Weekly Review — February 20, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Tempest, December 1878]

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki called initial stages of the new security crackdown in Baghdad a “dazzling success.” Later, six explosions in three markets killed 127 people, and suspected insurgents shot six people in the head in a public garden.NYTNYTNYTAmerican forces, targeting Taliban fighters, launched artillery rounds into Pakistan.BreitbartPresident George W. Bush expressed “certainty” that the Iranian government has been supplying Iraqi insurgents with weapons and extended the deployment of 3,200 soldiers so close to the end of their tour that their uniforms and supplies had already been packed for shipment.CBS4DenverNYTBush suggested that he was not particularly interested in Congressional deliberations over the proposed troop surge. “In terms of watching the debate, I??ve got a lot to do,” he said. “It??s not as if the world stops when the Congress does.”NYTFormer CIA Director George Tenet was working on a memoir,NYTand defense attorneys for I. Lewis Libby Jr. declared that neither Libby nor Vice President Dick Cheney would take the stand.NYTThe trial for the 2004 Madrid bombings began; 18 suspects watched the proceedings from a bulletproof glass chamber.The SunThe Navy announced that specially trained dolphins and sea lions may patrol a military base in Washington State that is vulnerable to attack by swimmers and scuba divers; the sea lions are trained to clamp cuffs around swimmers’ legs so that the swimmers can be reeled in.APA Japanesedolphin was fitted with an artificial tail.DailyMail

A former dentist named Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, a close ally of deceased autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov, took office as Turkmenistan’s new president,and in Guinea, President Lansana Conté declared martial law in response to violent street protests calling for his resignation.NYTA gunman in Salt Lake City went on a shooting rampage in the Trolley Square mall, killing five before he was shot dead by police.NYTA United Nations expert panel announced a 50 percent likelihood that widespread ice sheet loss was inevitable and could elevate sea levels by up to 19 feet in the next several hundred years.GuardianRichard Branson offered a $25 million prize to anyone who can remove a billion tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere.NYTEvidence from new photographs of Mars suggested subterranean streams capable of hosting simple forms of life.Bloomberg.comAn airline pilot from Minnesota won two $25,000 lottery jackpots over two consecutive days, while the winning ticket of a $3.5 million Connecticut Classic Lotto jackpot expired without the winner stepping forward.AP via MiamiHeraldNYTBank of America was offering a new credit card aimed at illegal immigrants.ReutersChinese authorities sentenced businessman Wang Zhendong to death for his role in duping 10,000 investors out of $390 million in a giant ant-farming scam,BBCand a salmonella outbreak in 39 states was traced to contaminated peanut butter.CNN

A Pittsburgh-area woman pleaded guilty to attempted homicide, assault, and kidnapping for trying to cut a fetus out of her neighbor’s womb.AP via BreitbartIn central India, police launched an investigation after discovering a plastic bag stuffed with the skeletal remains of at least six newborns on the grounds of a Christian missionary hospital,CNNand the Indian government described plans for a countrywide network of cradles where parents can abandon unwanted baby girls.BBCA couple in Ohio were sentenced to two years in prison for forcing their adopted, special-needs children to sleep in cages.AP via Chicago Sun-TimesAfter studying 21 industrialized nations, the U.N. concluded that Dutch children were the most happy, and British and American children the least.BBCA Florida production of “The Vagina Monologues” changed its name to “The Hoohaa Monologues” after a woman claimed the title was offensive,iol.co.zaand a book called The Higher Power of Lucky, the winner of this year’s Newbery Medal, was reportedly banned from several school libraries because it includes the word “scrotum.”NYTNew Mexico placed 500 talking urinal-deodorizer cakes in public bathrooms.AP via NYTFormer NBA all-star Tim Hardaway told a radio program, “I hate gay people,”CBS4and Nigeria’s House of Representatives introduced a new bill that would criminalize homosexual relations.BBCActor Ralph Fiennes admitted to having sex in an aircraft bathroom with a stewardess, whom his spokeswoman called a “sexual aggressor,”ThisIsLondonand an Irvine, California, police officer was found not guilty of charges that he ejaculated on a female motorist during an early-morning traffic stop. “She got what she wanted,” explained the officer’s lawyer. “She??s an overtly sexual person.”OC WeeklyHarvard University named historian Drew Gilpin Faust as its first female president.CBSBritney Spearsshaved her head.AP via CNN

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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.

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.

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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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