Weekly Review — April 17, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Tempest, December 1878]

At Virginia Tech University, a gunman opened fire in a dormitory and in classrooms, killing 32 people and then himself.The New York TimesIn Iraq,suicide bombs exploded in the parliament cafeteria and on a bridge over the Tigris, toppling cars into the river and killing 10 people.AP via IHTAP via NYTAn explosion near a Shiite shrine in Karbala killed 16 children,AP via Tehran Timesand the U.S. Defense Department extended troops’ tours of duty from 12 to 15 months.BBCIt was reported that a forthcoming book by the editor of the Washington Post suggests that a Google search might have prevented the Iraq war.ABC NewsSenator John McCain assessed the situation in Iraq, saying “I have no Plan B . . . If I saw that doomsday scenario evolving, then I would try to come up with one.”NYTFormer Deputy Secretary of Defense and current World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz apologized to colleagues for arranging a salary increase and promotion for a Bank associate who was also his ex-girlfriend and faced booing, catcalls, and demands for his resignation.IHTNYTIt was reported that almost a year before seven U.S. attorneys were fired, an email from D. Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, proposed replacement candidates for them. Four years’ worth of email from Karl Rove, sought by Democrats investigating Rove’s role in the firings, was missing from the Republican National Committee server.NYTWaPoA bird flew into the engine of Vice President Dick Cheney’s plane while it was en route to Chicago, but the plane made a safe landing.CBS2Chicago

Kurt Vonnegut died.NYTScientists announced the creation of nascent sperm cells from human bone marrow samples.BBCA leaked, X-rated DVD sent to parents of elementary school students in Illinois featured the principal having sex with a teacher on his desk, next to a pile of standardized tests.CBS2ChicagoA study found that students who participated in federally endorsed sexual abstinenceprograms were as likely to have sex as those who did not. “This report confirms that these interventions are not like vaccines. You can’t expect one . . . small dose to be protective all throughout the youth’s high school career,” said the commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau.AP via CNNIn Hong Kong, race horses suffered the worst outbreak of equine herpes in the region’s history.Times UKIn Saudi Arabia, a widely circulated text message claimed melons entering the kingdom from Israel were infected with AIDS.YnetnewsA Ukrainian woman was arrested after customs officials found hashish inside the battery compartment of her vibrator,Toronto Sunthe Indian civil service announced (and then revoked) new rules mandating female employees to provide details of their menstrual cycles,BBCan Australian study reported that acting on sadomasochistic fetishes improves men’s happiness,The West.com.aua Minnesota jail guard was suspended after thumping an inmate with a Bible,Kare 11 TVand the Amsterdam chapter of the Hells Angels biker gang organized a benefit to raise money for legal costs.ReutersPrince William broke up with his girlfriend via telephone.Daily Mirror

Responding to Philadelphia’s high rate of gun violence, gun control advocates urged state legislation to limit handgun purchases to one per person per month. Critics of the proposal called it an infringement on Second Amendment rights.NYTGerman national television released a videoclip of an army instructor in Schleswig-Holstein telling one of his soldiers during a machine-gun drill, “You are in the Bronx. A black van is stopping in front of you. Three African Americans are getting out and they are insulting your mother in the worst ways . . . Act.”AP via CNNA study surveying African-American women in the Mississippi Delta found that a majority of respondents believe anyone who gets AIDS deserves it, especially if he or she is a homosexual, bisexual, or prostitute, and that the U.S. government created HIV/AIDS to destroy the black race.The Clarion-LedgerNorth Carolina’s Attorney General dropped all charges against the three former Duke lacrosse players accused of raping an African-American stripper at a party, calling the athletes innocent victims of an overzealous attorney.News 14 CarolinaRadio personality Don Imus lost his job after he called players on the Rutgerswomen’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.”CNNIt was announced that President Bush and his wife paid $186,378 in federal taxes on income of $642,905, while Vice President Cheney and his wife owe $413,326 in taxes on income of $1.6 million.Reuters via NYTThe interior minister of Macedonia was driving a BMW that may have been stolen from English soccer star David Beckham.BBCA Staten Island food pantry turned people away after a thief robbed their storeroom of a month’s worth of provisions,NYTand researchers at the Department of Food Science at Leeds University spent over 1,000 hours testing 700 variations on the traditional bacon sandwich to find the ideal “crispy and crunchy” formula.BBCIn New York City, delivery workers continued to picket several Asian restaurants, accusing owners of making them work 70-hour weeks while paying them only $1.40 an hour.NYTA lawyer jumped to his death from the 69th floor of the Empire State Building.AP via Pittsburg Post-Gazette

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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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