Weekly Review — March 27, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Moscow warned the United States about its new Cold War rhetoric; the Russians were upset over remarks by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who said that “Russia is an active proliferator” of dangerous weaponstechnology which “seems to be willing to sell anything to anyone for money.” The United States expelled 50 Russian diplomats, four of whom were thought to have been working with Robert Philip Hanssen, the FBI agent recently arrested for spying; Russia in turn said it would expel the 50 diplomats most precious to America. Fighting with Albanian rebels continued in Macedonia; the Bush Administration and NATO were refusing to get involved, preferring to wait until they were humiliated by large massacres and ethnic cleansing. Russian president Vladimir Putin urged the use of force to prevent the conflict from spreading. Denouncing Mexico’s close-minded “caveman politicians,” Zapatista rebel leader Subcommander Marcos went home to the jungle after failing to reach a settlement with congress over Indian rights. A new member of the hominid family was christened “flat-faced man of Kenya.” Arkansas legislators were debating whether to ban the teaching of evolution and radio-carbon dating techniques; a proposed bill would require teachers to tell students to mark “false evidence” or “theory” in their books next to discussions of evolution. Three Greek shepherds found nine 2,300-year-old marble statues while building a fence. The Taliban explained that they destroyed Afghanistan’s ancient Buddhist statues because a group of Europeans had recently visited and offered money to preserve the statues, but none to feed starving Afghani children. The Bush White House ended a 50-year quality-control arrangement with the American Bar Association in which the association screened nominees to the federal judiciary. An analysis of budget documents revealed that President Bush plans to cut child-care programs and programs that help abused children. Another teenager shot up a school in California.

The world’s largest offshore oil rig sank off Rio de Janeiro, spilling 400,000 gallons of oil and diesel fuel. The United States government fired a mapping specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey who posted a map on the Internet showing caribou calving grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where President Bush hopes to drill for oil. The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would withdraw new standards approved by the Clinton Administration that limited the amount of arsenic in drinking water. Italy’s environment minister threatened to cut off power to the Vatican’s radio station because it emits too much electromagnetic radiation. A new internal report alleged that Roman Catholic priests have been sexually abusing nuns in several countries, especially in Africa, where the notion that nuns are probably HIV-negative was apparently a contributing factor. The European Union passed a resolution calling on 39 drug companies to drop a lawsuit against South Africa in which they seek to overturn a law that would lower the price of anti-AIDSdrugs. President Sam Nujoma of Namibia threatened to banish all homosexuals. A crazed German woman was arrested after she bit several people as she ran around screaming that she was a vampire.

Foot-and-mouth disease spread to the Netherlands and Ireland. Britain was planning to destroy over 500,000 cows. American researchers suggested using napalm. After months of dithering, United Statesagriculture agents seized a flock of sheep from Skunk Hollow Farm in Vermont that are suspected of having a form of mad-cow disease. Twenty-one cattle in Texas will be destroyed because of similar concerns. Animals without Borders was shipping stray dogs from Romania to Belgium and France to prevent them from being killed in a campaign to remove 200,000 strays from the streets of Bucharest. Scientists warned that clones often have random genetic flaws that produce severe developmental problems, immune-system disorders, and other defects; some cloned mice, for example, become enormously obese when they reach a certain age. Census data showed that Hispanics will soon outnumber “non-Hispanic whites” in Texas. Spanish authorities removed 30 truckloads of garbage, weighing 154 tons, from a man’s home near Madrid after neighbors complained about the smell. A new study found that safer and more effective land mines will be available after 2006. Violence continued in Borneo. Russia’s space station Mir fell from the sky. Canada was short on sperm.

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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.

The best part of those days—assuming it wasn’t raining, snowing, or too cold—was the nine-block walk to Central Park after breakfast. Although he carried a cell phone and used an electronic tablet (had grown dependent on it, in fact), he still preferred the print version of the Times. In the park, he would settle on his favorite bench and spend an hour with it, reading the sections back to front, telling himself he was progressing from the sublime to the ridiculous.

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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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