Weekly Review — May 29, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: The Cloaca Maxima, 1872]

The Cloaca Maxima, 1872

Congress passed a bill allocating $100 billion for war spending without a timetable for troop withdrawal. CongressionalDemocrats allowed the vote to reach the House and Senate floors despite widespread opposition among their ranks because they didn’t want to go on Memorial Day break while soldiers remained wanting. Ten Democratic senators including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton voted against the bill. “I was very disappointed to see Senator Obama and Senator Clinton embrace the policy of surrender,” said Senator John McCain. “This vote may win favor with MoveOn and liberal primary voters, but it’s the equivalent of waving a white flag to Al Qaeda.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told reporters she would “never vote for such a thing” just before finalizing the bill with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who called the legislation proof of “great progress.” Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin told his Democratic colleagues that he would reluctantly support the measure because “we do not have it within our power to make the will of America the law of the land.”New York TimesReuters via Yahoo! NewsNew York TimesWashington PostNearly a thousand soldiers had been killed in Iraq since last Memorial Day. MSNBCThe body of one of three missing U.S. soldiers was found floating in the Euphrates River,AP via Yahoo! Newsand an Irish soldier who won the Military Cross for single-handedly defeating a Baghdadsuicide bomber was facing a court-martial for auctioning his medal on eBay.Ananova

The Defense Department released a how-to guide recovered from an “Al Qaedatorture chamber” near Baghdad. The manual illustrates interrogation techniques such as “eye removal,” “drilling hands,” and “blowtorch to the skin,” and was found along with whips, wire cutters, pliers, handcuffs, hammers, electric drills, screwdrivers, meat cleavers, and a person suspended from the safe-house ceiling.FOX NewsThe Smoking GunIn Darfur, where Janjaweed leaders, frustrated with promises of land, cattle, and wealth gone undelivered by Khartoum, have joined forces with rebel factions, bandits shot and killed their first U.N. peacekeeper.Christian Science MonitorUSA TodayHamas told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas it would accept a truce with Israel if the IDF halted air attacks in Gaza, and threatened to kill hostage Gilad Shalit should Israel fail to comply.Ha’aretzIsrael and the U.S. provided Abbas with light arms and $84 million to fund Fatah’s power struggle with Hamas, Christian Science Monitorand the Israeli embassy in Washington searched for someone to attend the funeral of Jerry Falwell.Ha’aretzIn the desert of southern Israel a man wrestled and pinned down a leopard after it broke into his bedroom.AP via CBS NewsKosovo Albanians were planning to erect a ten-foot-tall bronze statue of Bill Clinton; Tony Blair was said to be next.TelegraphIn Britain, anonymous sources close to Queen Elizabeth II reported that the monarch was “exasperated and frustrated” with the legacy of the outgoing prime minister; in particular, she was said to be deeply concerned about Blair’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and the outlawing of fox hunting.TelegraphA South London artist planned to protest the royal family’s treatment of animals by eating a corgi.AnanovaPresident Bush expressed his continuing support for embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden. “I’ve got confidence in Al Gonzales doin’ the job,” said Bush, as a passing sparrow shit on his sleeve.USA Today

Jack Kevorkian was preparing to leave prison after serving eight years for assisting in the suicide of a Michigan man,AP via Yahoo! Newsand the execution of an overweight prisoner in Ohio was performed 90 minutes behind schedule because medical workers were unable to find a vein for the lethal injection.New York TimesHistoric cemeteries across the United States were attempting to attract new customers through dog parades, jazz concerts, designer mausoleums, and Renaissance faires.New York TimesAn 11-year-old boy had reportedly killed a thousand-pound wild pig after a three-hour, nine-bullet chase through the woods of eastern Alabama. “It’s a good accomplishment,” said the boy. “I probably won’t ever kill anything else that big.”AP via USA TodayDutch television made plans to air “The Big Donor Show,” in which three patients will compete for a dying woman’s kidney.News.com.auAn area of Topeka, Kansas, was shut down after a robot in a headdress was spotted near the Capitol.KWCHIn Bombay, several thousand untouchables converted en masse to Buddhism,BBC Newsand Thunder Ranch, a luxury motel in northern Mexico, was fortifying each of its 35 rooms with steel doors to stop the bullets of skirmishing drug cartels.Reuters via Yahoo! NewsA zoo in Germany hired a clown to cheer up bored monkeys,AnanovaCairo customs officials prevented a smuggler from carrying 700 snakes onto a plane bound for Saudi Arabia,USA Todayand it was revealed that in 2001 in Omaha, Nebraska, a virgin shark gave birth.CNN

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More from Miriam Markowitz:

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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.”

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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.

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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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