Weekly Review — December 19, 2006, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Tempest, December 1878]

In Baghdad, at a gathering place for poor Shiite laborers, the owner of a truck filled with wheat announced that he was looking for workers. A crowd gathered around the truck and it exploded, killing 70 people and wounding 236.NYTIt was revealed that billions of dollars in Iraqi oil revenues had not been spent, and the head of Iraq’s Commission on Public Integrity was accused of graft.NYTOutgoing Representative Cynthia McKinney (D., Ga.) introduced a bill to impeach President George W. Bush for misleading Congress on the war in Iraq and implementing an illegal domestic spying program.Newsvine.comPresident Bush said that any new strategy for Iraq would have to wait until early next year.NYTDonald Rumsfeld gave a farewell speech in which he warned that the threat of terrorism is not gone. “Not once, in public or in private,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace about Rumsfeld, “did I ever hear this man try to shift responsibility to anyone else but himself.”MonstersandCritics.comThe Taliban established a “mini-state” in Peshawar.NYT

A study found that standard-sized condoms were too large for the men of India.SlateThe National Institutes of Health said that circumcision is an effective method to limit heterosexual transmission of HIV,MSNBCbut Kevin De Cock, HIV/AIDS director of the World Health Organization, warned that circumcision was “not a magic bullet.”BBCAn Oregon fraternity brother shot a homeless man who was collecting cans behind the frat house,local6.coma hunter in Wisconsin shot a seven-legged deer,Yahoo Newsand a Texas lawmaker introduced legislation that would allow the blind to participate in “the fun of hunting.”Reuters via YahooNewsThe Marine Corps ordered a sergeant to call off an online auction that gave the highest bidder the right to rename him; bids included “King Taco” and “Sgt. Finest Freshest Fastest.”NYTThe governor of Alaska announced she would sell a private jet that had been used for state business on eBay,Bloombergand federal investigators announced that airline pilots should follow procedures to make sure their airplanes take off on the right runway.NYTSeattle-Tacoma International Airport removed fourteen Christmas trees after a local rabbi threatened a lawsuit if officials did not add an eight-foot menorah to the arrangement,Seattle Timesand Iran held a conference to examine whether the Holocaust happened.AP via CBSPaul Barnes, a senior pastor at a 2,100-member evangelical megachurch in Colorado, stepped down after admitting to sexual relations with men, Denver Postand Dr. Tony Campolo, a Baptist minister and professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University in Pennsylvania, said that evangelicals had been “very, very mean to the gay and lesbian community.” NYTAn international war crimes court sentenced a Rwandan Roman Catholic priest to 15 years in prison for ordering his church crushed by bulldozers while 2,000 ethnic Tutsi remained inside,NYTand former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, who is said to have strangled Emperor Haile Selassie with his bare hands and buried him under a toilet, was convicted of genocide by an Ethiopian court.NYT

The pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly was found to have downplayed the health risks of Zyprexa, its best-selling medication for schizophrenia.NYTBritishgeneticists investigating the case of a 10-year-old Pakistani boy who could walk on burning coals announced that they had discovered a gene that influences the perception of pain. They could not examine the boy directly because he had died after leaping off a roof to impress his friends.NYTThe NBA decided to replace its new microfiber composite basketball with the previous leather version after players complained about the new ball’s grip and the way it hurt their skin. Ralph Nader, calling himself “an advocate for all workers, no matter their salary,” wrote a letter in support of the old ball.BreitbartLA TimesThe British police concluded that Princess Diana’s death was an accident,NYTand in response to the deaths of three anorexicmodels, the fashion industry held a forum that called for internal regulation. “We would much rather come up with a way of self-policing ourselves,” said one modeling agency chief, “than have regulations rammed down our throats.”NY PostLettuce, rather than green onions, was deemed responsible for the Taco Bell E. coli outbreak; however, suggested a health official, “it would be folly at this point to drop the cheese completely.”reutersMoses Hardy, who at 113 was the second oldest man in the world and the last surviving black U.S. veteran of World War I, died in Mississippi.local6.comPolice and firefighters on Long Island rescued a veteran who had walled himself in with a seven-foot-high pile of fecal matter and other debris,NYPostand Representative Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.) said President Bush was in “deep shit.”TPM CafĂ©The baiji, a species of blind white dolphin extant for 20 million years, was declared extinct,AP via NYTand two dolphins who had swallowed toxic plastic were saved by the world’s tallest man, who used his long arms to retrieve shards from their stomachs.BBC

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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.

The room was a short wide room with a short wide window with plenty of artificial light.

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The limited edition Nike Air Max 97s, white sneakers that have holy water from the Jordan River in their soles and have frankincense-scented insoles, sold out in minutes.

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