Weekly Review — December 20, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Saluting the Town, March 1854]

U.S. military officials declared the end of the Iraq War during a 45-minute ceremony in a fortified compound at Baghdad International Airport. Iraqâ??s president and prime minister did not attend, and local reporters were not invited. “To be sure, the cost was high,” said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, “in blood and treasure of the United States and also the Iraqi people.” In Fallujah, Iraqis celebrated by burning American flags. “I lost brothers and many relatives because of American bombs,” said a resident of Ramadi. “I benefited by having a good job and a salary with which I can get whatever I need.” Eighty Iraqi civilians were killed during the final week of the war, and David Hickman, a 23-year-old Army paratrooper, was declared the 4,474th and last U.S. soldier to die in the conflict.APNY Times At War BlogAFPNY Times At War Blogiraqbodycount.orgAPWashington PostIn Homs, demonstrators hung Syrian political figures in effigy, and security forces killed at least six protesters; in Cairo, troops attacked demonstrators in Tahrir Square, killing at least nine, and firebombed the state geographical society; and in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisians gathered around a statue of a fruit cart to celebrate the one-year anniversary of vendor Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, which helped inspire the Arab Spring.Reuters AfricaBBCChicago Sun-TimesBBCNPRWriter, human-rights activist, and former Czech president Vaclav Havel died at age 75, and North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-Il died at age 69. “His legacy will be that â??truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred,â??” said Havelâ??s former adviser Tomas Sedlacek, quoting Havel.CNNBBCAP“The whole life of Kim Jong Il,” read a statement from the official Korean Central News Agency, “was the most brilliant life of a great revolutionary who covered an untrodden thorny path with his iron will and superhuman energy, holding aloft the red flag of revolution.” Kimâ??s 29-year-old son, Kim Jong-Un, was named his “great successor.”APScientists in Switzerland said theyâ??d found “tantalizing hints” of the so-called “God particle,” and writer Christopher Hitchens died at age 62. GuardianNY TimesAP via Boston Globe

Canada became the first country to formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, provoking objections from China and India, two of the worldâ??s largest greenhouse gas emitters.Montreal GazetteGlobe and MailChicago TribuneOfficials in Los Angeles disclosed that they had infiltrated Occupy LA on suspicions that protesters were stockpiling bamboo spears and buckets of human feces.ReutersCongress passed a $662 billion defense spending bill that allows for indefinite detention of terror suspects. “And when they say, â??I want my lawyer,â??” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), “you tell them, â??Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.â??”APLA TimesGuardianThe Pentagon launched an investigation into a photo showing 15 airmen at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas gathered around an open casket carrying a fellow soldier playing dead with a noose around his neck and chains draped across his body. “Da Dumpt, Da Dumptâ?¦ Sucks 2 Be U,” read the photoâ??s caption.AFPAir Force TimesFormer French president Jacques Chirac was convicted of corruption for employing nineteen “ghost workers” while he was mayor of Paris, and Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin addressed allegations of fraud in his country’s parliamentary elections, claiming that antigovernment protesters had been paid to march. “Fine, let them earn a little money,” he said, adding that the white ribbons they wore looked like condoms.APAFPThe NationalGuardianForeign PolicyAt the final G.O.P. presidential debate before the Iowa Caucuses in January, Michele Bachmann criticized Newt Gingrich for failing to take a strong enough stance against abortion. “The Republican Party canâ??t get the issue of life wrong,” Bachmann said. “This is a seminal issue.”Washington Post

A church in New Zealand erected a billboard depicting a distressed Virgin Mary glancing down at a pregnancy test, and the Southern Baptist Conventionâ??s publishing division began recalling pink Bibles sold to support breast cancer research after it received complaints that some of the proceeds were funding screenings at Planned Parenthood.New York Daily News3news.co.nzAP via FoxThe TennesseanDoctors reported that a cancer survivor in Baltimore had to have her breast implant surgically extracted after it slipped behind her ribcage during a Pilates breathing exercise. “My body swallowed my boob,” the woman reportedly told her doctor.New England Journal of MedicineABC NewsHundreds of apples fell from the sky over Coventry, England.BBCThousands of Eared Grebes crashed into a Utah Wal-Mart parking lot theyâ??d mistaken for a pond during their migration to Mexico.CBS NewsThe lawyer for former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky counseled anyone who believed the child-molestation accusations against his client to “dial 1-800-REALITY,” a sex line for gay and bi-curious men.Christian Science MonitorHuffington PostAP via Chicago Sun-TimesA woman in Zephyrhills, Florida, was arrested for attacking her ex-boyfriend with the antlers of a mounted deer head; a crucified Santa Claus skeleton was decapitated outside of a county courthouse in Leesburg, Virginia; and a mall Santa at the Logan Hyperdome in Queensland, Australia, was fired after offering to give autistic brothers Cameron and Liam Sleeth a jail cell for Christmas. “Even after Santa said it,” said the boysâ?? mother, “Cameron was still giving him hugs.”St. Petersburg TimesMSNBCnews.com.au

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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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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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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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