Weekly Review — April 17, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

President George W. Bush asked Congress to impose a moratorium on lawsuits aimed at forcing the federal government to extend endangered-species protection to unlisted plants and animals. Japan’s whaling fleet returned to port with 440 minke whales. Police in Cincinnati, Ohio, shot dead an unarmed black youth who had a number of outstanding traffic tickets; enraged residents ran amok. The League of the South, an organization devoted to Confederate nostalgia, began circulating a petition at gun shows and convenience stores demanding reparations for Southerners whose ancestors’ way of life was destroyed by Yankees in the Civil War. A new poll found that most Mississippians would prefer to keep their current state flag, which contains an image of the Confederate battle flag. The United StatesCivil Rights Commission said that it was time to stop using American Indian names and images for sports teams. Rwanda issued an international arrest warrant for Pierre-Clestin Rwigema, the former prime minister, for his role in the 1994 genocide; Rwigema was said to be living in the United States. Slobodan Milosevic wasn’t feeling well. Israeli troops bulldozed at least 15 homes at a Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza. The Dutch legalized euthanasia; Germany’sRoman Catholic Church denounced the decision and warned against adopting a “culture of death.” China executed 89 people in one day.

Maryland failed to pass a moratorium on executions, but did ban the release of genetically modified fish. The Texas legislature approved a resolution that could lead to a referendum on the death penalty. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that gun deaths dropped by 26 percent during the 1990s. Police near Savannah, Georgia, raided the homes of 11 middle-schoolchildren and discovered firearms, satanic and Nazi posters, and bomb recipes, but no bombs. There was speculation in the press that crime rates may have dropped in recent years as a result of legalized abortion. Alabama’ssenate approved a constitutional amendment allowing the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools and state offices. Sudan flogged 53 Christians, including four women and two children, for rioting. Another Nigerian state decided to adopt Shariah, the Islamic code. A Charlotte, North Carolina, federal judge told a man that if he wanted to be released on bail he would have to stop living in sin, because doing so violates an 1805 anti-fornication law, which reads: “If any man and woman, not being married to each other, shall lewdly and lasciviously associate, bed and cohabit together, they shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.” Israeli officials raided restaurants in search of leavened bread, which is banned during Passover; violators were fined $25. Aum Shinrikyo, the cult that carried out the sarin gas attack in the Tokyosubway in 1995, grew by 10 percent last year. Seven retired Italians were arrested for smuggling ten pounds of cocaine inside bags of sausage and mozzarella.

Fourteen and a half million pounds of ready-to-eat meat were recalled by Bar-S Foods because of possible contamination with listeria monocytogenes. Farmers in the Dutch town Kootwijkerbroek protested the slaughter of their cattle by authorities worried about foot-and-mouth disease; police used water cannons and bulldozers to clear roadblocks set up by the protesters. The United States and Europe finally ended their nine-year banana war. Attorney General John Ashcroft said he would allow the families of Timothy McVeigh’s victims to watch McVeigh die on closed-circuit television. A new report claimed that older fathers are more likely to sire schizophrenic children. Joey Ramone died, as did H. R. Ball, who designed the smiley face. The Big Bang was caused by a parallel universe, a team of physicists speculated. Archaeologists found evidence of ancient dentistry in Baluchistan: tiny holes that were drilled in 8,000-year-old teeth. Researchers, writing in the journal Tissue Engineering, announced that human fat contains stem cells, which can be used to grow replacement tissue, perhaps even organs. Doctors in Singapore successfully separated a pair of Siamese twins who were joined at the head; the operation, which took five days, was particularly difficult because the girls’ brains were partially fused. An Arizona woman was recovering from an operation to remove a parasitic worm from her brain. She got the parasite from a pork taco in Mexico. Two Utah men were sentenced to three years’ probation for drilling a hole in a woman’s head in an attempt to restore her “childhood buoyancy.” The Rio Grande once again failed to reach the Gulf of Mexico.

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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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