Week in Review

by by Malcolm Burnley, Alex Ronan & Caroline Soussloff

illustration by by Becca Levinson

Ghost of Gaddafi

Somewhere outside Misrata, the body of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi lies buried in an unmarked grave. But 197 days after his death, he continually wreaks havoc on North African politics, haunting recent conflicts in Mali and Sierra Leone posthumously like the ghost of Hamlet.

On April 25, the six-year trial of Charles Taylor—the former Liberian President and warlord who was educated at Gaddafi’s military institute, the World Revolutionary Center—concluded at a Hague court, found guilty on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Sierra Leone’s civil war during the ’90s. He was charged with aiding rebel atrocities like sexual slavery, rape, and with using child soldiers in exchange for blood diamonds and control of diamond-rich areas of neighboring Sierra Leone. Victims have recounted Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia mutilating them with “short-sleeves”—cutting their arms below the elbow— and “long-sleeves”—removing their hands. He became the first head of state convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trials fifty years ago. Capital punishment is outside the Special Court’s jurisdiction, but Taylor, 64, is expected to serve 50 years to life.

According to a former prosecutor for the United Nations’ Special Court for Sierra Leone, Gaddafi’s influence permeated the trial testimony of 115 witnesses, including that of Taylor himself, who took the stand for seven months. “This was a long-term criminal conspiracy… [Gaddafi] was the center point,” David M. Crane, the American prosecutor who first initiated the case, told TIME last year. Libyan special forces fought on the side of murderous rebels, and Gaddafi backed their two primary leaders—Taylor and Foday Sankoh—with financial assistance during the 11 year war, which claimed 50,000 lives.

Now Gaddafi’s armaments have spilled into Mali and spawned a chaotic springtime war that has split the country in three. On April 6, 1,000 Tuareg rebels led by a former colonel in Gaddafi’s army declared a breakaway country—the Independent State of Azawad—after seizing control of much of Northern Mali, including Gao and Timbuktu. The Tuaregs—a nomadic group indigenous to the Sahara-region—became robustly equipped with mortars and anti-aircraft weaponry after enlisting as Gaddafi mercenaries during his anti-revolution campaign.

On March 22, as the Tuaregs overtook the North, a coup unfolded in the South, when members of the Malian military overthrew President Amadou Toumani Touré, citing his inept response to the Tuaregs. Throughout April, junta leaders detained Touré supporters, but a counter-coup cropped up in the capital Bamako on April 30. Supporters of Touré’s government retook control of the airport and the national television station, signaling that the 7,000-member Malian army and government officials are thoroughly divided in mutiny.

After holding free-and-fair elections since 1991 and fighting with the Tuaregs for fifty years, Mali has succumbed to tripartite Civil War, incited by the Mad Dog of the Middle East.—MB


Symbolic Reconstruction

As of Monday, One World Trade Center is once again the site of the tallest building in New York City.  In the ten years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Empire State Building had reclaimed this superlative, having lost it to the Twin Towers in 1973.  The Freedom Tower now surpasses 1,250 feet, the height of the Empire State Building if you disqualify its spire.

By 2013, the new skyscraper will stretch to its full height, 1,776 feet—408 feet taller than the original Twin Towers—becoming the tallest building in the United States. Back in the heyday of American skyscraping, the WTC was only able to defend this title for one month before the Willis (née Sears) Tower in Chicago overtook it.

The database of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) lists the Burj Khalifa in Dubai as the world’s tallest completed building at 2717 feet.  Willis Tower is ranked eighth, the Empire State Building eighteenth.  It should be noted that whether or not to include antenna masts is a central controversy in the world of competitive skyscraping; the CTBUH numbers exclude them.

The completed Freedom Tower has a shot at second place internationally, rising above the current number two, Taiwan’s Taipei 101 (1667 feet).  The media has been spinning One World Trade Center’s newfound heights as emblematic of the perseverance of American power. But it is unlikely to retain its second-place ranking for long.  On the CTBUH’s list of tallest buildings under construction, five other buildings in the Middle East and Asia are projected to be taller than the Freedom Tower.—CS



Southern Comfort

“Great news,” said my “friends” at on Sunday, “now you can grow your family tree,” referring to a project I am now involved in at the behest of my mother. Last week she traveled with little known second cousins to Uvalde, Texas, home of ancestor and oil baron Thomas Peter Lee. (“I am under strict instructions from your grandmother not to discuss politics!” she emailed.) While there, she rode around in the back of a minivan and determined that we are, in fact, related to Robert E Lee. From Uvalde she reported “Peepa, also known as your great great grandfather, was accused of murdering his mistress’s husband,” suggesting “perhaps he had his bookkeeper act on his behalf.”

Nearly constant updates to my family tree aren’t the only thing going on at Last Wednesday, the company announced that it would acquire rival family history website for $100 million in cash and assumed liabilities. is the largest for-profit genealogy company in the world, and already owns,, and Ancestry has 9 billion historical records. Archives has only 2 billion but recently teamed up with US National Archives to provide free access to the recently released 1940 US Census. Ancestry and Archives will maintain separate websites, and both require paid subscriptions to access most data.

Matthew Monahan, co-founder and CEO of Inflections, the tech company that owns gushed about the recent merger. “We’ve long admired’s content and technology and innovations,” Monahan told the Washington Post. As for the Ancestry team, they’re probably pleased as punch. In addition to acquiring their rival, on Wednesday the company reported first-quarter earnings of $13.5 million, a jump from the $9 million reported in the same period a year ago. Revenue increased 10 percent to $108.5 million.  But not all news is good news. After researching the lineage of our family surnames, my mom reported “it looks like we are descended from left handed servants, who lived in attics, near swamps.”—AR