Weekly Review — August 1, 2006, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A grasshopper driving a chariot, 1875]

After an Israeli bombing raid killed 54 people, including 37 children, in the Lebanese village of Qana, Beirut residents set fire to a U.N. headquarters.Daily Star (Lebanon)Israel agreed to suspend some bombing operations for 48 hours in order to investigate the deaths, though Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ruled out a ceasefire.BBCIsraeli bombs struck a U.N. post in southern Lebanon, killing four peacekeepers. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said the targeting was “apparently deliberate,” and Olmert called Annan’s comments “premature and erroneous.”BBCAl JazeeraThe United Nations began relief operations.ReutersHezbollah guerillas fired several hundred rockets into towns in northern Israel, hitting a laundry detergent factory and a cemetery, and injuring at least 31 people.CGGLNine Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush, and Israeli officials claimed to have killed some 200 Hezbollah “operatives” since the outset of hostilities.APAP via Dispatch OnlineBBCLebanese were receiving late-night phone calls from the Israeli government. “I just wished I could talk back to the voice,” said one woman, “but it was a recorded message.” Hezbollah responded by sending mobile-phone text messages to dozens of Israelis.SFGate.comHaaretzReuters via thestaronlineThe Israeli military deployed llamas in southern Lebanon.YnetnewsJTARadical Sunni groups usually hostile to Shiites urged support for Hezbollah,Ynetnewsand Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, condemned Israel’s military actions; Howard Dean called al-Maliki an “anti-Semite.”APThirteen U.S. soldiers died in Iraq, where the U.S. military was planning to deploy 5,000 more troops. icasualties.orgAt least 34 gunshot bodies were found in Baghdad, all showing signs of torture.local6.comReutersShiite militia groups in Baghdad were setting up checkpoints, demanding that passersby provide identification, and shooting Sunnis on the spot. “The gangs also raided houses and shouted at the people there, ‘You pimps, Sunnis, we will kill you,'” explained an eyewitness. “And they did.”ReutersNewsweekGunmen in Mosul set fire to government-run food-ration shops. ReutersA marine sniper who has killed as many as 60 insurgents in Iraq said of his work, “It’s like hearing classical music playing in my head.”USA TodayIt was reported that Private Steven D. Green, who is charged with raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, then killing her and members of her family, had said that, in Iraq, “killing people is like squashing an ant, I mean, you kill somebody and it’s like, ‘All right, let’s go get some pizza.'” Washington PostThe coach of the Iraqi national soccer team resigned and fled to Kurdistan. ABC (Australia)Saddam Hussein demanded that he be shotâ??not hangedâ??if he is found guilty of murdering Shiites in Dujail in 1982. “This case,” said Hussein, “is not worth the urine of an Iraqi child.”Scotsman.comIn Minnesota people in zombie costumes were arrested for carrying “simulated weapons of mass destruction.local6.com

Hot weather killed 141 people (as well as 25,000 cattle and 700,000 fowl) in California, at least 170 people in France, Italy, and Spain, and dozens of racing dogs in Oregon, and shut down MySpace.CBSTwo people in England were killed by a giant inflatable sculpture named Dreamscape.USAgNet.comAFP via Taipei TimesCape Timeslocal6.comlocal6.comBBCRadiologists announced that many Americans were becoming too fat for X-rays,Reutersand a man in Sumatra was squashed by an elephant.news24.comDoctors in India removed a 15-year-old dead fetus from a woman’s womb,Times of IndiaPresident George W. Bush apologized to British Prime Minister Tony Blair for improperly shipping bombs to Israel via Scotland,BBCand Britain considered legislation to establish $1,859 fines for cyber-bullying.Daily MailBaboons were harrassing construction workers in Liverpool,Washington Postand a school headmaster in China burned down 10 classrooms when the dogmeat he was cooking burst into flames.The AustralianAn American scientist claimed that parrots are as intelligent as five-year-old children,ABC (Australia)and Georgian soldiers were injured in a battle in a gorge in Georgia, according to government official Georgy Arveladze.Reuters via tvnz.co.nzIt was reported that detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison have attacked their guards with spit, feces, semen, and a bloody lizard tail.AP via Breitbart.comSenators Hillary Clinton and John McCain held a vodka-drinkingcontest,New York Timesand in Maryland one U.S. Senate candidate said he did not knowingly pay for 20 heroin addicts to come to his campaign rally, while another was arrested for raping his 19-year-old mail-order bride. Washington TimesOfficials in Mississippi claimed to have their beaver problem under control.wjz.comNortheast Mississippi Daily Journal

Geneticists were optimistic about their plans to sequence and compare the genomes of such primate species as the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), the orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), and the gorilla (Gorilla gorilla). medicalnewstoday.comA Tennesseeelephant named Winkie was found not to have killed her handler on purpose,AP via Forbesand a British jockey apologized for headbutting his horse.Daily MailA large praying mantis statue was frightening children in Tokyo,NDTV.compoisoned pigeons rained down in Schenectady, New York,AOL Newsand Texas was overrun by butterflies.New York TimesA man in Prey Veng province, Cambodia, killed a 76-year-old nun by strangling her with a krama, then attempted to assassinate a monk, while the victims slept at a wat.Phnom Penh PostAn influential Italian banker and member of Opus Dei was found dismembered under a bridge in Parma,Independent (U.K.)and Mel Gibson was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. “Are you a Jew?” Gibson is reported to have asked a sheriff’s deputy. “What do you think you’re looking at, sugar tits?” he demanded of a female sergeant.TMZChinese scientists were preparing to test an artificial sun.UPILubbock, Texas, prayed for rain,KCBD.comand fish fell from the sky in Manna, India.Mail&Guardian

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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.

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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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The Black Axe·

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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