Weekly Review — February 20, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Russia warned that the United States was reverting to Cold War rhetoric after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld denounced Russia as an “active proliferator” of dangerous technology. “They are part of the problem,” he said, defending President George W. Bush’s plans, over Russia’s objections, to deploy an anti-missile system. “Why they would be actively proliferating and then complaining when the United States wants to defend itself against the fruit of those proliferation activities it seems to me is misplaced.” It was “foreign-policy week” at the White House: President Bush went down to Mexico for a visit, personally authorized what he called a “routine” bombing of five Iraqi anti-aircraft sites, and appointed John D. Negroponte to be his ambassador to the United Nations. Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras in the early 1980s, where he helped orchestrate Ronald Reagan’s covert war against Nicaragua. Russia’s Federal Security Service, the heir to the KGB, said it would once again investigate anonymous accusations against Russian citizens, a practice banned by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988. DARE, the anti-drug organization, admitted that its program does not work. School officials in Virginia Beach were paying students to turn in their classmates for drug offenses. A Virginia state senator complained that “spineless pinkos” in the House of Delegates education committee were ruining his efforts to require that public school children recite the pledge of allegiance every morning. Virginia’s legislature apologized for the state’s eugenics policies, including the sterilization of 7,450 people; the eugenics law, passed in 1924, was repealed in 1979. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals somehow managed to leave a voice-mail message from Jack Lemmon in 18,000 Environmental Protection Agency telephone mailboxes; Lemmon complained about the EPA’s chemical-toxicity tests, which are conducted on cute, furry little animals.

France said it would kill 10,000 head of cattle a week in an attempt to raise beef prices, which have been depressed by the mad cow panic. Scientists announced that they had sequenced a mouse genome. The Human Genome Project announced that there are only 27,000 to 40,000 human genes, not 100,000 as had been previously thought, 223 of which were acquired directly from bacteria. The European Parliament approved strict rules on genetically modified organisms. The Kansas state board of educationvoted to restore the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Hindu extremists ran amok in India to protest Valentine’s Day, which they said undermines Indian culture. New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani was upset about a picture in the Brooklyn Museum of Art and was threatening to set up a decency panel to police the city’s museums. Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia demanded that sexy women be banished from Cambodian television. An admitted virgin who rarely watches R-rated movies was named Utah’s new “pornography czar.” Czech officials arrested a Slovakian man who was attempting to smuggle 1,400 pairs of women’s panties into the country. Proctor & Gamble filed patent applications for panty liners that will be able to tell when a woman is pregnant or about to ovulate or when she has infections such as chlamydia, thrush, or HIV. A Massachusetts man was arrested for using a hidden camera to film up a woman’s skirt on a crowded commuter train while watching the action on his laptop.

A criminal investigation into the pardon of Marc Rich was opened; former president Bill Clinton expressed confusion over the hubbub and said that he pardoned Rich because Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak asked him to. Republican governors such as Tommy Thompson and Christie Whitman, both of whom are now Bush cabinet members, were embarrassed by revelations that they, too, had made a number of apparently corrupt pardons. A Palestiniansecurity officer was sentenced to die for collaborating with the occupying Israeli security forces. Israelassassinated a Palestiniansecurity official; Prime Minister Ehud Barak congratulated the army on a job well done. A Palestinianbus driver ran down a crowd of Israelis at a bus stop, killing eight. Islamic rebels in Algeria murdered three men, twelve women, and twelve children in their homes; a new book published in France claims that similar attacks have been carried out by soldiers disguised as rebels. The author, Habib Souaidia, says that he took part in such massacres when he was an officer in the Algerian army. India’s minister of external affairs visited Burma and inaugurated the Myanmar-India Friendship Center for Remote Sensing and Data Processing. NASA landed a spaceship on an asteroid. An Austrian scientist found in a recent study that women typically begin encounters with strange men by emitting positive courtship signals such as head-tossing, hair-flipping, and fiddling with their clothes, though they are often unaware of doing so. San Francisco announced that it would pay for the sex-change operations of municipal employees.A lawyer defending three Serbs on trial at the Hague for sexual slavery argued that “rape in itself is not an act that inflicts severe bodily pain.” Theodore J. Kaczynski, the Unabomber, failed to win a new trial. Psychologists at the University of California revealed that Samson, the Biblical hero, suffered from antisocial personality disorder.

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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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Last fall, a court filing in the Eastern District of Virginia inadvertently suggested that the Justice Department had indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and other outlets reported soon after that Assange had likely been secretly indicted for conspiring with his sources to publish classified government material and hacked documents belonging to the Democratic National Committee, among other things.

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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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