Weekly Review — February 3, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Christian martyr, 1855]

A Christian martyr.

Two days after three candidates and two campaign workers were kidnapped and murdered, Iraqis voted in the first national elections since 2005, choosing between 14,000 candidates running for 440 provincial offices. Two men were shot and wounded at a polling place in Sadr City, and some voters were turned away when their names could not be found on voting rolls dating from food ration lists held over from Saddam Hussein’s reign. CNN“This day is a victory for all Iraqis,” said an Iraqi general in Kirkuk. “I don’t know whom to vote for,” said an inmate at Basra’s Ma’qal prison, “but a sheikh wrote this number on my hand, and I will vote for this number.”NYTimesReutersThe Republican National Committee elected its first black chairman, Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, after six rounds of voting. “Obviously the winds of change are blowing,” said a rival candidate. “For those who wish to obstruct,” said Steele, “get ready to get knocked over.”Associated PressOne day before the 360th anniversary of the execution of Charles I, the Illinois State Senate voted 59 to zero to impeach Governor Rod Blagojevich. “I thought about Mandela, Dr. King, and Gandhi,” said Blagojevich prior to the impeachment, “and tried to put some perspective to all this, and that is what I am doing now.” Lieutenant Governor Patrick J. Quinn succeeded Blagojevich as governor of Illinois. “You want to know my philosophy?” said Quinn. “One day a peacock. The next day a feather duster.”The Edge of the American WestWashington PostChicago Sun TimesNYTimes

A report found that shoddy electrical work by former Halliburton subsidiary KBR led to the electrocution and death of at least one soldier,CNNand the State Department decided not to renew Blackwater’s contract in Iraq after the Iraqi government refused the security firm, whose employees shot 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007, a license to operate. “It would not be a mortal blow,” said company founder Erik Prince of his firm’s imminent dismissal. “But it would hurt us.”Associated PressThe Israel Defense Forces deployed eight antelope to eat vegetation that might be hiding Hezbollah guerrillas,Haaretzand army worms stormed villages across Liberia. Scientific AmericanA New Zealand man named Chris Ogle bought a used MP3 player from a thrift shop in Oklahoma that contained U.S. Army files, including mission details and the personal information of soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. “The more I look at it,” said Ogle, “the more I see.” TVNZIn cities across Russia, anti-government protesters rallied, chanting such slogans as “The crisis is in the heads of the authorities, not in the economy.”BBCExxonMobil reported $45 billion in earnings in 2008, the largest annual profit in U.S. history;CNNWall Street was found to have distributed $18.4 billion in bonuses, its sixth largest payout ever;NYTimesand international leaders gathered in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the economic crisis. “Let’s be careful,” said Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley, “that we don’t let this blame game get out of hand.”The Associated PressThe International Monetary Fund predicted that world economic growth in 2009 would be the worst since World War II. “We now expect the global economy to come to a virtual halt,” said the IMF’s chief economist. BBCThe U.S. Postal Service considered cutting back deliveries to five days a week,Washington Postand the Navy announced that President Barack Obama’s new presidential helicopter was $5.1 billion over budget.The HillA disgruntled former Fannie Mae computer engineer was indicted for allegedly attempting to plant a “logic bomb” in the corporation’s computer code,Channel Weband Coca-Cola announced plans to remove the word “classic” from its packaging. Reuters

Thirty-four years after first reporting on the medical condition termed “cello scrotum,” an irritation caused by playing the cello, the British Medical Journal was forced to acknowledge that the ailment does not exist. “Anyone who has ever watched a cello being played would realize the physical impossibility of our claim,” said Baroness Elaine Murphy, who, with her husband, created the hoax. BBCJohn Updike died,NYTimesand just after the Arizona Cardinals scored their last touchdown of Superbowl XLIII (which they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers), a cable channel in Tuscon, Arizona, interrupted the broadcast with pornography. “I just figured it was another commercial until I looked up,” said one viewer. “Then he did his little dance with everything hanging out.”BBCA Wisconsin judge ruled that cheerleading is a contact sport. ESPNWeusi McGowan, who was standing trial for robbery in a San Diego court, smeared his feces on the face of his lawyer and threw the rest at the jury box, where it hit the briefcase of juror No. 9. “That juror didn’t even see it coming,” said the prosecutor. San Diego News 10A homeless Louisiana man, who robbed a bank of $100 and then voluntarily turned himself in the next day and apologized, was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.Digital JournalA man in Somerset, England, spent two days trapped beneath his sofa, subsisting on whiskey from a bottle that had rolled within reach. “I thought, Well this isn’t too bad,” he said.BBCA 93-year-old man in Michigan died of hypothermia after Bay City Electric Light & Power restricted service to his home as a result of unpaid bills,Boston Heraldand in an elevator shaft in an abandoned building in Detroit a man was found frozen in a block of ice, with only his feet sticking out. “Yeah,” said one homeless man squatting nearby, “he’s been down there since last month at least.” The fire department eventually arrived with a chainsaw, and another homeless man, when asked if he knew the deceased, said, “I don’t recognize him from his shoes.”Detroit News

Share
Single Page

More from Genevieve Smith:

From the May 2014 issue

50,000 Life Coaches Can’t Be Wrong

Inside the industry that’s making therapy obsolete

From the June 2012 issue

In recovery

Twelve steps to prosperity

Commentary May 23, 2012, 3:44 pm

The Underearners Test

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
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.

Post
.TV·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A documentary about climate change, domain names, and capital

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.

A federal judge in South Carolina ruled in favor of personal-injury lawyer George Sink Sr., who had sued his son, George Sink Jr., for using his own name at his competing law firm.

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