Weekly Review — January 10, 2006, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

More than 170 people died in attacks in Iraq. They were: blown up at a Shiite shrine in Karbala; killed at a police recruiting center in Ramadi; and attacked with mortar, automatic weapons, and finally by a suicide bomber at a funeral near Baquba.BBC NewsBBC NewsTwelve U.S. soldiers were believed to have been killed when an Army helicopter crashed in northern Iraq,The New York Timesand a U.S. airstrike north of Baghdad, intended to destroy a shelter for insurgents, killed a civilian family of 12.Washington PostThe FAA took steps to lower the risk of spaceterrorism.BBC NewsA suicide bombing in Afghanistan killed ten people,Reutersa landslide in Java killed at least 14 people,BBC Newsand the 12 men trapped in a mine in West Virginia were reported alive; all but one of them, however, were actually found dead.ABC NewsLobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges. The offices of thirty-six U.S. lawmakers, including Tom DeLay, Roy Blunt, Eric Cantor, and President George W. Bush announced that they would return money linked to Abramoff. “You can’t have a corrupt lobbyist,” explained Newt Gingrich, “unless you have a corrupt member.” DeLay also insisted that he was an ethical person and announced that he would permanently step down as House Majority Leader.CNN.com11Alive.comIt was reported that Ariel Sharon’s family had been given $3 million in bribes,BBC Newsand British MP George Galloway announced that he would be appearing on the reality TV show “Big Brother.”ReutersA policeman in Florida tasered a bear.SFGate.com

In Oklahoma City an anti-gay activist Baptist pastor and member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee was arrested after he propositioned a male undercover policeman for sex.Newsday.comThree Christian ministers claimed that they had sneaked into a Senate hearing room to anoint with oil the chairs used during Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court confirmation.Salon.comLou Rawls died,The New York Timesas did Yao Wenyuan, the final surviving member of the Gang of Four,BBC Newsand Hugh Thompson Jr., who rescued Vietnamese civilians from U.S. G.I.s during the My Lai massacre.APIn San Francisco an air passenger was arrested for having the words “suicide bomber” in his journal; it turned out that the words referred to the name of a band or a song.ReutersPetobesity was on the rise in Britain,Reutersand it was reported that street vendors in Shanghai were secretly replacing mutton with cat meat.ReutersA man in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, caught a mouse and threw it into a pile of burning leaves; the mouse, on fire, ran back into the man’s house, which then burned down.BBC NewsA woman in Vancouver, British Columbia, pleaded guilty to poisoning the trees in front of her condominium to improve her view of the ocean.Reuters

A 76-year-old performance artist was in trouble for chipping Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain,” a urinal valued at $3.6 million, with a hammer. In 1993 the same performance artist was arrested for urinating into the artwork.APThirty-eight thousand people were dying each month in Congo, mostly from treatable diseases,News 24and Nigeria decided to halve its prison population by freeing prisoners with terminal illnesses.The Jamaica ObserverA building collapsed in Mecca, killing 76 people.Forbes.comThe Hajj began,CNN.comand Ariel Sharon had another stroke. Pat Robertson blamed Sharon’s poor health on God. Sharon later began to move his right hand,YNetNews.comCNN.comABC Newsand oil rose to $64 a barrel.ReutersAn earthquake struck Greece.CNN.comAn Australian woman died after three sharks attacked her,BBC Newsand a fuel truck in Boise, Idaho, ran into a jet.SeattlePI.comIt was reported that author James Frey’s best-selling memoir was heavily fictionalized, and that author J.T. Leroy was being played in public by a woman named Savannah Knoop.The Smoking GunNY TimesAn artist in California went to an abandoned mine shaft in a desert and bound his feet together with a long chain and a lock in order to sketch a self-portrait. He lost the key, however, and was forced to hop for 12 hours to get help.Boston.comThe New Orleanspuppy population was out of control.IndyStar.comTwo teenagers in Turkey died of bird flu,BBC NewsDick Cheney was retaining fluids,BBC Newsand a 2,300-year-old Irish corpse was found to be wearing hair gel imported from France.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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