Weekly Review — April 15, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Twenty U.S. soldiers were killed last week fighting across Iraq, and 1,300 Iraqi officers and soldiers were fired for poor performance. The Bush Administration said it was optimistic that many more refugees from the estimated 4.4 million people who had fled Iraq or had been “internally displaced” would be allowed into the United States. Since the war began the United States has accepted only 5,000 Iraqi refugees. Sweden has taken 34,000.ReutersIHTHillary Clinton and John McCain accused Barack Obama of elitism after Obama commented on the bitterness of working-class people in a speech at an expensive San Francisco fund-raiser. “They cling to guns,” said Obama, “or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment, as a way to explain their frustrations.”AFPNBC11BBC NewsZombie TimesBob Dylan won a Pulitzer Prize,The New York Timesand scientists identified a group of 8,000-year-old Norway spruce trees in western Sweden, believed to be the oldest on earth. The trees, which took root after the last Ice Age, stayed at a shrublike size for most of their lives. “The past few decades we have seen a much warmer climate, which has meant that they have popped up,” said tree expert Leif Kullman.Reuters

There were riots in Haiti, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Cameroon over increasing food costs. Some blamed the rising price of corn (up 31 percent from 2005) on the burgeoning biofuel industry, pointing out that to fill up an SUV with a tank of ethanol uses as much corn as can feed a person for a year. World Bank President Robert Zoellick called for more contributions to the $500 million World Food Program. “We have to put our money,” he said, “where our mouth is.”The AgeThe 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay, a tradition that began in 1936 as a celebration of Nazi ideology, traveled to Dar es Salaam, guarded by China’s 30-person paramilitary Sacred Flame Protection Unit; onlookers chanted “Tanzania is a peaceful country” as a police helicopter hovered overhead.The GuardianThe Washington PostTimes OnlineAll AfricaBBC NewsTwo Arizona chemists published a paper expressing concern over the uncontrolled use of odor-fighting socks, which may, when washed, pollute aquatic ecosystems with nanoparticle silver.Science DailyResearchers in Virginia found that due to pollution the scent of flowers, which could travel up to 4,000 feet during the nineteenth century, now travels not even a quarter of that distance.Live ScienceKiller bees attacked Mexican policemen after one officer shot up their hive,New York TimesEuropean scientists used lasers to stimulate electrical activity in thunderclouds,Scientific Bloggingand geneticists were reportedly impressed by a new cloning technique that, according to the chief scientific officer of U.S. firm Advanced Cell Technology, “can actually produce a child.”A poll by the science journal Nature found that 20 percent of its readers use brain-enhancing drugs.The Globe and Mail

In the Indian city of Bhubaneshwar, Biranchi Das, former coach of six-year-old marathon runner Budhia Singh, was shot dead after a dispute with a gangster over a small-time actress,NDTV.comand villagers in northern India began worshipping a newborn girl with two faces as the reincarnation of Durga, Hindu goddess of valor. “She drinks milk from her two mouths,” said a hospital director, “and opens and shuts all the four eyes at one time.”AP via BreitbartThe U.K. Privy Council approved reforms that allow Sark, a small island off the coast of Normandy, its own parliamentary government. “These moves are intended to be a step away from a feudalist system,” said the seneschal of Sark.The IndependentFrench and Canadianastronomers announced the discovery of the coldest brown-dwarf star on record, 40 light-years away,AP via Google Newsand Russia was considering sending monkeys to Mars.BBC NewsJohn Wheeler, a physicist who coined the term “black hole,” died at age 96. In his 1999 autobiography he explained what can be learned by studying black holes: “That space can be crumpled like a piece of paper,” he wrote, “into an infinitesimal dot.”New York Times

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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.

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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.

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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