Weekly Review — October 18, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

As the occupation of Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan finished its first month, the Occupy Wall Street movement spread to cities and college campuses across the United States and to more than 70 other countries. A city-mandated cleanup of Zuccotti Park by its owners, which protesters believed was a pretext for their removal from the area, was cancelled, and Vikram Pandit, the CEO of Citigroupâ??which announced third-quarter profits of $3.8 billion, a 74 percent increase over last yearâ??called the sentiments of protesters “completely understandable,” adding that he would “be happy to talk to them anytime.” Hundreds of people were arrested while demonstrating, among them antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, in Sacramentoâ??s Cesar Chavez Park, and philosopher Cornel West, on the steps of the Supreme Court. “We will not allow this day of the Martin Luther King memorial to pass,” West said, “without somebody going to jail.”Huffington PostAl JazeeraNew York TimesHuffington PostMercury NewsWashington PostAt the dedication of a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington, President Barack Obama said that were King alive today he “would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there.”TimeSolyndra, the bankrupt solar-power company that received a $528-million government loan as part of the Obama Administrationâ??s green-energy policy, announced the resignation of CEO Brian Harrison; 33-year-old Indy Car driver and former Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon died in a 15-car crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway; and 31-year-old Brandon Kelly was arrested after throwing a hot dog at Tiger Woods during a golf tournament. “I threw the hot dog toward Tiger Woods because I was inspired by the movie Drive“, Kelly said. “As soon as the movie ended, I thought to myself, ‘I have to do something courageous and epic.'”MSNBCNew York TimesESPN

President Obama announced that he was sending 100 armed “military advisors” to central Africa to combat the Lordâ??s Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group known for such tactics as massacring civilians, mutilating opponents, and deploying child soldiers. “For more than two decades,” Obama wrote in a letter to Congress, “the Lordâ??s Resistance Army (LRA) has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children in central Africa.” “Lordâ??s Resistance Army are Christians,” said Rush Limbaugh on his radio program. “They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan.”New York TimesRush LimbaughUmar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who tried to blow up a U.S.-bound plane in 2009 with a bomb sewn into his underwear, pleaded guilty to all charges against him, including attempted murder and terrorism.BBCJigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, the fifth Dragon King of Bhutan, married Jetsun Pema, the 21-year-old daughter of an airline pilot.Associated PressMansour Arbabsiar, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen and used-car salesman, was arrested for planning to hire a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate a Saudi diplomat on behalf of the Iranian government. Attorney General Eric Holder said the plot was “directed and approved by elements of the Iranian government and, specifically, senior members of the Quds Force.” “[Arbabsiarâ??s] socks would not match,” said Tom Hosseini, his former college roommate. “He was always losing his keys and his cell phone. He was not capable of carrying out this plan.”New York TimesNew York Times

Researchers in Scotland reported that women who are on the pill when they meet their partners are less sexually satisfied overall but more satisfied about nonsexual elements in their relationships and ultimately stay in those relationships longer. The reportâ??s author suggested that trying alternative forms of contraception “might be one way for a woman to check or reassure herself that sheâ??s still attracted to her partner.”BBCA 13-month-old Bronx boy died after swallowing the medication in a pill bottle allegedly given to him by his parents to use as a rattle, and the doctor who performed Michael Jacksonâ??s autopsy told jurors in the manslaughter trial of Jacksonâ??s former physician, Conrad Murray, that Jackson probably didnâ??t administer the anaesthetic that killed him, and that the cause of his death was homicide.GothamistThe GuardianA plane crash in Papua New Guinea killed 28 people, a series of bombings in Baghdad killed 23, and a high school math teacher in southern France died after setting herself on fire in the schoolâ??s playground. “Several people tried to put her out,” said one student. “She said “No, leave me alone. I donâ??t need help. God told me to do this.â??”The Globe and MailAssociated PressBBC

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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.

The exterior of my hermitage was washed the color of runny egg yolk. Two redwood French doors with plexiglass windows hung cockeyed from creaky hinges at the entrance, and a combination lock provided meager security against intruders. White beadboard capped the roof, its brim shading a front porch set on cinder blocks.

After living on the East Coast for eight years, I’d recently left New York City to take a job at an investigative reporting magazine in San Francisco. If it seems odd that I was a fully employed editor who lived in a thirty-two-square-foot shack, that’s precisely the point: my situation was evidence of how distorted the Bay Area housing market had become, the brutality inflicted upon the poor now trickling up to everyone but the super-rich. The problem was nationwide, although, as Californians tend to do, they’d taken this trend to an extreme. Across the state, a quarter of all apartment dwellers spent half of their incomes on rent. Nearly half of the country’s unsheltered homeless population lived in California, even while the state had the highest concentration of billionaires in the nation. In the Bay Area, including West Oakland, where my shack was located, the crisis was most acute. Tent cities had sprung up along the sidewalks, swarming with capitalism’s refugees. Telegraph, Mission, Market, Grant: every bridge and overpass had become someone’s roof.

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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.

But somebody has slipped. The school is putting on the musical South Pacific, and there are not enough roles for the girls, and she is as tall as or taller than the boys, and so they have done what is unthinkable in this striving 1980s town, in this place where the men do the driving and the women make their mouths into perfect Os to apply lipstick in the rearview. For the musical, they have made her a boy.

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.

In an email before our meeting, Despentes asked that we not do a photo shoot. “There are so many images available already,” she explained. Much had been written about her, too. A Google search yielded page after page: profiles, interviews, reviews, bits and bobs—she read from Pasolini at a concert with Béatrice Dalle; someone accused her of plagiarizing a translation; a teacher in Switzerland was fired for teaching her work. The week I met her, she appeared in the culture magazine Les Inrockuptibles in conversation with the rapper-turned-actor JoeyStarr. The woman is simply always in the news.

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That night at the window, looking out at the street full of snow, big flakes falling through the streetlight, I listened to what Anna was saying. She was speaking of a man named Karl. We both knew him as a casual acquaintance—thin and lanky like Ichabod Crane, with long hair—operating a restaurant down in the village whimsically called the Gist Mill, with wood paneling, a large painting of an old gristmill on a river on one wall, tin ceilings, and a row of teller cages from its previous life as a bank. Karl used to run along the river, starting at his apartment in town and turning back about two miles down the path. He had been going through the divorce—this was a couple of years ago, of course, Anna said—and was trying to run through his pain.

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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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