Weekly Review — April 10, 2018, 6:34 pm

Weekly Review

The FBI raids the office of one of Trump’s lawyers, a fire breaks out in Trump Tower, and a South Carolina congressman pulls out a gun

On Fox and Friends, which US president Donald Trump has called “the most influential show in news,” the hosts discussed a thousand-person “caravan” of migrants traveling toward the United States to escape gang violence and poverty in Central America; and Trump said that women in the group were being “raped at levels nobody has seen before” and that he would deploy 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border to stop the migrants from seeking asylum.[1][2][3][4][5] Trump announced a tariff worth $50 billion on 1,300 Chinese goods, China proposed $50 billion worth of tariffs on American products, and Trump said he was considering raising the value of his tariffs by $100 billion. “We’ll see how this works out,” said Trump’s economic adviser.[6][7][8] It was reported that Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt spent millions of taxpayer dollars to employ a 20-person security detail, reassigned or demoted EPA employees if they questioned the agency’s spending, attempted to use sirens to get through traffic, and rented a condo for $50 a night from the wife of a lobbyist for the only liquefied-natural-gas exporter in the United States.[9][10] A fire broke out on the 50th floor of Trump Tower, killing one person.[11]

In Syria, medical groups reported that at least 70 people suffocated in Douma from a chemical attack.[12][13] During protests in Gaza, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian photojournalist who was wearing a vest that bore the word “press.”[14] A former president of Brazil, who was leading in the polls for the country’s upcoming presidential election, turned himself in to authorities to begin a 12-year sentence after being found guilty of helping a construction company acquire contracts from the state-run oil industry; a former president of South Korea was sentenced to 24 years in prison for using her position to fundraise for companies that paid for her shaman’s daughter’s equestrian lessons; and a South Carolina congressman pulled out a loaded .38-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun during a “coffee with constituents” meeting and said he was “not going to be a Gabby Giffords.”[15][16][17][18][19][20][21]

Researchers found that one in three low-income American families struggles to afford diapers, and parts of California flooded when a plume of water vapor from the tropics caused snowmelt and heavy rain.[22][23][24] A Tallahassee city commissioner said he had used almost all of the funds from his state senate campaign to pay an attorney to represent him in an FBI investigation of public corruption so that he could “clear his name” and “remain a viable candidate”; the FBI raided the office of one of Trump’s lawyers, who admitted to paying off an adult-film star with whom Trump allegedly had an affair; the ex-fiancée of a former Republican presidential campaign adviser accused her partner of forcing her to sign a five-page contract to be his “slave and property,” requiring her to wear a collar and always be naked; and the singer Cardi B released her first album, Invasion of Privacy.[25][26][27][28][29]

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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?

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.

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The Catholic School, by Edoardo Albinati. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1,280 pages. $40.

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