Weekly Review — June 13, 2006, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

United States forces succeeded in killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, with two five-hundred-pound bombs that were dropped on a safe house north of Baghdad. Zarqawi reportedly survived the bombing at first and even tried to get away but was strapped to a stretcher, where he died. The U.S. military denied reports that American soldiers had beaten the dying terrorist. “He died while American soldiers were attempting to save his life,” said General George Casey. Al Qaeda promised to respond with “major attacks.”New York TimesBloombergNew York TimesTom DeLay, the former Republican majority leader who was forced to resign because he is corrupt, said farewell to the House of Representatives. Dozens of Democrats walked out during his speech. “I did a good job,” DeLay said. “I helped build the largest political coalition in the last 50 years.”UPITexasexecuted an axe murderer, andReutersit was reported that scientists have created a new type of synthetic snakebite antivenom.New ScientistFlorida’swildlife officials decided to remove the manatee, which has a mild taste that readily adapts itself to recipes for beef, from the state’s endangered-species list.New York TimesA new Gallup poll found that Muslim women are generally happy with their lot and think that Western values lead to moral decay, pornography, and promiscuity.Washington TimesNew computer viruses were exploiting World Cup fever,The Business Onlineand Britishscientists claimed that men drink heavily at sporting events in order to compensate for their masculine shortcomings.Economic & Social Research Council

President George W. Bush traveled to Artesia, New Mexico, to address the Border Patrol Academy and suggested that immigrants had better learn to speak good American. “I knew I was in pretty good country when I saw all the cowboy hats,” he said. “And I think I saw one guy spitting in a can.”San Francisco ChronicleThree detainees at the American prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, committed suicide using nooses made from clothing and bedsheets. “They have no regard for human life, neither ours nor their own,” said Navy Rear-Admiral Harry Harris. “I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us.” All three men had been in the camp for about four years and had recently engaged in a hunger strike.ScotsmanThe attorney for Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, one of the marines charged with the Haditha massacre, asserted that the massacre, though “tragic,” was nonetheless “lawful” and was the result of following “the rules of engagement and standard protocol.”Associated PressIt was reported that the Pentagon has decided to remove a reference to Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions from a new edition of the Army Field Manual on interrogation. That article bans torture and cruel treatment as well as “outrages on personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.” The change, which would reverse decades of military policy, follows President Bush‘s declaration in 2002 that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to “unlawful combatants” such as terrorists.Los Angeles TimesA report by the Council of Europe charged that European countries (including Germany,Spain,Sweden,Greece, and Italy) served as a “global spider web” for the CIA’s secret abduction and unlawful transfer of terrorism suspects to its network of torture camps around the world.New York TimesThe United States issued a report on the global sex trade and rebuked Germany for being “a source, transit, and destination country” for prostitutes.New York TimesDonald Rumsfeld, the American secretary of defense, traveled to Vietnam, where he complained that Russia is a bully and China is secretive; he also observed that when Vietnam’s first university was founded in 1070 American Indians were still living in mud huts. “That’s impressive,” he said.New York TimesIndonesia’s defense minister scolded Rumsfeld for being overbearing.New York TimesPresident Vladimir Putin of Russia had lunch with Henry Kissinger, who said afterward that he has confidence in “Russian evolution.” “What if my grandmother had certain sexual attributes?” Putin asked a reporter. “Then she would would be my grandfather.” New York TimesA new study found that the quality of men’s sperm deteriorates as they grow older and could lead to an increase in dwarf babies.AP

Armed gunmen abducted more than 50 bystanders at a Baghdad bus stop, and it was announced that May was the deadliest month for Baghdad residents since the beginning of the American occupation. A total of 1,398 bodies were found throughout the city, alongside roads, in garbage dumps, and in abandoned cars, though many others have been abducted, never to be seen again.Los Angeles TimesBritish special forces were being trained to use strap-on “batwings” rather than parachutes; the lightweight carbon wings permit the soldiers to be dropped at high altitudes and then glide for more than 100 miles before landing.Daily MailThe Senate failed to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage,Globe and Mailand Macy’s removed two gay-pride mannequins from a Boston display window after the store received complaints.Boston HeraldIt was reported that the United States carried out 750 air strikes in Afghanistan last month and thatFox Newsplans were being made to send United Nations troops to Darfur.UN.orgSerbia declared itself to be a sovereign state.Associated PressJavier Solana, Europe’s foreign-policy director, formally offered Iran a package of incentives designed to persuade the Islamic state to give up its nuclear ambitions; that same day, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran restarted its uranium-enrichment program.New York TimesNew York TimesAn Israeli artillery shell killed at least seven civilians, including five members of one family (including young children aged ten, three, and one) who were picnicking on a beach in Gaza. Israeli officials expressed regret and said that the shell had been aimed at a target 400 yards away from the picnic. Hamas declared that it would no longer abide by a 16-month-old cease-fire and fired a rocket into Israel.New York TimesThe Army Corps of Engineers admitted that its incompetence was largely to blame for the destruction of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.New York TimesThe Food and Drug Administration asked restaurants to help Americans eat less. “We must take a serious look at the impact these foods are having on our waistlines,” said a health-promotion official named Penelope Slade Royall.MSNBCWhole Foods was concerned about the well-being of its fresh lobsters, andNew York Timesthe New York Times reported that tar-paper shacks have been selling briskly in South African shanty towns.New York TimesA group of high school students in Florida found a real corpse at a fake crime scene.ReutersAmerican conservationists were airlifting endangered frogs out of Panama in their luggage.New York TimesSurgeons in Shanghai successfully removed a baby boy’s third arm.AP

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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.

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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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