Weekly Review — April 1, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Caught in the Web, 1860]

Caught in the Web, 1860.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered an offensive against the Mahdi Army, a large Shia militia allied with cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, in the oil-rich southern port city of Basra. Senator John McCain called the offensive “a sign of the strength of [Maliki’s] government,” President George W. Bush said it was “a positive moment in the development of a sovereign nation,” and a Pentagon spokesman called it “a by-product of the success of the surge.” The offensive, dubbed the Charge of the Knights, erupted into six days of heavy fighting that spread across southern Iraq and to Sadr City, a Baghdad slum where three million Shia live. After a stern ultimatum failed to bring peace, Maliki offered cash rewards to militiamen who turned in their weapons. Forty Iraqi policemen were reported to have given their weapons for free to Mahdi Army officers.New York Daily NewsTimes UKNYTCSMNYTLATLATWPNYTNYTIraqi officials went to Iran to negotiate directly with al-Sadr, who told his followers to stop fighting if the Iraqi government grants them amnesty. “Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr,” said Parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashadani, “proved that he is a good politician.”McClatchyIt was revealed that a 2002 Iraq trip by three antiwar congressmen was paid for by Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency,NYTWPand that a Miami Beach company supplied U.S. allies in Afghanistan with defective, 40-year-old, Chinese-made bullets; the president of the company, 22-year-old Efraim Diveroli of Miami Beach, has been a defense contractor since he was 18. “I’m basically just working,” Diveroli explained on his MySpace page, “and chilling with my boyz.” NYTMiami HeraldMySpace

American housing prices continued to fall, and financial institutions worldwide, which have lost $295 billion so far, were expected to lose hundreds of billions more.S&PDer SpiegelMcCain asked mortgage lenders to provide voluntary aid to homeowners, recalling that General Motors had offered no-interest car financing after September 11. Senator Hillary Clinton suggested consulting former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. While Clinton conceded that Greenspan helped cause the current crisis, she claimed that he has a “calming influence” on Wall Street. “Don’t ask me why,” she said, “because I never understand what he’s saying.” Senator Barack Obama gave a stirring speech, invoking the history of American finance from Hamilton and Jefferson to the present day, and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. proposed the largest reform of the American financial system since the Great Depression.LATLATNYTWPAttytoodNYTBoston GlobeWPWSJBusinessweek via Der SpiegelNYTWPThe cost of rice increased by 30 percent, raising fears of unrest in rice-eating countries, FTNYTBBCand the village of Roecken, Germany, debated moving Friedrich Nietzsche’s grave in order to extract the coal underneath his remains. Der Spiegel

Nine Americans sued their former employer, defense contractor KBR, for intentionally exposing them to carcinogens,Boston Globeand doctors at the University of Miami at Jackson announced that they had temporarily removed a patient’s stomach, pancreas, spleen, liver, and most of her intestines in order to get at a stubborn tumor. Miami HeraldEuthanasia advocate Jack Kevorkian announced that he was running for Congress,LATand the Pentagon announced that it had accidentally shipped four fuses for nuclear warheads to Taiwan.WPA stray bullet bounced off chef Paul Prudhomme as he set up a cooking tent in New Orleans,.NO Times-Picayune160 square miles of ice broke off the Wilkins Ice Shelf in western Antarctica,WPand thousands of bats in the northeastern United States were exhibiting a mysterious condition known as “white-nose syndrome.”BBCThe director of the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition, Ron Gillett, was charged with assaulting wolf advocate Lynne Stone.Idaho StatesmanA park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where Hillary Clinton once promised a group of children that a Catholic-Protestant playground would be built, remained windswept and empty. “She was in charge of christening this wee corner as some kind of peace playground,” said Belfast political analyst Brian Feeney. “It never made any sense then, and there’s nothing there today.” AP via Boston GlobeIsrael “Cachao” Lopez, one of the inventors of the mambo, died. At his funeral, as an orchestra performed his Afro-Cuban “Misa de Mambo,” a statue of Cuba’s patron saint appeared to be swaying to the beat. Miami Herald

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The city was not beautiful; no one made that claim for it. At the height of summer, people in suits, shellacked by the sun, moved like harassed insects to avoid the concentrated light. There was a civil war–like fracture in America—the president had said so—but little of it showed in the capital. Everyone was polite and smooth in their exchanges. The corridor between Dupont Circle and Georgetown was like the dream of Yugoslav planners: long blocks of uniform earth-toned buildings that made the classical edifices of the Hill seem the residue of ancestors straining for pedigree. Bunting, starched and perfectly ruffled in red-white-and-blue fans, hung everywhere—from air conditioners, from gutters, from statues of dead revolutionaries. Coming from Berlin, where the manual laborers are white, I felt as though I was entering the heart of a caste civilization. Untouchables in hard hats drilled into sidewalks, carried pylons, and ate lunch from metal boxes, while waiters in restaurants complimented old respectable bobbing heads on how well they were progressing with their rib eyes and iceberg wedges.

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When Demétrio Martins was ready to preach, he pushed a joystick that angled the seat of his wheelchair forward, slowly lifting him to a standing position. Restraints held his body upright. His atrophied right arm lay on an armrest, and with his left hand, he put a microphone to his lips. “Proverbs, chapter fourteen, verse twelve,” he said. “ ‘There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is . . .’ ”

The congregation finished: “ ‘Death.’ ”

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Every year in Lusk, Wyoming, during the second week of July, locals gather to reenact a day in 1849 when members of a nearby band of Sioux are said to have skinned a white man alive. None of the actors are Native American. The white participants dress up like Indians and redden their skin with body paint made from iron ore.

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At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

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