Weekly Review — October 12, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Christian martyr, 1855]

A Christian martyr.

The United Nations hosted a six-day climate-change conference in China with the aim of accelerating “the search for common ground” among developed and developing nations on preventing global warming. “As governments, you can continue to stand still or move forward,” said the UNâ??s climate-change chief at the start of the conference. “Now is the time to make that choice.” The conference ended in a deadlock. BBCAn investigation by the German government found that rich countries are not honoring their $30 billion pledge from Copenhagen to help poor countries adapt to climate change; rich countries are instead repackaging previously committed aid. “Treasuries don’t allow ministers to make spending pledges,” explained one former diplomat. “They go into a side room and warn there is no new money availableâ??then they get creative as to how to present a package that will look good on paper.” GuardianBBCA study of a major period of global warming 125,000 years ago led scientists to conclude that current emission-reduction targets are not ambitious enough to prevent catastrophic effects. Scientists also reported that the glaciers of Glacier National Park were disappearing. Science DailyCNNFloods ravaged central Vietnam, killing fifteen people and forcing thousands to flee, and researchers warned of “evapotranspiration,” which has been drying up soil in the Southern Hemisphere.BBCScience DailyA 600-foot-long crevice appeared in the Michigan woods. Upper MichiganThe White House got solar panels.Washington Post

Jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year sentence on charges of inciting subversion of state power after he called for political reforms and human rights, won the Nobel Peace Prize, a recognition that the Chinese government labelled “blasphemy.” Chinese officials blocked news agencies from reporting on the award and put Liu’s wife under house arrest. Globe and MailNew York TimesAfter the wall of an aluminum-plant reservoir in Hungary burst, 24 million cubic feet of toxic red sludge flooded nearby villages, killing seven people. “I hung in the sludge for forty-five minutes,” said resident Etelka Stump. “It had a strong current that almost swept me away but I managed to hang on to a strong piece of wood from the pigsty.” CNNNew York TimesBBCJPMorgan Chase and Bank of America suspended their foreclosure proceedings amid challenges to the legality of some foreclosures and concerns of flawed paperwork.New York TimesThe father of Christine O’Donnell, the U.S. Senate candidate in Delaware who has been accused of padding her online resume, admitted that he was not an official Bozo the Clown but only a part-time Bozo. “To be an official Bozo, you had to go to a special school in Texas,” he said.New York TimesPhotos emerged of Democratic Virginia congressional candidate Krystal Ball at a Christmas party wearing a leotard and a Santa hat and holding a leash attached to the neck of her then husband, and The HillOhioRepublican congressional candidate Rich Iott was found to be an avid Nazi reenactor. “It’s purely historical interest in World War II,” said Iott.The AtlanticBolivian President Evo Morales apologized for kneeing an opponent in the groin during a friendly soccer match between members of Morales’s Movement Toward Socialism party and the opposition party, Movement Without Fear.BBCThe Cuban government made the two-pocket guayabera the official uniform of Cuba.BBC

Soul singer Solomon Burke died, as did the South African chimpanzee Charlie, who was an avid smoker until his death at 52. BBCNew York TimesThe Times Square bomber was sentenced to life in prison; a 20-year-old Arab American in California found an FBI bug on the underside of his car; and a man in London tried unsuccessfully to hold Jonathan Franzen’s glasses for ransom.BBCCNNBBCAn English couple was sold a bag of potatoes they believed to be a laptop.BBCResearchers discovered a new language, Koro, spoken by 1,000 people in the Indian Himalayas, and at Delhi’s Commonwealth Games the drains of the athletes’ housing were found to be blocked by thousands of condoms. “If that is happening, it shows that there is use of condoms,” said the federation’s president. “I think that is a very positive story.”Christian Science MonitorGuardianWashington D.C.’s Department of Motor Vehicles began offering HIV testing, and women at Moscow State University dressed in lingerie and posed for a calendar to celebrate Vladimir Putin’s 58th birthday. “You put out forest fires,” read the caption of one photo, “but I’m still burning.”CNNBBC

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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.

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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.

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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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