Weekly Review — June 26, 2006, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Tempest, December 1878]

Saddam Hussein’s cousin Ali Hassan al-Majeed, also known as “Chemical Ali,” was sentenced to death for his role in Iraq’s Kurdish genocide.Reuters CanadaHamas militants released an audio recording of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in which he states, “I am sorry that the Israeli government has not shown more interest. It should meet the demands of my kidnappers so I can be released.”BBCSeven children were killed during a coalition-led airstrike in Afghanistan,.NYTand the Gaza kidnappers of Britishjournalist Alan Johnston released a video of Johnston wearing an explosives vest, which he says will be detonated if force is used to try to free him.BBCIn North Korea, 110 people foraging for gasoline were killed in an explosion at a fuel pipeline,Al Jazeeraand the North Korean government announced it would begin dismantling its nuclear program after the U.S. Treasury unfroze certain bank accounts in Macau.BloombergA Marine Corps memo, circulated after the 2005 Haditha massacre, was made public. “‘Fighting terrorists associated with Al Qaida’ is stronger language than ‘serving’,” read the memo. “The American people will side more with someone actively fighting a terrorist organization that is tied to 9/11 than with someone who is idly ‘serving,’ like in a way one ‘serves’ a casserole.”NYTIt was reported that despite the U.S. “surge,” the black-market prices in Iraq for weapons and ammunition have remained stable, indicating the failure of supposedly strengthened checkpoints. TimeThe military was concerned about a marked drop in the number of African-American recruits since the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars; “We just want to make sure,” said Marine Commandant General James Conway, “that we continue to look like America.”ABC News

Scientists called Europe’swinter of 2006 – 2007 the warmest in 700 years. New ScientistFlooding in Karachi, Pakistan, left 200 people dead and 1,000 homes destroyed,BBCand a five-acre glacial lake in the Andesvanished.AP via CNNTuna shortages were forcing Japanese chefs to consider deer and horse meat as substitutes for sushi.NYTJapan rechristened the island of Iwo Jima, made famous by World War II, with its prewar name of Iwo To.AP via CNNAuthorities in New Zealand prevented a couple from naming their baby “4real” because the name included a numeral.AP via CNNThe South African education department announced that male students may be granted paternity leave,IOL/Cape Timesand Lydia Playfoot, a 16-year-old English schoolgirl, went to the High Court to protest her school’s ban on wearing “purity rings” (used to symbolize chastity), which she characterized as discrimination against Christians.BBCNewsResearchers announced that firstborn children develop higher I.Q.s than their younger siblings,NYTand a two-year-old English girl with an I.Q. of 152 joined Mensa.AFP via YahooOne and a half million Thomas the Tank Engine toys produced in China were recalled after they were found to contain lead paint.IHTThe actress Cameron Diaz apologized for carrying a bag printed with a Maoist political slogan when she visited Peru, where up to 69,000 people died in a decade-long war between the government and Maoist rebels.BBCA study found that paying taxes activates pleasure-centers in the brain.NYTZimbabwe’s rate of inflation reached 11,000 percent and was predicted to approach 1.5 million percent by the end of the year.Guardian

The Australian government announced a ban on alcohol and pornography for Aborigines,Forbesand the Swedish government recognized that one man’s preference for heavy metal music constitutes a disability, making the man eligible for state benefits.The LocalA District of Columbia judge ruled in favor of a Washington dry cleaner in a $54 million case brought over a missing pair of pants. The plaintiff, himself an administrative law judge, was ordered to pay the dry cleaner’s court fees.AP via YahooA study found that Facebook users are wealthier and better educated than their MySpace counterparts,BBCa Minnesota man was fined $3,000 for putting dog feces in a parking ticket envelope,AP via Philly.comand in Idaho, a black Labrador drove his owner’s Chevy Impala into a river.AP via Philly.comAn eight-year-old two-headed hermaphrodite albino rat-snake named “We” died of natural causes at the City Museum in St. Louis,St. Louis Post Dispatchand Six Flags closed eight thrill rides across the country after a teenage girl in Kentucky had her feet severed on the Superman Tower of Power.AP via Wave3 Louisville, KY

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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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