Weekly Review — August 23, 2005, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Runaway Raft on the Tigris, March 1875]

Runaway Raft on the Tigris.

Peter Schoomaker, the Army’s top general, revealed that the United States was developing a plan to keep at least 100,000 soldiers in Iraq through 2009. Senator Chuck Hagel (R., Nebr.) called the plan “complete folly.” “It would further destabilize the Middle East,” he said. “It would give Iran more influence, it would hurt Israel, it would put our allies over there in Saudi Arabia and Jordan in a terrible position.”APAPPresident George W. Bush had yet to meet Iraq war protester Cindy Sheehan, even though Bush is on vacation and presumably has the time. “I think it’s important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say,” said Bush, “but I think it’s also important for me to get on with my life.”The Birmingham NewsIt was reported that Bush was losing his mind,Capitol Hill Blueand a man in Columbus, Georgia, was in trouble for smearing feces on his body and walking through a mall.Ledger-Enquirer.comA fourteen-year-old German boy was ordered to tear down the 300-foot-long roller coaster he had built in his back yard.AnanovaIn Iraq ten people were shot dead north of Baghdad, a family of five was killed by gunmen in Samarra, and the U.S. military denied bombing a wedding party in Hit.MSNBCReutersReutersIn Afghanistan four more U.S. soldiers were killed, bringing the year’s total to 65.The New York TimesIn Richmond, Virginia, a sale on used laptops led to 17 injuries and one woman wetting herself.AP

Secret documents revealed that Jean Charles De Menezes, the Brazilian electrician shot and killed as a terrorist by police on a London train, was not carrying any bags, was not wearing a bulky winter coat, and did not jump any turnstiles. He was, however, still shot seven times in the head.ITNVictoria Beckham, also known as Posh Spice, said that she had never read a book in her life, although she had written a 528-page autobiography.The GuardianA file folder describing the affirmative-action work of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts went missing from the Reagan Library after it was reviewed by White House lawyers, and it was revealed that Roberts had once refused a request from Michael Jackson for a special letter of commendation from the Reagan White House.The Washington PostBBC NewsA study found that white people tend to get better, more thorough health care than African-American people.The Washington PostMetropolitan Theofilos became Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, replacing Patriarch Irineos I, who was ousted after leasing property in East Jerusalem to those looking to increase the Jewish presence there;BBC Newsthe last of Gaza’s Jewish settlers left their homes on armored buses.Herald SunCanada was considering sanctions against the United States after it refused to comply with a NAFTA ruling in favor of the Canadian lumber industry.Boston.comIn Victoria, Canada, methamphetamine addicts were stealing large numbers of bicycles because disassembling the bikes soothes them while they tweak.Canada.comRobert Moog died,The New York Timesand Chinese authorities were criticizing the televised Mongolian Cow Sour Yogurt Supergirl Contest for its worldliness. The Australian

In Kansas Dennis Rader, the B.T.K. serial killer, was sentenced to ten consecutive life sentences; he will be eligible for parole in 2180. Rader believed that his victims would serve as his slaves in the afterlife, performing roles like “sex toy and boy servant.” The Wichita EagleJapanese scientists were able to control the direction a person walked by using a handheld remote control. NewScientist.comProponents of the theory of “intelligent design” continued to insist that their ideas regarding the origin of life had merit,The New York Timesand hundreds of people in Florida attended a museum exhibit of preserved corpses encased in silicone.The Los Angeles TimesIn Edinburgh, Scotland, 10,000 bagpipers piped against cancer,BBC Newsand in Switzerland a historically important boulder called Unspunnenstein was stolen by French-speaking separatists.BBC NewsIn Germany a man drowned while trying to get his fishing pole back from a fish; a police spokeswoman described the fish as “ordinary.”ReutersElephants rampaged through a resort town in Zimbabwe, destroying homes,BBC Newsmice were being taught to surf in Australia,Local6.comand a toad infestation struck Big Sandy, Montana, and made the roads sticky.The Washington PostA seventy-eight-year-old Georgia woman, angry that her eighty-five-year-old ex-boyfriend was cheating on her, shot and killed him with an antique handgun. “I’d do it again,” she said.MSNBCSioux Falls, South Dakota, banned cage fighting without a permit.Minnesota Public Radio

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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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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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