Weekly Review — September 25, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

President George W. Bush declared that all the nations of the earth must choose sides in the coming crusade against terrorism, and he promised to attack Afghanistan if its leaders refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, the famous terrorist, whom the President has described as “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” Secretary of DefenseDonald Rumsfeld told reporters that the preliminary brand-name of the American military campaign, Operation Infinite Justice, would probably be changed, because it was offensive to Muslims, for whom infinite justice is a divine attribute. Some Christians also found the name offensive. The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted a 14.3 percent loss, its worst week since the Great Depression. The United States continued its routine bombing of Iraq. Bush Administration officials announced that they would lift sanctions against Pakistan, which were imposed after it tested nuclear weapons in 1998. Congress approved a $15 billion bailout for the airline industry, which has already eliminated over 100,000 jobs. The Bush Administration decided that farm subsidies should be eliminated. Afghanistan’s leading clerics said they would try to persuade Osama bin Laden to leave their country voluntarily, an offer that was quickly scorned by the White House. There was a report from Islamabad that bin Laden was last seen in a training camp outside Kabul, just before he rode off into the desert on the back of a horse. One Afghan diplomat scoffed at President Bush’s threats: “So the only master of the world wants to threaten us. But make no mistake: Afghanistan, as it was in the past, the Great Britain, he came, the Red Army, he came. Afghanistan is a swamp. People enter here laughing, are exiting injured.”

Paleontologists in Pakistan discovered a missing link between the ancient hoofed ancestors of whales and their descendants, who fancied fish, learned to swim, and eventually just stayed in the water. A vial of Saint Gennaro’s dried blood liquefied in Naples, Italy. The miracle, which typically occurs twice each year, is thought to be a very good omen. Pope John Paul II went to Kazakhstan, where he celebrated mass in a giant yurt. After four concerts of his music were cancelled, Karlheinz Stockhausen, the German avant-garde composer, apologized for describing the attack on the World Trade Center as “the greatest work of art one can imagine . . . the greatest work of art there is in the entire cosmos.” Video-game makers delayed introducing several new titles; WTC Defender, a video game in which players try to shoot down airplanes before they destroy the World Trade Center, was removed from the Internet. Doctors in the United States used a remotely controlled robot to remove a gallbladder from a patient in France, inaugurating a new era of globalized surgery. Japanesescientists were developing remote-controlled cockroaches guided by means of backpacks that send electronic signals into their brains. The roaches could be outfitted with small cameras, the scientists said, and used in search and rescue operations. Newly released CIA documents revealed that the agency once trained cats to operate as spies equipped with listening devices. The first such spy cat was run over by a taxi.

King Mswati of Swaziland imposed a five-year ban on having sex with teenage girls. Men who violate the ban will be fined one cow, as will unmarried girls who become pregnant. Another disabled child won a lawsuit against doctors in France based on the argument that she should have been aborted. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon vetoed talks with Yasir Arafat for the usual reasons. Main Street U.S.A. in Disney World was largely deserted, as were the beaches of Waikiki. Somebody walked into Manhattan’s Richard Gray Gallery and, before anyone noticed, walked out with a Picasso drawing that had been hanging on the wall. A man from the country who recently moved to Buenos Aires tied himself to his sheep to protest his rejection by 20 landlords: “I don’t really see why I shouldn’t be allowed to live with my sheep, as I did for all of my life,” he said. American Eagle TV was laying plans for a cable channel that would broadcast continuous live coverage of an American eagle family. A 50-hour sex marathon, which was to have included 1,500 participants, was cancelled in Brazil after authorities determined that the appropriate license was lacking. There were rumors that New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whom some New Yorkers have taken to calling “our king,” would attempt to circumvent the city’s term-limits law. Hundreds of artificial hips were recalled by the Food and Drug Administration. Five workers in a Russian soap factory died after they fell into a giant cauldron of fat. Chinese factories were working day and night to manufacture flags for American patriots.

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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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