Weekly Review — October 9, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

America and Britain fired cruise missiles and dropped bombs on targets in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden taunted the United States in a televised statement and said, “America will not live in peace before peace reigns in Palestine, and before all the army of infidels depart the land of Mohammad, peace be upon him.” A suicidetruck bomb killed 26 people at the Legislative Assembly of Kashmir. Islamic radicals in Indonesia were roaming around looking for Americans to kill. Islamic rebels in the Philippines attacked the capital city of the island of Basilan. Philippine military officials said they had found the decapitated remains of an American hostage who was abducted by the rebels in May. A Russian airliner filled with Jews exploded over the Black Sea. Pentagon sources said the plane was hit by a Ukrainian surface-to-air missile, apparently by accident, during training exercises with Russia. A crowded airliner sat on a runway in India for three hours because pilots believed there were hijackers in the passenger cabin; passengers believed hijackers were in the cockpit. France’senvironmental minister revealed that the fertilizer factory that blew up in Toulouse last month might have been destroyed by terrorists. An American was killed by a package bomb in Saudi Arabia. Abdo Ali Ahmed, an American citizen, was murdered in East Reedley, California, for being an Arab. Illinois authorities found many bombs and over 12,000 rounds of ammunition in the camp of the United Survivalists of America. Barry Bonds set a new record for home runs.

A drunk in Alaska shot a hole in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, spilling 150,000 gallons of oil onto the tundra. Mayor Reinhard Reynisson of Husavik, Iceland, was planning to introduce alligators in some local ponds. A dozen Burger King employees were treated for first- and second-degree burns after they walked barefoot over white-hot coals at a “corporate bonding” retreat in Florida. The son of British prime minister Tony Blair was mugged in London. British people are more depressed than other Europeans, researchers found. A new library opened in Alexandria, Egypt, though it did not yet have a budget for books. A dam collapsed in China. Nenad Bilic, a 62-year-old retired cardiologist, disappeared somewhere in the Atlantic on his way to Ireland in a 21-foot red cedar rowboat. In Iran, a missing 16-month-old baby was found after three days in the den of a female bear; the bear apparently breast-fed the baby, who was in good health.

Scientists sequenced the genome of bubonic plague, which seems to have an “unusually fluid” genetic structure. New research suggested that the Black death might have been an Ebola-like hemorrhagic virus. Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, a tick-borne virus similar to Ebola, was killingAfghan refugees and health workers. Anthrax killed a man in Florida; spores were found on the man’s computer keyboard and in the nose of a co-worker at American Media Inc., the publisher of supermarket tabloids. The FBI suspected foul play. The one laboratory in the United States that has been approved to manufacture an anthrax vaccine has been unable to do so since 1998 because it has repeatedly failed safety inspections. The director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which was created by the 1997 treaty that bans such weapons, complained that he didn’t have enough money in his budget to make even basic preparations to respond to chemical attacks by terrorists. The Bush Administration was planning to bail out the insurance industry. Hawaii was preparing to spray caffeine on forests to kill noisy Puerto Rican frogs. A group of hunger-striking prisoners in Venezuela sewed their lips together. Prostitutes in Amsterdam were organizing a trade union. Police in Togo raided a church whose pastor was suspected of Satanism, and found a panther’s pelt, hyena paws, vulture eggs, and a hunchback’s hump. Strom Thurmond collapsed on the floor of the Senate but refused to die.

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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.

El Río de los Remedios, or the River of Remedies, runs through the city of Ecatepec, a densely populated satellite of Mexico City. Confined mostly to concrete channels, the river serves as the main drainage line for the vast monochrome barrios that surround the capital. That day, I was standing on a stretch of the canal just north of Ecatepec, with a twenty-three-year-old photographer named Reyna Leynez. Reyna was the one who’d told me about the place and what it represents. This ruined river, this open sewer, is said to be one of the largest mass graves in Mexico.

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