Weekly Review — June 29, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Luther controlled by the Devil, 1875]

L. Paul Bremer, the American proconsul in Iraq, in one of his final acts before handing over “sovereignty” to Iraq’s new interim government, decreed that American forces will remain immune from prosecution by Iraqi courts for crimes against Iraqi citizens or destruction of property. It was noted that a similar grant of immunity in Iran in the 1960s had unfortunate consequences. “Our honor has been trampled underfoot; the dignity of Iran has been destroyed,” said the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1964. He said that the order “reduced the Iranian people to a level lower than that of an American dog.”Washington Post “My understanding of this issue,” said General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “is that the CPA orders cannot be repealed or modified until Iraq’s permanent government is in place to enact legislation.”Agence France-PresseThe White House disavowed a Justice Department memorandum that argues that it’s okay to torture terrorism suspects.Washington PostPaul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, apologized for saying the reporters in Iraq were just repeating rumors because they’re too afraid to travel, andReutersColin Powell said that declaring martial law in Iraq would make things worse.ReutersIraqi insurgents killed more than 100 people in one day in attacks all across the country, aWashington PostSouth Korean hostage was beheaded, threeNew York TimesTurks and a Pakistani were kidnapped, and militants threatened to kill a captured U.S. Marine.ReutersA poll showed that most Americans now think the invasion of Iraq was a mistake that has made the country more vulnerable to terrorism.USA Today

President George W. Bush was questioned by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald as part of the investigation into who in the White House exposed the identity of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA operative, as part of a campaign to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who criticized the decision to conquer Iraq.ReutersThe Supreme Court declined to make Dick Cheney release the records of his 2001 Energy Task Force and sent the case back to a lower court for further consideration;ReutersCheney said he felt much better after he told Senator Patrick Leahy, who has been critical of Halliburton’s war profiteering in Iraq, to go fuck himself.ReutersLos Angeles police officers were videotaped beating a black man after he surrendered peacefully.New York TimesMonica Lewinsky denounced Bill Clinton’s new memoir and said that he had destroyed her life.ReutersA judge in Oklahoma was accused of using a penis pump in court.USA Today

Al Gore said that George W. Bush is a liar for repeatedly suggesting that Saddam Hussein was allied with Osama bin Laden and that the president’s “consistent and careful artifice is itself evidence that he knew full well that he was telling an artful and important lie.”ReutersScientists discovered that rats who snort a special virus do not get as high on cocaine.New ScientistIt was reported that the Rev. Sun Myung Moon was crowned in the Senate office building after announcing that he is the “savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent.” Several lawmakers from both major parties were present, including Rep. Danny Davis, who wore white gloves as he placed the crown on Moon’s head.The HillTwo bombs went off in Istanbul.Agence France-PresseHealth experts warned of a possible polio epidemic in western and central Africa, and theNew ScientistDepartment of Health and Human Services took steps to limit free contact between American scientists and the World Health Organization.ReutersToxic chemical pollution was up 5 percent in 2002, the EPA announced.Associated PressHappy married women have healthier hearts than lonely unhappy women, and anReutersIranian mother claimed to have given birth to a frog.BBCNew research suggested that needle biopsies might help spread breast cancer to the sentinel node.ReutersAnother mad cow was apparently discovered somewhere in the United States, but the USDA refused to say where until more tests were completed.Associated PressBritish researchers found that sudden infant death syndrome is more likely to happen on weekends.BBCThe first privately funded astronaut made it into space.New ScientistA Japaneseteacher forced a student to write an apology in his own blood after he was caught sleeping in class.MSNBCA Germanzoologist announced that bees are really quite lazy,Telegraphand scientists said that SARS was found in tears.BBC

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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.”

At the time Marshall spoke, mere months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. forces had sustained a string of painful setbacks and had yet to win a major battle. Eventual victory over Japan and Germany seemed anything but assured. Yet Marshall was already looking beyond the immediate challenges to define what that victory, when ultimately— and, in his view, inevitably—achieved, was going to signify.

This second world war of the twentieth century, Marshall understood, was going to be immense and immensely destructive. But if vast in scope, it would be limited in duration. The sun would set; the war would end. Today no such expectation exists. Marshall’s successors have come to view armed conflict as an open-ended proposition. The alarming turn in U.S.–Iranian relations is another reminder that war has become normal for the United States.

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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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A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

The commissioner of CPB admitted that “leadership just got a little overzealous” when detaining hundreds of U.S. citizens of Iranian descent in the wake of Qassem Soleimani’s assassination.

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At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

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