Weekly Review — March 30, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism official who has criticized the Bush Administration for its poor efforts at fighting terrorism and its misguided invasion of Iraq, appeared before the commission investigating September 11 and apologized for the government’s and his own failure to prevent the attacks. President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice have all refused to testify publicly before the commission.ReutersBush Administration operatives were working very hard to discredit Clarke, and Condoleezza Rice agreed to speak with the 9/11 panel once again but not publicly and not under oath.ReutersRice did appear publicly on 60 Minutes and confirmed Clarke’s claim, originally denied by the White House, that on September 12, 2001, President Bush ordered Clarke to focus on possible Iraqi involvement in the 9/11 attacks, which the CIA had already concluded were carried out by Al Qaeda.New York TimesDefense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, speaking of Pakistan’snuclear-weapons trafficking, said, “I do not believe that there’s any evidence or any suggestion that President Musharraf was involved.” Musharraf, for his part, denied that he had made a deal with the Americans to crack down on Al Qaeda in return for lenient treatment for selling nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya, Iran, and others; he also denied that his country’s proliferation had done much harm. “If I hand over a missile or a bomb to any extremist, believe me, he can do nothing about it,” Musharraf said. “He cannot explode it.”ReutersIndia defeated Pakistan in a cricket tournament.ReutersUkraine’s minister of defense announced that quite a few missiles that were supposed to have been decommissioned after the fall of the Soviet Union were in fact lost. “Unfortunately strange things happen,” he said. “We are currently looking for several hundred missiles.”BBCThe Transportation Security Administration searched an American Airlines flight to Dallas after a psychic called in a warning that a bomb might be aboard the plane.Associated PressPeople all over the world were astonished when President Bush, during a speech, showed a slide of himself looking under his desk and then joked: “Those weapons of mass destruction got to be here somewhere.”Herald SunGeneticists suggested that a mutation that weakened the jaw muscles of early humans 2.4 million years ago might have enabled the skull to grow larger to provide more space for the brain.ReutersVampire bats attacked 20 people in Mansiche, Peru.Herald Sun

Forty-nine retired U.S. generals and admirals signed a letter begging President Bush to delay spending billions of dollars on his untested and unnecessary missile defense shield and to spend the money instead to protect likely targets of terrorism such as U.S. ports and nuclear-weapons depots.ReutersThe Caribbean Community refused to recognize the new U.S.-backed government in Haiti because of questions about the circumstances under which Jean-Bertrand Aristide left office; the 15-nation group called for the United Nations to investigate Aristide’s charges that he was abducted by the United States and forced to leave Haiti.Associated PressGrand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani warned the United Nations not to endorse the interim Iraqi constitution; the ayatollahNew York Timeswas also said to be considering a fatwa declaring the new government illegitimate and condemning all Iraqis who take part in it.New York TimesPoor people in Venezuela were said to be eatingflamingos.CNNPolitical violence continued in Kosovo, Gaza,New York TimesIvory Coast,New York TimesIraq, Sudan, Pakistan, Taiwan, Afghanistan,New York TimesThailand, andNew York TimesSyria;New York Timesthere was unrest in Haiti, where armed gangs continued to terrorize the people;New York Timesin Congo, where the government put down a coup attempt;Guardianand in France, where firefighters battled police during a strike over retirement benefits. The firefighters threw garbage cans, firecrackers, and smoke bombs; the police fired tear gas.New York TimesIsrael’s state prosecutor recommended that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon be indicted for taking bribes from a real-estate developer and submitted a draft indictment to the attorney general.ReutersPolice no longer need search warrants in Louisiana, an appeals court said, though the judgment was supposedly limited to “brief searches”; two dissenting judges denounced the ruling as the “road to Hell.”New Orleans ChannelAn elementary school in Oklahoma City suspended 125 of its 136 sixth graders for raising hell during lunch.New York Times

British researchers found that strange murders have increased in recent decades and that, contrary to expectations, the murders are not being committed by crazy people; most strange homicides, it was discovered, are committed by young men on drugs.British Medical JournalIt was found that health-carelobbyists spent $237 million lobbying Congress in 2000, more than every other industry combined; drug companies spent $96 million, quite a bit more than other medical sectors.Case Western Reserve UniversityThe European Union fined Microsoft $613 million for abusing its “near monopoly” on personal computers.Washington PostAstrophysicists suggested that a highway of dark matter ripped from the dwarf galaxy Sagittarius, which is being consumed by the Milky Way, is streaming right through Earth.Science DailyA lamb was born in Hebron with “Allah” spelled out in Arabic on its flank; the lamb’s owner said the animal was born on the day Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was assassinated. Some people claimed they could see the word “Muhammad” spelled out on the lamb’s other side.BBCPeople in Angola were beating and torturing their own children because they believe them to be sorcerers.Chicago TribuneFederal regulators issued a warning that antidepressant medication can drive some patients to suicide, and theNew York TimesArmy confirmed that the suicide rate has been higher among soldiers stationed in Iraq.New York TimesThe FDA approved a quick saliva test for HIV, and researchersNew York Timesannounced that circumcised men are six to eight times less likely to contract the virus.ReutersThe Senate passed a bill making it a crime to harm a fetus while committing a violent crime.Associated PressA new study found that buckyballs can cause brain damage in fish, and sexAmerican Chemical Societyresearchers found that impotent men for whom Viagra failed to work were severely distressed.British Medical JournalBenton County, Oregon, decided to stop issuing marriage licenses to heterosexuals.New York Times

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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.

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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