Weekly Review — May 1, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A grasshopper driving a chariot, 1875]

Former CIA Director George Tenet published a book accusing the Bush Administration of taking his phrase “slam dunk”â??referring to intelligence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destructionâ??out of context in order to justify a war that the president, the vice president, and the secretary of defense had resolved to wage before September 11, 2001. Tenet complained that the White House and the Pentagon made him their scapegoat when the Iraqi arsenal turned out to be imaginary. A group of former intelligence officers sent Tenet a letter calling him “the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community,” reminding him that he had often lied to the public at the administration’s behest, and encouraging him to return his Medal of Freedom and donate half his royalties to wounded veterans and the families of dead soldiers. Washington PostTPMNational Security Advisor Stephen Hadley was trying to hire someone new to run the Iraq war,New York Timesand Saudi Arabia arrested 172 men suspected of plotting to fly planes into oil wells, execute mass prison breaks, and assassinate members of the Saudi royal family.ReutersCampaigning in New Hampshire, Rudolph Giuliani said, “I listen a little to the Democrats, and if one of them gets elected, we are going on defense. We will wave the white flag on Iraq. We will cut back on the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance, interrogation, and we will be back to our pre-September 11 attitude of defense.” PoliticoThe nine Democrats running for president held a debate in South Carolina. Hillary Clinton faulted the people of Iraq for not making good on “the chance to have freedom, to have their own country” provided by the U.S. invasion, and John Edwards suggested that hedge funds could help alleviate poverty. Asked why he was at the debate, Mike Gravel, a 76-year-old who represented Alaska in the Senate from 1969 to 1981, pointed to the rest of the candidates and said, “Some of these people frighten me,” especially “the top-tier ones.” He singled out Joseph Biden for his “arrogance” and asked Barack Obama, “Barack, who do you want to nuke?” Obama replied, “I’m not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike. I promise.” “Good,” said Gravel, “then we’re safe, for a while.”WCNC

In a Ha’aretz op-ed, Gilad Sharon, son of vegetative former Israeli leader Ariel Sharon, advocated stripping Arab Israelis of their citizenship. Hamas declared an end to its ceasefire with Israel, armed protestors dropped the corpse of a murdered man named Hassan Abu Sharkh in the Palestinian Authority Parliament, several rockets struck Israel from Gaza, and the Israel Defense Forces killed three Hamas agents planting a bomb by the Gaza border fence. Ha’aretzInternational Herald TribuneJerusalem PostA suicide bomber killed 26 people in Peshawar, Pakistan, in an attack targeting Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, who was wounded. “We have got the severed head of the bomber, and it is identifiable,” said Information Minister Asif Iqbal Daudzai. ReutersThunderstorms destroyed a shantytown outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, leaving 500 people homeless; ten slum-dwellers were killed by drowning, a collapsing building, and a falling tree. Malaysia SunDavid Halberstam and Jack Valenti died.The New YorkerWashington PostA man with a rifle opened fire in a Kansas City Target, killing at least two people before police killed him. Los Angeles TimesA television station in St. Louis received a letter full of misspellings from a woman who claimed that she “was in dept” and requested the station pay her $10,000 not to kill her children and her boyfriend; a 29-year-old mother whose name was signed on the letter denied writing it.St. Louis Post-DispatchHunters in Russia killed a rare wild Amur leopard; six remain at large.Daily Times

The Vatican revised its teachings on limbo, raising hopes that the souls of unbaptized dead babies could be saved.Catholic News ServiceKryptonite was discovered in a Serbian mine,Reutersthe Office of Special Counsel opened an investigation of Karl Rove,Los Angeles Timesand a man dining at the London restaurant “Zizzi” amputated his penis with a kitchen knife.BBCResearchers investigating the collapse of honeybee colonies in Europe and the Americas identified several possible reasons for the catastrophe: poor diet; radiation from mobile phones that disturbs bees’ sense of navigation so they cannot fly home; increased solar radiation due to the thinning of the ozone layer; bee AIDS; stress from cross-country travel in trucks; falling queen fertility; the microsporidian fungus Nosema ceranae; or imidacloprid, a pesticide sold under the brand name Gaucho and banned by France in 1999 for spreading “mad bee disease.” Investors were advised to put their money in gold and corn futures to profit off the recession that may result from the disruption of the food chain caused by the vanishing bees. Grapes, which self-pollinate, and olives, which are pollinated by the wind, will not be affected by the bees’ disappearance; Christians pointed out that the Book of Revelation predicts that a famine sparing grapes and olives will precede the apocalypse.New York TimesThe RegisterThe StockmastersChristian News Wire

Share
Single Page

More from Christian Lorentzen:

From the April 2019 issue

Like This or Die

The fate of the book review in the age of the algorithm

Weekly Review November 4, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Weekly Review July 29, 2008, 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

The Wood Chipper

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

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