Notes: Retribution killing continues to escalate in the Middle East. At this writing, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat is either unwilling or unable to stem the violence coming from Palestinians. On the other side, Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was quoted by reporter James Bennet in Wednesday's New York Times as saying that "The aim is to increase the number of losses on the other side." Bennet called this a "strategy of peace through pain" on the part of both sides.

The Associated Press reported on Friday that it was the "deadliest day of fighting in 17 months." As I write this, the Sharon has hinted that he might be willing to negotiate while the violence is going on, a change from his requirement that there be seven days of non-violence before he would do so. The situation is so out of hand that the Bush administration has sent an envoy to the region as a mediator. Still, there is no word from Arafat.

I'm a classic Heinz 57 person, made from people who disliked each other -- that is, my bloodlines range from German to English to Irish to Spanish. A friend asked me if I ever woke up punching myself in the face because of that conflicted array of ancestors. Consequently, aside from identifying with citizens of my country, the United States, I feel no strong identity with an ethnic group. Coming from that position, the Middle East violence between peoples is shocking and unfathomable. A Jewish friend put it to me this way: "We're all wearing uniforms. If you are caught between two lines of people shooting at each other, you're going to run to the line of people who are like you." But, where would I ever find a line of people with German-English-Irish-Spanish blood?