Weekly Review — April 6, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Small Family, May 1874][Image: Killing Ground, May 1874]

A Small Family.
Killing Ground.

Four American mercenaries employed by Blackwater Security Consulting were pulled from their vehicles in Fallujah, Iraq, hacked to death, burned, and dragged through the streets; the remains of two were then hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River along with a sign that said “Fallujah is the cemetery for Americans.”BBC“Despite an uptick in local engagements,” said General Mark Kimmit at a press briefing a few hours later, “the overall area of operations remains relatively stable with negligible impact on the coalition’s ability to continue progress in governance, economic development, and restoration of essential services.”New York TimesPresident George W. Bush attended a fund-raiser that night and made fun of Senator John Kerry; he did not mention the killings in Fallujah.New York TimesA Shiite militia known as the Mahdi Army rose up across Iraq in response to a call by Moktada al-Sadr, a militant cleric, to “terrorize your enemy.” Last week Sadr announced that he is “the beating arm for Hezbollah and Hamas here in Iraq.”New York TimesAttacks on occupation forces were averaging about 26 per day, and Bell Pottinger, the British PR firm, was hired to teach Iraqis about democracy.International Herald TribuneBush Administration officials were said to be disturbed that Caribbean countries have refused to recognize the U.S.-backed government in Haiti, and aReutersUnited Nations envoy said that peacekeepers might have to remain in Haiti for 20 years.New York TimesPresident Bush signed a law making it a crime to harm a fetus while committing another crime, andAssociated PressCanadian hunters were busy trying to club 350,000 helpless three-week-old baby harp seals to death.New York Times

The International Court of Justice ruled that U.S. courts must review the death sentences of 51 Mexican citizens whose rights under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations were violated; although international treaties are “the supreme law of the land,” according to the U.S. Constitution, Governor Rick Perry declared that “the International Court of Justice does not have jurisdiction in Texas.”New York TimesGeorge Soros, the billionaire philanthropist, was splattered with mayonnaise by Ukrainian militants.GuardianFifty thousand protesters filled the streets of Katmandu, Nepal, demanding a restoration of democracy.Associated PressTaiwan’s opposition asked the country’s High Court to overturn the March 20 presidential election; the losing candidate, Lien Chan, has accused President Chen Shui-bian of election fraud and of staging his own shooting the day before the vote.Associated PressDozens of people died in a series of explosions and suicide attacks in Uzbekistan.New York TimesColin Powell admitted that the Iraqi National Congress, the U.S.-funded Iraqi exile group, was the source of “the most dramatic” bits in his notorious United Nations presentation on Iraq’s mythical weapons of mass destruction.Miami HeraldThe White House acknowledged that it has withheld three quarters of the 11,000 pages of Clinton Administration documents that were supposed to be handed over to the 9/11 commission; after an outcry, administration officials agreed to reconsider.ReutersPresident Bush backed down from his refusal to allow Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly under oath before the 9/11 commission, and aAssociated Pressformer FBI translator claimed that she could prove that the Bush Administration did in fact receive warnings in the spring and summer of 2001 that terrorists were planning to use aircraft to attack American cities.IndependentThe Treasury Department indicated that scholarly publications might be able to edit articles produced by evil countries such as Iran, Cuba, Libya, or North Korea without risking fines of up to $500,000 and ten years in prison.New York TimesRussia’s parliament agreed to amend a bill that would have banned almost all public demonstrations.New York TimesBudapest decided to revoke Joseph Stalin’s honorary citizenship, andAssociated PressSerbia’s parliament agreed to pay salaries and benefits to Slobodan Milosevic and other war criminals.Associated Press

The Department of Homeland Security announced that visitors from Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Japan, Australia, and 21 other countries will be photographed and fingerprinted when they enter the United States.New York TimesThe International Boundary Commission warned that the U.S.-Canadian border is becoming overgrown and could be lost in some places.New York TimesBulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined NATO; Russia was unhappy about NATO forces creeping so close to its border.New York TimesTreasury Secretary John Snow said that “outsourcing” of American jobs makes the American economy stronger.Cincinnati EnquirerThe trial of L. Dennis Kozlowski and Mark H. Swartz, the former CEO and CFO of Tyco International, ended in a mistrial.New York TimesMicrosoft and Sun Microsystems made peace.New York TimesThe founder of Ikea, the Swedish furniture company, denied that he is now the world’s richest man, and scientistsAssociated Pressfound that purebred dogs really do resemble their owners but that mutts do not.New ScientistA brawl broke out at an anger-management seminar at a high school in Maryland.Baltimore SunIt was reported that the U.S. government’s main laboratory for mad-cow testing, which is located in an Iowa strip mall, is not secure enough to store dangerous pathogens.ReutersPrime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand made his 17-year-old daughter get a job at a McDonald’s in Bangkok.ReutersTwo street children in Zimbabwe were arrested after they stole 100 million Zimbabwe dollars (about $23,000) and bought food, clothing, and household goods for other street children.New York TimesAngola was planning to outlaw genetically engineered cereals, which would jeopardize a United Nations program that feeds 2 million people.New York TimesAn Australian inventor created an electronic gun that can fire one million rounds per minute, and aAustralian ITJapanese robot conducted the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.New Scientist A new study found that toddlers who watch too much television are more likely to have a hard time concentrating by age seven; anotherSeattle Post-Intelligencerstudy found that preschoolers are the fastest growing market for antidepressant drugs.Express ScriptsVillagers in Romania were having trouble with vampires.Seattle Times

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Thirty miles from the coast, on a desert plateau in the Judaean Mountains without natural resources or protection, Jerusalem is not a promising site for one of the world’s great cities, which partly explains why it has been burned to the ground twice and besieged or attacked more than seventy times. Much of the Old City that draws millions of tourists and Holy Land pilgrims dates back two thousand years, but the area ­likely served as the seat of the Judaean monarchy a full millennium before that. According to the Bible, King David conquered the Canaanite city and established it as his capital, but over centuries of destruction and rebuilding all traces of that period were lost. In 1867, a British military officer named Charles Warren set out to find the remnants of David’s kingdom. He expected to search below the famed Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, but the Ottoman authorities denied his request to excavate there. Warren decided to dig instead on a slope outside the Old City walls, observing that the Psalms describe Jerusalem as lying in a valley surrounded by hills, not on top of one.

On a Monday morning earlier this year, I walked from the Old City’s Muslim Quarter to the archaeological site that Warren unearthed, the ancient core of Jerusalem now known as the City of David. In the alleys of the Old City, stone insulated the air and awnings blocked the sun, so the streets were cold and dark and the mood was somber. Only the pilgrims were up this early. American church groups filed along the Via Dolorosa, holding thin wooden crosses and singing a hymn based on a line from the Gospel of Luke: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Narrow shops sold gardenia, musk, and amber incense alongside sweatshirts promoting the Israel Defense Forces.

I passed through the Western Wall Plaza to the Dung Gate, popularly believed to mark the ancient route along which red heifers were led to the Temple for sacrifice. Outside the Old City walls, in the open air, I found light and heat and noise. Tour buses lined up like train cars along the ridge. Monday is the day when bar and bat mitzvahs are held in Israel, and drumbeats from distant celebrations mixed with the pounding of jackhammers from construction sites nearby. When I arrived at the City of David, workmen were refinishing the wooden deck at the site’s entrance and laying down a marble mosaic by the ticket window.

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Eleven years ago, on a bitter January night, dozens of young men, dressed in a uniform of black berets, white T-­shirts, and black pants, gathered on a hill overlooking the Nigerian city of Jos, shouting, dancing, and shooting guns into the black sky. A drummer pounded a rhythmic beat. Amid the roiling crowd, five men crawled toward a candlelit dais, where a white-­robed priest stood holding an axe. Leading them was John, a sophomore at the local college, powerfully built and baby-faced. Over the past six hours, he had been beaten and burned, trampled and taunted. He was exhausted. John looked out at the landscape beyond the priest. It was the harmattan season, when Saharan sand blots out the sky, and the city lights in the distance blurred in John’s eyes as if he were underwater.

John had been raised by a single mother in Kaduna, a hardscrabble city in Nigeria’s arid north. She’d worked all hours as a construction supplier, but the family still struggled to get by. Her three boys were left alone for long stretches, and they killed time hunting at a nearby lake while listening to American rap. At seventeen, John had enrolled at the University of Jos to study business. Four hours southeast of his native Kaduna, Jos was another world, temperate and green. John’s mother sent him an allowance, and he made cash on the side rearing guard dogs for sale in Port Harcourt, the perilous capital of Nigeria’s oil industry. But it wasn’t much. John’s older brother, also studying in Jos, hung around with a group of Axemen—members of the Black Axe fraternity—who partied hard and bought drugs and cars. Local media reported a flood of crimes that Axemen had allegedly committed, but his brother’s friends promised John that, were he to join the group, he wouldn’t be forced into anything illegal. He could just come to the parties, help out at the odd charity drive, and enjoy himself. It was up to him.

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I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t get up—­just couldn’t get up, couldn’t get up or leave. All day lying in that median, unable. Was this misery or joy?

It’s happened to you, too, hasn’t it? A habit or phase, a marriage, a disease, children or drugs, money or debt—­something you believed inescapable, something that had been going on for so long that you’d forgotten any and every step taken to lead your life here. What did you do? How did this happen? When you try to solve the crossword, someone keeps adding clues.

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The Catholic School, by Edoardo Albinati. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1,280 pages. $40.

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