Weekly Review — June 26, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Tempest, December 1878]

Saddam Hussein’s cousin Ali Hassan al-Majeed, also known as “Chemical Ali,” was sentenced to death for his role in Iraq’s Kurdish genocide.Reuters CanadaHamas militants released an audio recording of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in which he states, “I am sorry that the Israeli government has not shown more interest. It should meet the demands of my kidnappers so I can be released.”BBCSeven children were killed during a coalition-led airstrike in Afghanistan,.NYTand the Gaza kidnappers of Britishjournalist Alan Johnston released a video of Johnston wearing an explosives vest, which he says will be detonated if force is used to try to free him.BBCIn North Korea, 110 people foraging for gasoline were killed in an explosion at a fuel pipeline,Al Jazeeraand the North Korean government announced it would begin dismantling its nuclear program after the U.S. Treasury unfroze certain bank accounts in Macau.BloombergA Marine Corps memo, circulated after the 2005 Haditha massacre, was made public. “‘Fighting terrorists associated with Al Qaida’ is stronger language than ‘serving’,” read the memo. “The American people will side more with someone actively fighting a terrorist organization that is tied to 9/11 than with someone who is idly ‘serving,’ like in a way one ‘serves’ a casserole.”NYTIt was reported that despite the U.S. “surge,” the black-market prices in Iraq for weapons and ammunition have remained stable, indicating the failure of supposedly strengthened checkpoints. TimeThe military was concerned about a marked drop in the number of African-American recruits since the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars; “We just want to make sure,” said Marine Commandant General James Conway, “that we continue to look like America.”ABC News

Scientists called Europe’swinter of 2006 – 2007 the warmest in 700 years. New ScientistFlooding in Karachi, Pakistan, left 200 people dead and 1,000 homes destroyed,BBCand a five-acre glacial lake in the Andesvanished.AP via CNNTuna shortages were forcing Japanese chefs to consider deer and horse meat as substitutes for sushi.NYTJapan rechristened the island of Iwo Jima, made famous by World War II, with its prewar name of Iwo To.AP via CNNAuthorities in New Zealand prevented a couple from naming their baby “4real” because the name included a numeral.AP via CNNThe South African education department announced that male students may be granted paternity leave,IOL/Cape Timesand Lydia Playfoot, a 16-year-old English schoolgirl, went to the High Court to protest her school’s ban on wearing “purity rings” (used to symbolize chastity), which she characterized as discrimination against Christians.BBCNewsResearchers announced that firstborn children develop higher I.Q.s than their younger siblings,NYTand a two-year-old English girl with an I.Q. of 152 joined Mensa.AFP via YahooOne and a half million Thomas the Tank Engine toys produced in China were recalled after they were found to contain lead paint.IHTThe actress Cameron Diaz apologized for carrying a bag printed with a Maoist political slogan when she visited Peru, where up to 69,000 people died in a decade-long war between the government and Maoist rebels.BBCA study found that paying taxes activates pleasure-centers in the brain.NYTZimbabwe’s rate of inflation reached 11,000 percent and was predicted to approach 1.5 million percent by the end of the year.Guardian

The Australian government announced a ban on alcohol and pornography for Aborigines,Forbesand the Swedish government recognized that one man’s preference for heavy metal music constitutes a disability, making the man eligible for state benefits.The LocalA District of Columbia judge ruled in favor of a Washington dry cleaner in a $54 million case brought over a missing pair of pants. The plaintiff, himself an administrative law judge, was ordered to pay the dry cleaner’s court fees.AP via YahooA study found that Facebook users are wealthier and better educated than their MySpace counterparts,BBCa Minnesota man was fined $3,000 for putting dog feces in a parking ticket envelope,AP via Philly.comand in Idaho, a black Labrador drove his owner’s Chevy Impala into a river.AP via Philly.comAn eight-year-old two-headed hermaphrodite albino rat-snake named “We” died of natural causes at the City Museum in St. Louis,St. Louis Post Dispatchand Six Flags closed eight thrill rides across the country after a teenage girl in Kentucky had her feet severed on the Superman Tower of Power.AP via Wave3 Louisville, KY

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The city was not beautiful; no one made that claim for it. At the height of summer, people in suits, shellacked by the sun, moved like harassed insects to avoid the concentrated light. There was a civil war–like fracture in America—the president had said so—but little of it showed in the capital. Everyone was polite and smooth in their exchanges. The corridor between Dupont Circle and Georgetown was like the dream of Yugoslav planners: long blocks of uniform earth-toned buildings that made the classical edifices of the Hill seem the residue of ancestors straining for pedigree. Bunting, starched and perfectly ruffled in red-white-and-blue fans, hung everywhere—from air conditioners, from gutters, from statues of dead revolutionaries. Coming from Berlin, where the manual laborers are white, I felt as though I was entering the heart of a caste civilization. Untouchables in hard hats drilled into sidewalks, carried pylons, and ate lunch from metal boxes, while waiters in restaurants complimented old respectable bobbing heads on how well they were progressing with their rib eyes and iceberg wedges.

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The second-worst thing about cancer chairs is that they are attached to televisions. Someone somewhere is always at war with silence. It’s impossible to read, so I answer email, or watch some cop drama on my computer, or, if it seems unavoidable, explore the lives of my nurses. A trip to Cozumel with old girlfriends, a costume party with political overtones, an advanced degree on the internet: they’re all the same, these lives, which is to say that the nurses tell me nothing, perhaps because amid the din and pain it’s impossible to say anything of substance, or perhaps because they know that nothing is precisely what we both expect. It’s the very currency of the place. Perhaps they are being excruciatingly candid.

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Every year in Lusk, Wyoming, during the second week of July, locals gather to reenact a day in 1849 when members of a nearby band of Sioux are said to have skinned a white man alive. None of the actors are Native American. The white participants dress up like Indians and redden their skin with body paint made from iron ore.

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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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