Weekly Review — April 27, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Caricature of Louis IV, by Thackeray. 1875]

Caricature of Louis IV, by Thackeray. 1875.

China announced that Hong Kong will not be allowed to elect its next leader in 2007, contrary to the city’s Basic Law, which was enacted when Britain turned over the territory in 1997; China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress said that an election would create social and economic instability. Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong’s current chief executive, called on the people to remain “calm and rational.”BBCThe Bush Administration continued to insist that sovereignty will be turned over to an Iraqi government on June 30 but revealed for the first time that the sovereign will be unable to make new laws or command the armed forces.New York TimesPictures of American coffins returning from Iraq finally became public after a website received them via a Freedom of Information Act request.The Memory HoleBob Woodward’s new book continued to shape the news; it was the source of accusations that the Bush Administration improperly diverted funds to prepare for the conquest of Iraq, and that Saudi Arabia promised President Bush to deliver low fuel prices to help with his reelection.New York TimesGeneral Electric and Siemens, two large contractors in Iraq, suspended most of their operations in the country.New York TimesSuicide attacks continued; in Basra dozens of people were killed, including more than 20 children who were on their way to school.New York TimesSuicide bombers attacked a government building in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, andNew York TimesAmerican troops in Fallujah were playing AC/DC’s album Back in Black very loudly to annoy gunmen. The troops were also broadcasting Arabic insults, such as “you shoot like a goat herder.”Associated Press

A railway station exploded in North Korea soon after Kim Jong Il, on his way home from China, passed through in his special armored train, which was a gift to his father from Joseph Stalin; much of the surrounding community was damaged or destroyed.New York TimesThere was a train wreck under New York City near Penn Station, and federalNew York Timesauthorities confirmed that a man in Westchester County, New York, contracted avian flu last fall; there was no evidence that he was ever in direct contact with birds.New York TimesThe House of Representatives approved a bill providing for quick elections if 100 or more members are killed at one time.CBS NewsDiebold Election Systems was in trouble again for using insecure software in its voting machines in California.Associated PressPro-government militias in Sudan continued to slaughter people in Darfur, andBBCUnicef released a report on slavery in Africa concluding that the practice continues in every country on the continent.BBCEstée Lauder died.New York TimesThe editor of USA Today resigned in a scandal over a star reporter who made up his stories.USA TodayPrime Minister Tony Blair of Britain announced a referendum on the proposed European constitution, and 50BBCformer senior British diplomats signed a letter denouncing Tony Blair for following American policies in Iraq and Israel that are “doomed to failure.”Financial TimesMordecai Vanunu, the scientist who exposed Israel’snuclear-weapons program, was released from prison after 18 years, 11 of which were in solitary confinement. Israel has maintained an official policy of “nuclear ambiguity” even though Vanunu confirmed that the country possesses weapons of mass destruction.New York Times

Scientists at NASA were ordered not to speak to reporters about The Day After Tomorrow, a disaster movie in which global warming triggers an ice age, because officials were worried about political damage to the president, who has refused to take the threat of climate change seriously.New York TimesMore than one million abortion-rights advocates marched in Washington, D.C., and vowed to defeat President Bush in November.Washington PostAdministration lawyers asked a judge to prevent a former FBI translator from testifying in a lawsuit brought by families of September 11 victims; the translator told the 9/11 commission that the government had considerable evidence months before the attacks that Al Qaeda was planning to use aircraft as weapons in the United States.IndependentAgriculture officials were still trying to convince Japan to drop its ban on American beef that has not been tested for mad cow disease.Seattle TimesSARS returned to China, and dozensNew Scientistof Chinese babies died of malnutrition after they were fed counterfeit formula.BBCGovernor Rick Perry of Texas proposed shifting the burden of school financing in the state from property taxes to sin taxes on gambling, alcohol, and stripping.New York TimesIt was discovered that pheromones that mimic those emitted by lactating bitches soothe misbehaving dogs by reminding them of their puppyhoods, andNew ScientistMichael Jackson was indicted for child molestation.New York TimesPolice in Mexico arrested a tamale vendor after a dead body was found in his home.New York TimesKing Carl Gustav of Sweden, who is exempt from prosecution, was seen driving his yellow Porsche around in southern Sweden at speeds well over 100 mph.New York TimesIn Cape Town, South Africa, a man survived a 19-story fall from a hotel window, and aNew York Timeshighly radioactive nuclear fuel rod was missing in Vermont.Associated PressThe CEO of McDonald’s dropped dead of a heart attack.Reuters

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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.

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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