its students would be transferred to another nearby charter for the upcoming year. Parents would have the option of entering their children in the city’s charter-enrollment lottery, but the lottery’s first round had already taken place, and the most desirable spots for the fall were filled.

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how high? that high

He had his stick that was used mostly to point at your head if your head wasn’t held up proudly.

I still like that man—Holger! He had been an orphan!

He came up to me once because there was something about how I was moving my feet that wasn’t according to the regulations or his expectations.

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