Weekly Review — April 3, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

“Into the palace parlor they stepped; her hand in his paw the old bruin kept,” 1875

In Tal Afar, Iraq, a truck bomb killed 152 people, making it the deadliest attack of the war. Two hundred and fifty more people died in other bombings carried out against Shiite targets.Reuters via China PostPresident George W. Bush asserted that withdrawing from Iraq would be disastrous and supported his claims by citing two Baghdad bloggers.AP via BreitbartThe newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Iraq spoke of “encouraging signals of progress,”Reuters via China Postand the British Ministry of Defence found that a study which had placed Iraq’s civilian death toll at 655,000 was “robust.”BBCBlood spewed from a sewer in Minneapolis. “Blood just all over my face, in my mouth, I could taste it,” said a city worker. “It was terrible. I had it in my mouth and I kept spitting and I couldn’t get rid of it.”wcco.comIn Washington, D.C., Karl Rove danced on stage during a press dinner and pretended to be a rapper, shouting: “I’m MC Rove.”BBCMichael Jackson was planning to create a fifty-foot-tall robotic replica of himself that would roam the Las Vegas desert while firing laser beams,Dotmusic via Yahoo!NEWSand in Spearsville, Louisiana, two fifth-graders had sex on a classroom floor during an assembly about murder.APSan Francisco endorsed legislation to establish a U.S. Department of Peace and Nonviolence,News Blazeand in the Indian state of Gujarat, an unemployed man from Tooting, England, had found new work as Bahucharaji, the patron goddess of eunuchs.AnanovaBritish Prime Minister Tony Blair said that he was disgusted with Iran’s treatment of 15 Royal Navy hostages. Spiegel Online

In the United States, crystal meth was now available in candy flavors,USA TODAYand government health officials warned of the risk of salmonella from live Easter chicks.AP via local6.comAt the Gaza?Egypt border a woman with three baby crocodiles strapped to her waist was detained after guards noticed that she looked “strangely fat.” AP via New York TimesAt least four Palestinians in Gaza were killed by what authorities called a “sewage tsunami,”AFP via Breitbartand a West Bank woman had developed special “queuing” socks to help her countrymen who suffer from swollen feet while waiting at Israeli military checkpoints.BBCA U.S. Army recruiter’s email exchange with a gay man was published in a New Jersey newspaper. “YOU GO BACK TO AFRICA AND DO YOUR GAY VOODOO LIMBO TANGO AND WANGO DANCE,” wrote the recruiter, “AND JUMP AROUND AND PRANCE AND RUN ALL OVER THE PLACE HALF NAKED.” Jersey JournalIn Zimbabwe, scores of teenagers were beaten by riot police and dragged from a disco, iol.co.zaand President Robert Mugabe admitted responsibility for the recent torture of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who, Mugabe said, “asked for it.”iol.co.zaChina was considering using its vast harvest of rape to create biodiesel. “The government,” said Agriculture Ministry official Wang Shoucong, “should foster research work to nurture high-yield rape.”PTI via HinduAustrianscientists claimed that men who sleep in the same bed as their partners may suffer reduced mental function,iol.co.zaand the World Health Organization endorsed circumcision as a tool to reduce the spread of HIV. “The recommendations represent a significant step forward,” said WHO HIV/AIDS director Kevin De Cock.BBCResearchers discovered that Canadianschool bullies were forcing their girlfriends to strip online,Reutersand members of a Michigan college fraternity called the police after a woman disrobed and started masturbating in their living room and refused to leave; the fraternity now plans to throw away two sofas.Michigan Daily

As many as 600,000 drought-stricken camels were invading communities in northern Australia;AdelaideNowa California man was released from prison after serving five months for shooting an ostrich named Gaylord who had embarrassed him in front of women; San Francisco Chronicleand in Germany, a black Australian swan named Petra was in love with a paddleboat.AnanovaThe world’s tallest person, an Inner Mongolian herdsman who last year used his long arms to save two dolphins by removing plastic from their stomachs, married a woman.AP via New York TimesIt was suggested that Yan Yan, a panda at the Berlin Zoo, died from stress in the wake of intense publicity generated by Knut, his polar-bear-cub neighbor.GuardianA rambunctious elephant in Sasthamcotta, India, killed its second mahout, Podimon of Modioozhathil, who died on the way to a hospital in Thiruvananthapuram,newindpress.comand farther north, police in Bhiwandi registered a complaint after a hill, with an estimated street value of $5.5 million, was reported stolen.Mumbai MirrorThe Dead Sea was disappearing,Economist via Toronto Stara 15,000-mile-wide hexagon was seen on Saturn,Daily Mailand a Nepalese teenager believed to be a reincarnation of the Buddha began a three-year meditation in a concrete bunker.AFP via Yahoo!NEWS Singapore

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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?

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

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