Weekly Review — June 2, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

President Barack Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor, a Bronx-born, divorced, childless, diabetic, Hispanic federal judge on the U.S Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. Analysts studying Sotomayor’s decisions were unable to determine whether she would uphold Roe v. Wade, or whether she was distinctly pro- or anti-business, but much was made of a 2001 speech at the University of California at Berkeley in which she expressed hopes that a “wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” During the speech she also expressed fondness for “platos de arroz, gandoles y pernil,” a dish made with rice, beans, and pork. “Her word choice in 2001 was poor,” offered White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, but many Republicans were unconvinced. “The comments she made about the quality of her decisions being better than those of a white maleâ??I mean, we need to go further into her record to see whether this is a trend,” said Senator John Cornyn (R., Tex.), one of 98 non-Hispanic senators, who was considered for the Supreme Court in 2005 but not appointed. Newt Gingrich, who in 2007 spoke out against bilingual education by suggesting that students should “learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto,” criticized Sotomayor via Twitter. “White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw,” tweeted Gingrich. “Latina woman racist should also withdraw.” The New York TimesThe New York TimesThe New York TimesThe GuardianThe Washington PostThe Los Angeles TimesThe Washington PostFox NewsThe White HouseThe Washington PostThe New York TimesFJC.govWikipedia.orgLeading the newsThe GuardianAbortionist George Tiller was shot dead in the lobby of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas, where he was an usher,The Guardianand the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, thereby maintaining the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.California Supreme Court upholds gay marriage banGeneral Motors filed for bankruptcy, and President Obama unveiled his plan to save the former industrial giant by nationalizing it, closing plants, and firing workers.The New York TimesAmerican scientists promised to develop robotfarmers.New Scientist

A white tiger killed a zookeeper in New Zealand,White tiger kills New Zealand zoo keeperand a man in Munich received a two-year suspended sentence for beating another man with a swan.SpiegelSomeone was skinning Miami’scats.The GuardianOsel Hita Torres, 24, who as a toddler was enthroned by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of Lama Yeshe, had left his order and was studying film in Madrid. “They took me away from my family and stuck me in a medieval situation,” said Torres, who complained that the only movie he was shown was Eddie Murphy’s “The Golden Child.”The GuardianThe Tiananmen Square massacre would soon turn 20,The Wall Street Journaland Phil Spector was sentenced to at least 19 years in prison for murder.BBC NewsSix people were killed in the West Bank when Fatah raided a Hamas hideout.The New York TimesFairfax County, Virginia, sued Krispy Kreme for dumping massive quantities of “doughnut grease and other pollutants” into the sewer system,Washington Examinerand Bausch & Lomb reportedly had so far paid out $250 million to settle nearly 600 lawsuits over its contact-lens cleaner product ReNu with MoistureLoc, which prior to its recall caused hundreds of fungal infections, necessitating 60 corneal transplants and seven eye removals.The New York Times

The United Kingdom placed the cuckoo on its list of endangered birds but was culling gray squirrels, which taste good in a pie. “They are going to top restaurants, butchers, the working man,” said conservationist Paul Parker. “They don’t belong here.”Science DailyThe GuardianThe Archbishop of Canterbury called for Christians to chat less and take God seriously. “It’s like being on an ocean liner,” he said of the church, “where all the staff are talking brightly and smiling rather too cheerfullyâ?? you think ‘what’s wrong?’, as you feel the great swell underneath you.”The GuardianThe last survivor of the Titanic died at age 97.The GuardianAOL split from Time Warner,The Washington Timesand President Obama announced a new Pentagon command that will fight in cyberspace, led by a cyberczar; defense contractors were advertising for “cyberninjas”–hackers who will work for the government to protect the nation against foreign and domestic cyberweapons. “These attacks start in other countries,” explained one intelligence analyst, “but they know no borders. So how do you fight them if you can’t act both inside and outside the United States?”The New York TimesThe New York TimesRussia agreed to export uranium to the United States, a Russian firm bought nearly 2 percent of Facebook, and a five-year-old Russian girl was discovered who speaks in barks and hisses because she was raised as a pet.CNNThe New York TimesTelegraphBritish scientists found that cats, like babies, have a poor understanding of the relationship between cause and effect.New ScientistResearchers in Leipzig, Germany, inserted human language genes into a mouse, resulting in baby humanized mice that squeak at a lower ultrasonic range than normal.The New York TimesGeneticists in Kawasaki, Japan, announced that they had used an engineered virus to insert a jellyfish gene into marmoset embryos, producing monkeys that glow green in ultraviolet light and that can pass on the glow to their offspring. “It’s hard to put your finger on what is it about this research that is likely to stimulate ethical debate,” said a bioethicist in Kentucky, “besides the sort of gut feeling that this is not the right thing to do.”Washington Post

Share
Single Page

More from Paul Ford:

From the May 2010 issue

Just like heaven

Weekly Review March 23, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Weekly Review November 24, 2009, 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