Weekly Review — August 3, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Devil Spanker, 1875]

The United States raised its terror alert level and said that Al Qaeda might be planning to attack financial institutions in New York, Washington, and Newark, New Jersey. Howard Dean pointed out that, once again, the timing of a new federal terror alert was suspiciously convenient; other Democrats, such as Joseph Lieberman, denounced Dean’s suggestion as “outrageous.”Independent, Washington PostIt was reported that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a close associate of Osama bin Laden, retracted his claim that Iraq helped Al Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction, andNew York Timesthe 9/11 commission, which runs out of funds next month, was seeking private donations so that it can continue its work.New York TimesPresident Bush asked Congress to create a national intelligence director.ReutersKuwait banned Fahrenheit 9/11, andAgence France-Presseit was revealed that the Census Bureau has been giving population statistics on Arab-Americans, broken down by zip code, to the Department of Homeland Security.New York TimesThe White House predicted that this year’s federal budget deficit will be $445 billion.New York TimesFive Christian churches in Baghdad were targeted by suicide car bombers, andWashington Postanalysts at Deutsche Bank warned that oil prices could rise to $100 a barrel.ScotsmanPresident Bush crashed his mountain bike.Associated Press

The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling on Sudan to disarm its militias in Darfur but declined to use the word “sanctions” and made no mention of using force to stop the ongoing genocide; Sudan denounced the resolution as a declaration of war.Daily TimesMillions of Bangladeshis were left without homes because of flooding; hundreds of people died.New York TimesThere were explosions at the American and Israeli embassies in Uzbekistan, andNew York Timesa gas pipeline blew up in Belgium.New York TimesA Jordanian company said that it would pull out of Iraq after a militant faction called the Group of Death kidnapped two of its employees.New York TimesIraqi gunmen executed a Turkish truck driver.Boston GlobeDoctors Without Borders pulled out of Afghanistan, andNew York Timesricin was found in baby food in Irvine, California.Associated PressMore than 300 people died in a supermarket fire in Paraguay.ScotsmanA government audit found that Halliburton lost about one third of the property it was given to manage in Iraq; 6,975 out of 20,531 items were missing. The lost government property was worth $18.6 million.Houston ChronicleBritish troops allegedly forced Iraqi detainees to “dance like Michael Jackson.”Courier MailIsrael’s cabinet approved betting on horses, andNew York TimesSaddam Hussein was said to be enjoying his American-style cookies and muffins.Reuters

A team of scientists led by Stanley Prusiner, the neurologist who won a Nobel prize for his work on the prion hypothesis, succeeded in creating a synthetic prion that produced a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy in mice.New York TimesFrancis Crick died.New York TimesThe UN was urging that domestic Asian ducks be vaccinated for avian flu, which scientists say has become so common that quarantines and culls will no longer be sufficient.New York TimesThe Bush Administration issued a new rule that will permit the EPA to approve pesticides without finding out from wildlife agencies whether the chemicals will harm plants and animals protected by the Endangered Species Act.Associated PressThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that truancy because of fear of schoolyard violence was on the rise.Associated PressThe Vatican criticized feminists for trying to ignore the differences between men and women and said that a woman “is not a copy of a man.”Associated PressItaly was upset about a poster campaign in the London subway urging people not to eat smelly food; the posters show an overweight man sitting on a train surrounded by parma hams and salamis and strings of garlic.ReutersThe Bush Administration was making plans to harvest methane gas.New York TimesCemeteries in South Africa were recycling graves.New York TimesScientists discovered that fatigue is all in the mind.New Scientist

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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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