Weekly Review — September 26, 2000, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

A new book claimed that anthropologists working in Venezuela in the 1960s deliberately infected the Yanomami people with measles, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, in order to test theories about evolution and eugenics; the same anthropologists, who were working in association with the United States atomic energy commission, also injected Americans with radioactive plutonium without their knowledge or permission.Kraft Foods recalled taco shells that contain StarLink, a type of genetically modified corn that was approved for animal consumption but specifically disapproved for humans.The corn was altered to produce a form of Bt, a pesticide, that might cause allergic reactions; Taco Bell distributed the shells to 7,000 restaurants.South Africa’sCommunist Party affirmed that AIDS is caused by the HIV virus; President Thabo Mbeki believes otherwise, and his ministry of health recently issued a leaflet claiming that AIDS was the result of a conspiracy between the Illuminati and space aliens.Israel was suffering an epidemic of West Nile disease.A coalition of environmental groups sued the City of New York and claimed that spraying for pesticides in heavily populated areas to control the West Nile virus violated federal and state environmental laws.A British court ruled that a pair of Siamese twins must be separated even though the operation will be fatal for one of them; the parents, who are Roman Catholic, had refused on religious grounds to give permission for the operation.Scientists extended the lifespan of yeast by subjecting it to a low caloric diet; they speculated that a pill might someday be available that would extend human life.Gonorrhea was becoming more resistant to antibiotics.The government announced that thousands of hazardous-waste-site tests had been faked by a contractor.In the Caspian Sea, the world’s last sturgeon population, a primary source of caviar, was being fished and poisoned into extinction.The World Meteorological Organization found that the hole in the ozone layer, which for a decade has formed each year over Antarctica, was growing more rapidly than usual and could break all the records this year; the hole, which covered 11 million square miles, had reached the Argentinean town of Ushuaia.Britain’s Task Force on Near Earth Objects issued a report calling for the establishment of an early warning system to help protect the earth from a collision with a major asteroid, 900 of which are in orbits that cross the earth’s; an encounter with any one of them could destroy civilization.

An armada of NATO warships was gathering in the eastern Mediterranean to intimidate Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who was apparently defeated at the polls by Vojislav Kostunica; Milosevic’s party was refusing to accept defeat.Robert W. Ray, Ken Starr’s replacement as independent prosecutor in the Whitewater case, grudgingly admitted that he lacked evidence that the Clintons had committed a crime.Clinton administration officials denied that contributors to Hillary Clinton’sSenatecampaign were given special invitations to sleep over at the White House; the Clinton campaign said that only about 1/4 of recent guests had given money.Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the world’s largest auction houses, settled a civil lawsuit over price fixing and agreed to pay $512 million in damages.At his vice president’s request, President Bill Clinton released 30 million barrels of oil from America’s emergency fuel reserves in an attempt to lower the price of oil.Traffic was snarled in Sweden, Ireland, Spain, and Germany because of fuel-tax protests.The Group of Seven issued a communique calling for more aggressive steps to reduce fuel prices.A study found that replanted forests absorb much less carbon dioxide than do natural forests, which complicates plans by countries such as the United States to meet the goals of a global warming treaty by planting trees, rather than by cutting back on carbon dioxide emissions.Vice President Al Gore and Senator Joseph Lieberman reassured Hollywood campaign contributors that they did not intend to censor entertainment products despite their claims to the contrary last week.A four-year-old boy was critically injured when he was pinned under Disneyland’s Roger Rabbit Toon Spin ride.Governor George W. Bush appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, gave Winfrey a kiss on the cheek, and admitted that many people believe that “I am running on my daddy’s name.”Fifteen former “comfort women” from Korea filed suit against the Japanese government.South Korea urged Japan to get friendly with North Korea.German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder presented a ten-point plan to connect all German schools and public libraries to the Internet, with free access, by the end of next year.The New York City Board of Education unveiled a plan to distribute 750,000 laptops to every child in the system above grade 3; the plan, which would cost $900 million dollars, would be underwritten by technology companies wishing to expand their markets and by selling advertising on a special Web portal for students.The New York CityPolice Department said it was returning to a more traditional straight nightstick because officers were unable to remember how to wield the side-handled baton currently in use.

Twenty thousand hippies were descending on Prague in anticipation of a meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization; Czech police, 11,000 of whom were standing by to subdue the hippies, were also trying to prevent as many as possible from entering the country.Pagan Appreciation Day was celebrated among witches, warlocks, Druids, and other such folk.Right-wing extremist Pat Buchanan, having recovered from his gall bladder operation, said that his enemies were “abolishing America”; he was particularly upset about the growing tolerance of homosexuality, which he called “the love that will not shut up.”The U.S. Senatevoted to lift restrictions on trade with China.The Vatican announced that on October 1, the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Tse-tung, the Pope will canonize 120 Chinese Catholics whom it considers martyrs; the Chinese foreign ministry said that this would “seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” Several Chinese Protestant leaders insisted that China’s Christians faced little persecution.A federal judge said that the government was guilty of no wrongdoing in the deaths of the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas.Alec Baldwin, the actor, said he would emigrate if George W.Bush were elected president.The Sons of Italy, a local civic group in Denver, Colorado, decided to call their annual Columbus Day parade the March of Italian Pride after a band of Indians, for whom Columbus is a hated symbol of their conquest, threatened to disrupt it.Los Angeles transit workers were out on strike.Thirty-three runners in the Berlin Marathon were disqualified for using the subway.British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that the Ł628 million Millennium Dome “has not been the runaway success that people had hoped for.” A black hole with a mass 2 million times greater than the sun was discovered to be at the center of our galaxy.The New York Knicks finally traded Patrick Ewing.

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Addressing the graduating cadets at West Point in May 1942, General George C. Marshall, then the Army chief of staff, reduced the nation’s purpose in the global war it had recently joined to a single emphatic sentence. “We are determined,” he remarked, “that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other.”

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A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition, as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he.

I rose long before dawn, too thrilled to sleep, and set off to find my tribe. North from Greenville in the dark, past towns with names like Sans Souci and Travelers Rest, over the border into North Carolina, through land so choked by kudzu that the overgrown trees in the dark looked like great creatures petrified in mid-flight. The weirdness of this scene would, by the end of the weekend, show itself to be appropriate: my trip would be all about romanticism, and romanticism is a human collision with place that results, as Baudelaire put it, “neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in a way of feeling.” My rental car’s engine whined as it climbed the mountains. Day was just breaking when I nosed down a hill to Orchard Lake Campground, where tents were still being erected in the dimness.

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Harold Jamieson, once chief engineer of New York City’s sanitation department, enjoyed retirement. He knew from his small circle of friends that some didn’t, so he considered himself lucky. He had an acre of garden in Queens that he shared with several like-minded horticulturists, he had discovered Netflix, and he was making inroads in the books he’d always meant to read. He still missed his wife—a victim of breast cancer five years previous—but aside from that persistent ache, his life was quite full. Before rising every morning, he reminded himself to enjoy the day. At sixty-eight, he liked to think he had a fair amount of road left, but there was no denying it had begun to narrow.

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1. In 2014, Deepti Gurdasani, a genetic epidemiologist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in England, coauthored a paper in Nature on human genetic variation in Africa, from which this image is taken. A recent study had found that DNA from people of European descent made up 96 percent of genetic samples worldwide, reflecting the historical tendency among scientists and doctors to view the male, European body as a global archetype. “There wasn’t very much data available from Africa at all,” Gurdasani told me. To help rectify the imbalance, her research team collected samples from eighteen African ethnolinguistic groups across the continent—such as the Kalenjin of Uganda and the Oromo of Ethiopia—most of whom had not previously been included in genomic research. They analyzed the data using an admixture algorithm, which visualizes the statistical genetic differences among groups by representing them as color clusters. The top chart shows genetic differences among the sampled African populations, in increasing degrees of granularity from top to bottom, and the bottom chart shows how they compare with ethnic groups in the rest of the world. The areas where the colors mix and overlap imply that groups commingled. The Yoruba, for instance, show remarkable homogeneity—their column is almost entirely green and purple—while the Kalenjin seem to have associated with many populations across the continent.

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Ten yards was the nearest we could get to the river. Any closer and the smell was too much to bear. The water was a milky gray color, as if mixed with ashes, and the passage of floating trash was ceaseless. Plastic bags and bottles, coffee lids, yogurt cups, flip-flops, and sodden stuffed animals drifted past, coated in yellow scum. Amid the old tires and mattresses dumped on the riverbank, mounds of rank green weeds gave refuge to birds and grasshoppers, which didn’t seem bothered by the fecal stench.

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