Weekly Review — December 6, 2005, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

At the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, President George W. Bush gave a speech on the Iraq war. “As Iraqi forces grow more capable,” he said, “they’re increasingly taking the lead in the fight against the terrorists.”CNN.comOperation Steel Hammer, intended to end Al Qaeda operations in Hit, west of Baghdad, was launched with a force of 1,500 U.S. Marines, 500 U.S. Army soldiers, and 500 Iraqi soldiers.ABC NewsNineteen Iraqi soldiers were killed in an attack north of Baghdad,Turkish Press/AFPand ten U.S. Marines were killed by a roadside bomb in Fallujah.BBC NewsIn New York City, a defense contractor named David H. Brooks rented out two floors of the Rainbow Room for his daughter Elizabeth’s bat mitzvah. Tom Petty, Kenny G, and members of Aerosmith performed, as did 50 Cent. The total cost of the party was reported as $10 million. “Go shorty,” rapped 50 Cent, “it’s your bat mitzvah, we gonna party like it’s your bat mitzvah.”New York Daily NewsTwo women told a reporter that Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the CaliforniaCongressman who resigned after he was found to have accepted bribes from defense contractors, once changed into pajama bottoms and a turtleneck sweater and offered the women champagne by the light of a lava lamp.NewsweekKTLAThe House Ethics Committee had not opened a new case in the last 12 months. “I would say by the early part of January, we will be fully organized,” said Representative Alan Mollohan (D., W. Va.). “Or should be really close to that.”The Washington PostSenator John McCain said that he didn’t think “the ethics committees are working very well.”Bloomberg.comIn Tennessee a man was arrested for firing a gun at traffic while wearing only a pair of socks.AP

In North Carolina Kenneth Boyd became the 1,000th prisoner executed since the United States reintroduced the death penalty in 1976. “It’s a milestone we should all be ashamed of,” said Boyd’s lawyer.BBC NewsFacing criticism over the United States’ network of secret prisons in Europe, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pointed out that intelligence gathered from terrorism suspects has helped prevent attacks in not only the United States but Europe as well. Rice also asserted that the United States does not transport detainees from one country to another for the purpose of torture.APThe U.S. Transportation Safety Administration decided that screwdrivers under seven inches long and scissors with blades under four inches long will again be permitted on airplanes.ReutersRussia confirmed plans to sell $1 billion worth of surface-to-air missiles and other weapons hardware to Iran,The Sydney Morning Heraldand it was reported that Iraqi militants, before they carried out raids or suicide bombings, were taking a methamphetamine-based drug called “pinky” that made them feel superhuman.The Daily MirrorA U.S. federal judge determined that it is constitutional for the New York CityPolice to randomly search passengers’ bags on the subway,Reutersand a Jasper County, Georgia, eighth-grader was dismissed from school after he took down a video camera installed in the school’s boys’ bathroom; it turned out that the camera had been placed there by the school principal so that he could observe the boys.WMAZ.comA theological commission planned to ask Pope Benedict XVI to eliminate limboâ??where unbaptized infants are thought to go after deathâ??from the catechism,Reutersand an atheist student group at the University of Texas was handing out pornography to anyone who gave them a Bible as part of a “Smut for Smut” program. “We consider the Bible to be a very negative force in the history of the world,” said a student.XBiz [NSFW]In Fremont, California, Iron Crotch Grandmaster Tu Jin-Sheng pulled a rental truck several yards with his penis. “He’s very special,” said student Shawnee Wang.Tri-Valley HeraldAn Indiana man was found guilty of murder for shooting a 15-year-old boy who threw eggs at him.Local6.comPresident Bush was called for jury duty but asked to delay his service until he was out of office,BBC Newsand a Wausau, Wisconsin, hunter shot and killed a buck that lacked testicles.Wausau Daily HeraldIn Russia a pack of squirrels attacked and, according to an eyewitness, “literally gutted” a large dog that was barking at them. When humans approached the squirrels ran away, some carrying flesh.BBC News

The National Security Agency released papers related to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident; one previously secret history, written in 2001, argued that intelligence regarding the incident was “deliberately skewed” to cover up 90 percent of intercepted North Vietnamese communications, so that President Lyndon Johnson and Congress could be more easily pushed into the Vietnam War.SFGateIt was revealed that the U.S. Army was writing positive news stories about the Iraq war, and was then paying to have the articles translated into Arabic and published in Iraqi newspapers. Abdul Zahra Zaki, editor of the newspaper Al Mada, said that if he had known the storiesâ??with titles like “Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism” and “More Money Goes to Iraq’s Development”â??were written by the Army he would have “charged much, much more.”LA TimesPresident Omar Bongo of Gabon won another term in office,Reutersand a South African court ruled that same-sex marriage was constitutional.APIn Phoenix, Arizona, a 14-year-old freshman at Barry Goldwater High School was arrested for raping a 75-year-old woman,AZCentral.comand in Manchester, New Hampshire, a man named Ronald MacDonald was arrested for stealing $133 from a safe at a Wendy’s restaurant.The Union leaderScientists in London were planning to insert nose cells into damaged human spines in the hope that the cells will stimulate the growth of nerve fibers,The Guardianand surgeons in France performed a partial face transplant, taking the nose and lips of a brain-dead donor and grafting them onto the face of a woman who had been severely disfigured by a dog.BBC NewsIn Gabon and Congo, scientists traced the origin of the Ebola virus to three different species of fruit bat; by stopping people from eating the bats, a scientist suggested, the spread of the virus could be slowed.LA TimesThere was a shortage of Santas in Perth, Australia; current Santas said that the risk of litigation was too great. “Once upon a time you’d walk through the mall saying â??Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmasâ??,” said Santa John Gomez, “but now you say nothing.”The Daily TelegraphIn Gavle, Sweden, vandals burned a huge straw Christmasgoat.BBC NewsThe White House put up nearly 600 feet of garland and erected an 18-and-a-half-foot fir tree decorated with tulips and azaleas in honor of this year’s Christmas theme, “All Things Bright and Beautiful.”The New York TimesAn Amtrak train struck a bald eagle in Fredericksburg, Virginia.Fredericksburg.com

Share
Single Page

More from Paul Ford:

From the May 2010 issue

Just like heaven

Weekly Review March 23, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Weekly Review November 24, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Get access to 169 years of
Harper’s for only $23.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2019

Common Ground

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Love and Acid

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Black Axe

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Wood Chipper

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Wood Chipper·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I was tucked in a blind behind a soda machine, with nothing in my hand but notepad and phone, when a herd of running backs broke cover and headed across the convention center floor. My God, they’re beautiful! A half dozen of them, compact as tanks, stuffed into sports shirts and cotton pants, each, around his monstrous neck, wearing a lanyard that listed number and position, name and schedule, tasks to be accomplished at the 2019 N.F.L. Scout­ing Combine. They attracted the stunned gaze of football fans and beat writers, yet, seemingly unaware of their surroundings, continued across the carpet.

Article
Common Ground·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

Article
The Black Axe·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

John knew that the Black Axe was into some “risky” stuff. But he thought it was worth it. Axemen were treated with respect and had connections to important people. Without a network, John’s chances of getting a good job post-­degree were almost nil. In his second year, he decided to join, or “bam.” On the day of the initiation, John was given a shopping list: candles, bug spray, a kola nut (a caffeinated nut native to West Africa), razor blades, and 10,000 Nigerian naira (around thirty dollars)—his bamming fee. He carried it all to the top of the hill. Once night fell, Axemen made John and the other four initiates lie on their stomachs in the dirt, pressed toge­ther shoulder to shoulder, and hurled insults at them. They reeked like goats, some Axemen screamed. Others lashed them with sticks. Each Axeman walked over their backs four times. Somebody lit the bug spray on fire, and ran the flames across them, “burning that goat stink from us,” John recalled.

Article
Who Is She?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

It’s happened to us all. The impossible knowledge is the one we all want—­the big why, the big how. Who among us won’t buy that lotto ticket? This is where stories come from and, believe me, there are only two kinds: ­one, naked lies, and two, pot holders, gas masks, condoms—­something you must carefully place between yourself and a truth too dangerous to touch.

Article
Murder Italian Style·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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

In a quiet northern suburb of Rome, a woman hears noises in the street and sends her son to investigate. Someone is locked in the trunk of a Fiat 127. The police arrive and find one girl seriously injured, together with the corpse of a second. Both have been raped, tortured, and left for dead. The survivor speaks of three young aggressors and a villa by the sea. Within hours two of the men have been arrested. The other will never be found.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

After not making a public appearance for weeks and being rumored dead, the president of Turkmenistan appeared on state television and drove a rally car around The Gates of Hell, a crater of gas that has been burning since it was discovered in 1971.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Happiness Is a Worn Gun

By

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

Subscribe Today