Weekly Review — December 19, 2006, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Tempest, December 1878]

In Baghdad, at a gathering place for poor Shiite laborers, the owner of a truck filled with wheat announced that he was looking for workers. A crowd gathered around the truck and it exploded, killing 70 people and wounding 236.NYTIt was revealed that billions of dollars in Iraqi oil revenues had not been spent, and the head of Iraq’s Commission on Public Integrity was accused of graft.NYTOutgoing Representative Cynthia McKinney (D., Ga.) introduced a bill to impeach President George W. Bush for misleading Congress on the war in Iraq and implementing an illegal domestic spying program.Newsvine.comPresident Bush said that any new strategy for Iraq would have to wait until early next year.NYTDonald Rumsfeld gave a farewell speech in which he warned that the threat of terrorism is not gone. “Not once, in public or in private,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace about Rumsfeld, “did I ever hear this man try to shift responsibility to anyone else but himself.”MonstersandCritics.comThe Taliban established a “mini-state” in Peshawar.NYT

A study found that standard-sized condoms were too large for the men of India.SlateThe National Institutes of Health said that circumcision is an effective method to limit heterosexual transmission of HIV,MSNBCbut Kevin De Cock, HIV/AIDS director of the World Health Organization, warned that circumcision was “not a magic bullet.”BBCAn Oregon fraternity brother shot a homeless man who was collecting cans behind the frat house,local6.coma hunter in Wisconsin shot a seven-legged deer,Yahoo Newsand a Texas lawmaker introduced legislation that would allow the blind to participate in “the fun of hunting.”Reuters via YahooNewsThe Marine Corps ordered a sergeant to call off an online auction that gave the highest bidder the right to rename him; bids included “King Taco” and “Sgt. Finest Freshest Fastest.”NYTThe governor of Alaska announced she would sell a private jet that had been used for state business on eBay,Bloombergand federal investigators announced that airline pilots should follow procedures to make sure their airplanes take off on the right runway.NYTSeattle-Tacoma International Airport removed fourteen Christmas trees after a local rabbi threatened a lawsuit if officials did not add an eight-foot menorah to the arrangement,Seattle Timesand Iran held a conference to examine whether the Holocaust happened.AP via CBSPaul Barnes, a senior pastor at a 2,100-member evangelical megachurch in Colorado, stepped down after admitting to sexual relations with men, Denver Postand Dr. Tony Campolo, a Baptist minister and professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University in Pennsylvania, said that evangelicals had been “very, very mean to the gay and lesbian community.” NYTAn international war crimes court sentenced a Rwandan Roman Catholic priest to 15 years in prison for ordering his church crushed by bulldozers while 2,000 ethnic Tutsi remained inside,NYTand former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, who is said to have strangled Emperor Haile Selassie with his bare hands and buried him under a toilet, was convicted of genocide by an Ethiopian court.NYT

The pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly was found to have downplayed the health risks of Zyprexa, its best-selling medication for schizophrenia.NYTBritishgeneticists investigating the case of a 10-year-old Pakistani boy who could walk on burning coals announced that they had discovered a gene that influences the perception of pain. They could not examine the boy directly because he had died after leaping off a roof to impress his friends.NYTThe NBA decided to replace its new microfiber composite basketball with the previous leather version after players complained about the new ball’s grip and the way it hurt their skin. Ralph Nader, calling himself “an advocate for all workers, no matter their salary,” wrote a letter in support of the old ball.BreitbartLA TimesThe British police concluded that Princess Diana’s death was an accident,NYTand in response to the deaths of three anorexicmodels, the fashion industry held a forum that called for internal regulation. “We would much rather come up with a way of self-policing ourselves,” said one modeling agency chief, “than have regulations rammed down our throats.”NY PostLettuce, rather than green onions, was deemed responsible for the Taco Bell E. coli outbreak; however, suggested a health official, “it would be folly at this point to drop the cheese completely.”reutersMoses Hardy, who at 113 was the second oldest man in the world and the last surviving black U.S. veteran of World War I, died in Mississippi.local6.comPolice and firefighters on Long Island rescued a veteran who had walled himself in with a seven-foot-high pile of fecal matter and other debris,NYPostand Representative Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.) said President Bush was in “deep shit.”TPM CafĂ©The baiji, a species of blind white dolphin extant for 20 million years, was declared extinct,AP via NYTand two dolphins who had swallowed toxic plastic were saved by the world’s tallest man, who used his long arms to retrieve shards from their stomachs.BBC

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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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