Weekly Review — September 28, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

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After maintaining for three years that Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American citizen captured in Afghanistan, was so grave a threat to the United States that merely permitting him to meet with his lawyer would fatally compromise national security, the Bush Administration (having been told by Justice Antonin Scalia that “the very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive”) declined to defend its case against Hamdi in open court and announced that he will be stripped of his citizenship and released in Saudi Arabia.Boston Globe, Washington Post, ZNetCharges were also dropped against Ahmad al Halabi, a Syrian-American airman who was accused of spying at the prison camp in Guantnamo Bay, Cuba. ReutersColin Powell said that the Iraqi insurgency is “getting worse,” and U.S. forces arrested a high-ranking officer in the Iraqi National Guard, one week after he was appointed commander of the Diyala province, because he supposedly has ties to insurgents.BBCPresident Bush said that John Kerry’s criticisms of his policies in Iraq are hurting the war effort.ABC NewsAn expert panel appointed by the Pentagon concluded that the United States lacks the troops to maintain its current military commitments, andNew York TimesHalliburton was thinking about selling its KBR subsidiary, which handles the company’s contracts in Iraq.New York TimesThe Pentagon announced that it will issue microwave pain guns to its forces in Iraq.Daily TelegraphThe United States military was planning a large new offensive in Iraq to prepare for the scheduled January elections, andWashington PostSecretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted that the ongoing war could result in a “limited” election. “Well, so be it,” he said. “Nothing’s perfect in life, so you have an election that’s not quite perfect.”Reuters

The Transportation Security Administration announced that it plans to force airlines to provide personal information about passengers so that it can test a new system for identifying potential terrorists; in some cases the airline records will be compared with private databases.ReutersYusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, was refused entry to the United States because his name appears on a list of terrorism suspects.ReutersThe federal government refused to admit that a regulation exists requiring airline passengers to show a form of picture ID before they board planes.Sacramento BeeThe inspector general of the Homeland Security Department reported that airport screeners are still permitting knives, guns, and explosives to be smuggled through security checkpoints by government testers.New York TimesMore flaws were found in Diebold Election Systems’ electronic voting machines.Wired NewsThe Israeli government seized 80,000 cans of dog food that had been labeled as foie gras.Christian Science Monitor2004-09-27HaaretzThe BBC cancelled a satirical cartoon series called “Popetown,” which featured corrupt bishops and depicted the pope jumping around the Vatican on a pogo stick.Guardian, Associated PressAn academic conference at Yale University was devoted to Michael Jackson, andAssociated PressJimmy Swaggart said that he would kill any gay man who “looks at me like that.”The AdvocateWal-Mart agreed to stop selling The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, a nineteenth-century anti-Semitic forgery, on its website; a spokesman said the company had “made a business decision to remove this book.”Jewish Telegraph AgencyDavid Koresh’s 1968 Camaro was sold at auction to a car wash owner from San Antonio, Texas, for $37,500.Houston ChronicleIsrael used a car bomb to assassinate a Hamas official in Syria.Christian Science MonitorA Malawianpothead decapitated two women with an axe.Reuters

President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria said that the African Union will send thousands of troops to keep the peace in Sudan.New York TimesNigerian rebels threatened to attack oil wells in the Niger delta.ReutersCalifornia regulators announced that car makers must cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2016, and crudeWashington Postoil closed at $48.88 a barrel, a new record.BloombergArmed gangs rioted in Haiti outside a food distribution center in Gonaives, which was largely destroyed by tropical storm Jeanne.NewsdayAnother hurricane hit Florida.Washington PostIn Italy, an old woman was killed by a falling crucifix, and theIndependentcompany that makes Hostess Twinkies and Wonder Bread went bankrupt.ReutersNew research concluded that low-birthweight babies are twice as likely to commit suicide.BBCIt was discovered that Israelitraffic fatalities rise by 35 percent in the days following a terrorist attack.New ScientistScientists said that over the last 15 years several glaciers in Antarctica have increased the rate at which they are sliding into the sea.Wired NewsThe discovery that methane and water vapor are concentrated together on Mars suggested that methane-producing bacteria may be present on the planet.New ScientistA group of Australian scientists developed a vaccine to cut down on the methane emitted by sheep when they belch and fart.New ScientistChina opened its first Formula One raceway.New York TimesAmerican researchers developed a device that uses spinach to generate electricity, and scientistsNew Scientistwere hoping to use rat brainwaves to find people buried by earthquakes.New ScientistCalifornia banned necrophilia.Scotsman

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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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