Weekly Review — June 27, 2006, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Lost Souls in Hell, 1875]

Lost Souls in Hell, 1875.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq unveiled a 24-point national reconciliation plan designed to end his nation’s civil war, and in Baghdad nearly 100 people were abducted by gunmen dressed as police officers.Islam Online via Google NewsThe Iraqi military recovered the bodies of two kidnapped U.S. soldiers; a spokesman said they had been “tortured in a barbaric fashion.”The New York TimesThe New York TimesIn Baghdad a car bomb detonated next to an ice cream shop, killing at least three people of indeterminate age, and insurgents beheaded two Russian diplomats and shot another.Houston Chronicle via Google NewsSaddam Hussein skipped a meal.Reuters via Google NewsMirror UK via Google NewsSenator Rick Santorum insisted the United States had in fact discovered weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and Senator John McCain said the U.S. had two options there: “Withdraw and fail, or commit and succeed.” The New York TimesFour men suspected of aiding a Canadian terrorist cell were arrested in London,.The New York TimesBBCand seven men were arrested in Florida for talking about blowing up the Sears Tower.The New York TimesSwedish researchers announced that the Toxoplasma parasite hijacks human cells and forces them to commit suicide.The New York TimesNorth Korea reserved the right to test missiles capable of hitting the United States.The New York TimesThe mother of a five-year-old Palestinian girl killed by an Israeli air strike told reporters, “If I [got] my hands on an explosive belt, I would go and explode myself inside Israel to tear the hearts out for their children.”Forbes via Google NewsPolice from the tropical island of St. Kitts used M-16 semi-automatic rifles, batons, and a tear gas launcher to apprehend ten Greenpeace activists protesting an international whaling conference.Reuters via Google NewsPresident Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan assured a live television audience that he was neither corrupt nor incompetent.Washington PostAn Italian prosecutor said the Mafia was “down on its knees” after police arrested 45 organized criminals in Palermo, Sicily.BBCFrench Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin questioned the bravery of a fellow member of Parliament. “Cowardice! Cowardice!” Villepin shouted. “I say it again, cowardice!”The New York TimesThere was a bumper coca crop in Colombia,Washington Postand President George W. Bush said that he wanted to release all the detainees at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, except for the “cold-blooded killers.”BBC

AT&T revised its privacy guidelines, removing a stated promise not to “access, read, upload or store data contained in or derived from private files.”CNNThe U.S. Senate voted for the ninth consecutive year to keep the minimum wage at $5.15 per hour,The New York Timesand House Republicans declined to renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act because it was unfair to Southerners.The New York TimesThere were discrepancies between the lie detection tests of U.S. security agencies. “The CIA doesn’t respect the NSA’s polygraph and the NSA doesn’t respect the CIA’s polygraph,” said Tara Wilk, a computer engineer with Defense Department clearance.Washington PostDonald Rumsfeld called it “strange” that he was required to give sworn testimony to the Pentagon’s inspector general about $30 billion in mismanaged government contracts.Washington PostVice President Dick Cheney discussed his similarities to Darth Vader, and said that reporters offend him.CNNHillary Clinton described Republicans as negligent, irresponsible, and similar to monkeys.The New York TimesWashington PostA Canadian bear was caught stealing oatmeal,CNNand London’s mayor cracked down on a “radical” pigeon-feeding “splinter group” in Trafalgar Square.The New York TimesCongressman Steve King said Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi’s heavenly reward would be 72 virgins who “all look like Helen Thomas,” the 85-year-old White House correspondent.WKMG-TV via RafilThe Federal Aviation Administration forbade the sheriff of Los Angeles to fly his model airplanes.Los Angeles TimesThe Orlando City Council proposed rules to limit the feeding of homeless people,CNNand State Representative Kathi-Anne Rheinstein introduced legislation that would designate Fluffernutter as the official sandwich spread of Massachusetts.The New York TimesThe Scripps Institution of Oceanography predicted that a massive earthquake will strike southern California some time in the next ten years.Discovery Reports via Google NewsThe Episcopal Church elected its first female primate, Katherine Jefferts Schori,The Desert Sun via Google Newsand the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to allow experimental liturgies that would permit the Holy Trinity to be evoked as Mother, Child, and Womb, or Rock, Redeemer, and Friend.Episcopal News ServiceFOX NewsTom Cruise accepted a “happi” coat from the Japanese Transport Minister,Reutersand Daryl Hannah was forcibly removed from a walnut tree in South Los Angeles.Philadelphia InquirerA six-toed cat named Lewis was placed under house arrest in Fairfield, Connecticut.The New York TimesAngelina Jolie called her income “stupid,”The New York Timesactress Reese Witherspoon denied reports of a “baby bump,”People News via Google Newsand scientists told women who are interested in having babies to relax.The Australian via Google NewsMen who undergo vasectomies were found to have increased levels of genetically abnormal sperm.BBCThe Pentagon classified homosexuality as a mental defect akin to retardation.AP via MSNBC via Daily Rotten

Scientists announced that the Earth is surrounded by giant fizzy space bubbles; the bubbles swell to nearly 620 miles in diameter, explode, and are replaced by a cooling solar wind.CNNResearchers in Texas successfully convinced fringe-lipped bats that poisonous sympatric cane toads were edible.Washington Post“Nerve-friendly” cells helped partially paralyzed rats walk,Chicago Tribune via Google News25 of Britain’s 4,000 beetle species were missing,BBCand the World Health Organization said that Indonesians who contracted bird flu were ignorant.Reuters via Google NewsA federal court ruled that the penile plethysmograph, a test used to measure male arousal levels, may not be used to supervise sex offenders.Los Angeles TimesA study by Pfizer found that most women between the ages of 25 and 74 prefer their sex partners to have hard penises,Malaysia Star via Google Newsand a Rhode Island handyman won $400,000 in compensation for his ten-year erection.CNNLance Corporal William Windsor, a billy goat in the British army, was demoted for “lack of decorum.”BBCThe theme of the 2006 World Refugee Day was hope.VOA via Google News

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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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Last fall, a court filing in the Eastern District of Virginia inadvertently suggested that the Justice Department had indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and other outlets reported soon after that Assange had likely been secretly indicted for conspiring with his sources to publish classified government material and hacked documents belonging to the Democratic National Committee, among other things.

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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.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

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A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

An Iraqi man complaining on live television about the country’s health services died on air.

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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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