Weekly Review — December 13, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Weighing the Soul, 1875]

Weighing the soul, 1875.

Russians in nine time zones rallied to demand a revote of their country’s December 4 parliamentary elections, in which the ruling United Russia party won a slim majority. Russiaâ??s only independent election-monitoring group logged more than 5,000 fraud allegations, while videos posted to YouTube showed stuffed ballot boxes, voting booths supplied with erasable ink, and buses taking people to vote at multiple locations. “If someone writes the phrase â??party of swindlers and thievesâ?? on a blog,” tweeted Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, “he is just a fuckface.” As many as 50,000 people protested in Bolotnaya Square across the Moskva River from the Kremlin, despite the deployment of thousands of troops in Moscow, and in Beijing two Russian foreign-exchange students accepted the Confucius Peace Prize on behalf of Vladimir Putin, who was selected over the Chinese Panchen Lama and the father of hybrid rice. The award citation praised Putin for crushing antigovernment forces in Chechnya, where voter turnout in the parliamentary elections was a reported 99.5 percent, with 99.5 percent in favor of United Russia.BBCWashington PostCNNBBCFrance 24AFP via Daily NationThe GuardianShanghaiistWashington PostRia NovstiThe Moscow Times British prime minister David Cameron vetoed a proposed amendment to the European Union treaty that would have imposed stricter fiscal discipline on member countries, citing concern for Londonâ??s financial-services industry. The other 26 E.U. nations indicated that they would push ahead with the treaty. “A Britain which leaves the E.U. will be considered to be irrelevant by Washington,” said Cameronâ??s coalition partner and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, “and will be considered a pygmy in the world.”AFP via Vancouver SunIn Malaysia, a tourist was gored to death by a pygmy elephant.ABC

A U.S. surveillance drone crashed in Iran. Iranian military officials claimed to have brought down the plane by hacking into its control system, though an American analyst said the craft most likely crashed on its own, because “that’s what drones do.” Parliamentarian Parviz Sorouri said Iran would reverse-engineer the drone, and that any recovered data would be used to file a lawsuit against the United States.CNNAPA new Sunni terrorist group took credit for a bombing that killed at least 55 Shia worshippers at a Kabul shrine, citing as justification such “criminal behavior” as the flying of Shia banners in Sunni areas. BBCAP via Washington PostIn the second attack by a gunman at Virginia Tech in four years, Radford University student Ross Ashley shot and killed a police officer, then shot and killed himself. “Iâ??m kind of surprised,” said Ashleyâ??s former roommate. “Iâ??m also not kind of surprised.”Collegiate Times Collegiate Times Florida state lawmakers had panic buttons installed on their cell phones two months after passing a law allowing concealed firearms to be carried in every part of the state capitol except the legislative chambers and committee rooms.St. Petersburg Times In suburban San Francisco, an “unforeseen bounce” on the set of the television show “Mythbusters” sent a cannonball through the front door and back wall of a house, across six lanes of traffic, across the roof of a second house, and through the window of a minivan, where it came to rest on the floor.AP via Washington PostWashington PostTensions rose between North Korea and South Korea following a proposal by a South Korean church group to place Christmas lights on a watchtower along the DMZ. “The enemy warmongers,” stated the North Korean governmentâ??s Uriminzokkiri website, “should be aware that they should be held responsible entirely for any unexpected consequences that may be caused by their scheme.”AFP

The Obama Administration announced that it would begin using foreign aid to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights worldwide, and Nigeriaâ??s House of Representatives took up a bill banning marriage and public displays of affection between gays. “We are black people,” said parliamentary spokesman Zakari Mohammed. “We are not white.”CBSThe White HouseAFPRepublican presidential candidate Rick Perry appeared in an ad criticizing gay rights while dressed in a jacket nearly identical to the one worn by Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain,” and a Michigan music teacher was reprimanded for changing the “Deck the Halls” lyric “Don we now our gay apparel” to “Don we now our bright apparel.”Yahoo!ABC 30For the second time this year, firefighters in Obion County, Tennessee, watched a home burn to the ground after its owner failed to pay a $75 service fee.WPSD-TV via Yahoo!A DeSoto Parish woman became the second Louisianan to be killed by a brain-eating amoeba after infecting herself while rinsing her sinuses with a Neti pot.Fox 8A Bolivian teenager was reported to have committed suicide by piranha.Daily MailReagan, a yellow Labrador from Iowa, saved kittens Skipper and Tipper from dying in a Meow Mix bag.WHO-TVScientists blamed climate change for a rise in polar-bear cannibalism.BBCArcticA severe butter shortage struck Norway, owing partly to a high-fat diet craze. “Real Norwegian butter!” read an ad placed by one profiteer. “Almost unused!”Reuters via Yahoo!The LocalPolice in North Carolina arrested Lauretta Cheek for administering an illegal butt-implant injection; a woman in New Jersey was charged with manslaughter for killing a man by injecting his penis with silicone; and Michigan and Wisconsin argued over which state was shaped more like a mitten. “We understand their mitten envy,” said a spokesman from Travel Michigan. “Itâ??s not our fault,” said a Wisconsinite from Neenah, “that their thumb is smaller.”Daily MailRadar OnlineKalamazoo Gazette via mlive.comAP via CBS

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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.

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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.

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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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