Weekly Review — March 6, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A grasshopper driving a chariot, 1875]

In a videoconference with Hong Kong investors, former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said that America might sink into recession by year’s end; a frenzied worldwide sell-off ensued. The Shanghai Composite lost 8.8 percent of its value in a day, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 3.3 percent, its worst drop since September 17, 2001. “Alan Greenspan really needs to sit down,” said one economist, “and be quiet.” Others marveled at the ability of “the Maestro” to cause upheavals even in retirement; Greenspan later held another videoconference, for which he charges fees of $150,000, and said that a recession was “not probable.” New York Times APNPRMarkets continued to decline,New York Timesand a tornado ravaged Alabama.New York TimesA suicide bomber attacked Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, killing twenty Afghans, a South Korean, and two Americans but missing his prime target, Vice President Dick Cheney, who has taken to speaking in the first person on the condition of anonymity. “I’ve seen some reporting,” said the “senior administration official” of his meeting with Pakistani authorities, “that says, â??Cheney went in to beat up on them, threaten them.’ That’s not the way I work.”New York TimesSan Jose Mercury NewsThe Bush Administration announced it would reverse its policy of the last several years and discuss stabilizing Iraq with high-level diplomats from Syria and Iran, which it was blaming for manufacturing a cache of roadside bombs found in Hilla, Iraq, inside a fake boulder made of polyurethane. The later discovery of a makeshift weapons factory indicated that insurgents were making their own weapons,New York TimesNew York Timesand disclosures about North Korea’splutonium bomb suggested that U.S. intelligence about other countries’ weapons programs is frequently wrong.New York TimesSheikh Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah told an interviewer he believed the United States had embarked on a secret plan to break up Iraq,Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, before doing the same to the Arab nations of northern Africa. “Israel will be the most important and the strongest state in a region that has been partitioned into ethnic and confessional states that are in agreement with each other,” he said. “This is the new Middle East.” New YorkerThe State Department was fighting terror by posting comments on Arabic blogs,PR Watchthe Defense Department selected a winner in its nuclear warhead design competition,New York Timesand Switzerland accidentally invaded Liechtenstein.BBC

Jurists in The Hague ruled that a genocide occurred when Bosnian Serbs massacred Bosnian Muslims at Srebrinca in 1995. Serbia, said the court, was responsible for not preventing the genocideâ??but not directly responsible for the genocide itselfâ??and is thus absolved of any obligation to pay reparations. New York TimesEthnic Albanian Ramush Haradinaj, a former bouncer who became prime minister of Kosovo, awaited trial for cleansing Serbs.Washington PostSenator Joe Biden (D., Del.) boasted that as president he would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq and send them to “take out the janjaweed” in Darfur, which he mistakenly placed in Somalia, not Sudan, where visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad signed a cooperative agreement on the environment and said, “Zionists are the true manifestation of Satan.”PrezVidDeutsche Presse-AgenturAfter the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court filed charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Sudanese officials, Sudan’s Minister of the Interior said that any party who tried to enforce the charges would be beheaded.AllAfrica.comSudan TimesPerfect hair” was among the potential liabilities outlined in a PowerPoint document leaked from Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. The former Massachusetts governor, according to the document, intends to avoid being called “Slick Dancing Mitt” or “Flip-Flopper” and will instead promote himself as “the anti-Kerry,” a “get-it-done CEO” who hates France and possesses “intelligence,” unlike President Bush.Boston GlobeAn Indiannumerologist forecast that Hillary Clinton would win the 2008 election because her birth number is eight; he claimed he had also correctly predicted Princess Diana’s death, Bush’s election, and that America would lose the Iraq war. Asian TribuneOn The Late Show with David Letterman, Senator John McCain confirmed that he is running for president. Candidly discussing the war in Iraq, he said, “We’ve wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives.” In response to Democrats who scolded him for using the word “wasted,” McCain replied, “I should have used the word ‘sacrificed’.”CNNOutgoing Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan advised blacks to stay out of the military,New York Timesand the New York City Council banned the word “nigger.” BBCArthur M. Schlesinger Jr., author of The Vital Center, died,New York Timesand the New Republic, a 93-year-old independent American liberal weekly, was sold to a Canadianmedia conglomerate that will publish it half as often.New York ObserverFifty million honeybees vanished.New York Times

The United States projected that it would emit 19 percent more greenhouse gases in 2020 than it did in 2000,New York Timesand pollution was cited as the reason that the Dutch are now taller than Americans. Daily Kent StaterDelivering Lenten meditations at the Vatican, Cardinal Giacomo Biffi warned Pope Benedict of an Antichrist who would come as “a pacifist, ecologist, and ecumenist” to rally the “masses” to destroy the Christian faith. Times, UKA woman in Naples found a live World War II-era hand grenade in a bag of potatoes,BBCand mothers in Rome were leaving unwanted babies at a hospital booth that resembles an ATM.New York TimesA television documentary reported that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, the couple had a son named Judah, and the three were buried together with Mary and Joseph in Israel.New York TimesJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the 200,000 women staffing the Japanese military’s World War II brothels had not been coerced into service; surviving comfort women countered that they had been raped en masse and demanded compensation. The AustralianVladimir Putin installed Ramzan Kadyrov, a 30-year-old reputed warlord and torturer, as president of Chechnya.Moscow TimesFemale koalas in Australia were ignoring males in favor of five-bear lesbian orgies,The AdvocateAnn Coulter called former Senator John Edwards a faggot, Fox Newsand social scientists found that Americans born after 1982 have succumbed to an epidemic of pathological narcissism.Christian Science Monitor

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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.

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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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