Weekly Review — February 5, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Tempest, December 1878]

President George W. Bush unveiled a $3.1 trillion spending package that would increase military funding while protecting tax cuts,Bush Unveils $3.1 Trillion Spending Planand Wal-Mart announced an economic “stimulus plan” that offers steep discounts on thousands of items, including a five-pound bag of Tyson frozen chicken wings ($8.88) and two Hillshire Farms Cocktail Smokies or Ropes ($5).Wal-Mart &lq;Stimulus&rq; Pkg: Will Doritos Rescue The Economy?Mississippi lawmakers introduced a bill that would make it illegal for restaurants in the state to serve obese people,Mississippi Legislature Introduces Bill that Would Ban Restaurants from Serving the Obeseand an unidentified robber killed five women in a Chicago-area branch of the plus-sized clothing store Lane Bryant.Five women dead in Tinley Park clothing store shootingA camping-goods website was selling a cheeseburger in a can.Cheeseburger in a Can is Both the Best and Worst Thing I’ve Ever SeenPolice in India uncovered a kidney-napping ring that preyed upon impoverished laborers, farmers, and rickshaw drivers. “I had no idea about kidney transplants,” said Shakeel Ahmed, a laborer from Uttar Pradesh state. “I knew that these people meant to do evil to me. When I woke up, a doctor said I would be shot if I ever told anyone what happened.”Kidney Thefts Shock IndiaAn unidentified donor gave $130 million to Bangladesh to repair cyclone damage, Donor gives $130 million to Bangladeshand hungry Haitians were eating cookies made of mud. Poor Haitians resort to eating dirt

Abu Laith al Libi, alleged to be a high-ranking Libyan member of Al Qaeda, was killed in a missile strike in Pakistan.Top Al Qaeda Leader KilledAn Indonesian housewife became the 103rd person to die from bird flu in that country,Indonesia’s bird flu toll rises to 103and an Iowa outbreak of the rare lung disease histoplasmosis, a fungal infection often spread by bird or bat droppings, was traced back to a November 29 2007 American Lung Association event at the governor’s mansion.Health investigators link lung illness to Terrace HillTwo earthquakes killed 30 people in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,Death toll from Rwanda, Congo quakes hits 30thousands of Chadians fleeing skirmishes in the capital N’Djamena sought refuge in Cameroon, Thousands flee Chad as fighting ragesand UN peacekeepers in the disputed African territory of Western Sahara were reprimanded for defacing ancient rock paintings on Devil Mountain.Peacekeepers ‘deface ancient art’Remnants of a 7,000-year-old city were found in Egypt’s Fayyum oasis. Ruins of 7,000-year-old city found in Egypt oasisEgypt and India were afflicted with limited Internet service,Internet Limping Back to Normalcyand power failures in South Africa closed mines and shopping centers for several days.Power Failures Outrage South AfricaIn China, where hundreds of thousands of people traveling for the Lunar New Year remained stranded by winter storms, a woman was trampled to death in a stampede to board a train.Storm-hit China calls for ‘faith’Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, signalling six more weeks of winter,Pennsylvania groundhog sees six more winter weeksand John Edwards pulled out of the presidential race, saying he would step aside “so that history can blaze its path.”Edwards quits race but refuses to reveal preferred candidateCalifornia Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed Republican candidate John McCain, while Schwarzenegger’s wife, Maria Shriver, the niece of John F. Kennedy, endorsed Barack Obama.McCain Wins Schwarzenegger Nod Maria Shriver endorses Obama

The Pentagon said that nine Iraqi civilians had been killed in a strike intended for militants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.U.S. Says It Accidentally Killed 9 Iraqi CiviliansWest Virginia was considering a bill that would require gym classes to teach middle-schoolers how to handle a gun.US state weighing gun lessons for schoolchildrenIn Pennsylvania a woman locked her ten-year-old grandson in a dog crate and threatened to bury him alive in the backyard after he disclosed that he had been spiking his family’s drinks with lamp oil and household cleaner, Boy put in dog cage after spiking drinksand in Britain retail chain Woolworths withdrew from sale a bed for six-year-old girls called the Lolita Midsleeper Combi after receiving complaints from parents. “We had to look it up on Wikipedia,” said a store spokesman. “But we certainly know who she is now.”Shop pulls &lq;Lolita&rq; bed for young girlsIt was reported that a sedentary lifestyle speeds aging,Sedentary life ‘speeds up ageing’and new pictures of Mercury revealed the elderly planet’s spider-shaped birthmark, shrinkage, wrinkles, and scars.Mercury Is Shrinking, VolcanicThe New York Giants beat the New England Patriots to win Superbowl XLII, while the NFL refused to allow churches to show the game on big-screen televisions.Eli, monster defense power Giants to shocking Super Bowl victoryNFL Pulls Plug On Big-Screen Church Parties For Super BowlSeventeen Russian tourists visiting a spa in the Caucasus were hospitalized after a nurse accidentally administered hydrogen-peroxide enemas,Unhealthy enemas put tourists in hospitaland a Japanese urologist noted an increase in “vaginal ejaculation disorder, or an inability to ejaculate inside the vagina,” among Japanese men, crediting it to “incredible progress made in masturbation goods.”Wanton women cry that men jerk their shot and miss the real targetBritish scientists announced that it would soon be possible to convert female bone marrow into viable sperm cells, hastening the obsolescence of men.Death of the father: British scientists discover how to turn women’s bone marrow into sperm

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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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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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