Weekly Review — June 12, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Babylonian lion, 1875]

President George W. Bush traveled to Europe, where he declared an end to the Cold War, suggested that a U.S. missile shield was “not something we ought to be hyperventilating about,” and suffered a stomachache that left him “slightly indisposed.”New York TimesNew York TimesForbesIn Iraq, the Sunni-dominated IslamicArmy announced that it would no longer threaten the “project of Jihad” by continuing to fight Al Qaeda.Washington PostA security assessment found that just one third of Baghdad’s neighborhoods were under U.S. control, police recruits shot a “suspicious woman,” a Catholic priest was kidnapped along with five boys, and 27 corpses, each shot in the head and showing signs of torture, were recovered.BBC NewsBBC NewsWashington PostWashington PostProposed “War Czar” Lieutenant General Douglas Lute described the results of the U.S. troop surge as “uneven.”Air Force TimesNew York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said people stood a greater chance of being hit by lightning than dying at the hands of a terrorist, and that anyone worried about it should “get a life.”WCBSTV.com via DrudgeA “clearly deranged” German man attempted to board the Popemobile in the Vatican and was beaten by the Vigilanza, the pontiff’s security force.New York Times and Washington PostGovernment doctors announced that the machine controlling Dick Cheney’s heart was old and should be replaced.ABC NewsChina was in the grip of “Web 2.0 madness,”CNETthe U.S. military was developing lethal water guns to combat scuba-equippedterrorists,.Wiredand three adulterers were executed by firing squad in Khyber, Pakistan.BBC NewsHillary Clinton thanked God for helping her endure the sexual indiscretions of her husband.CNN

The Republican presidential candidates met in New Hampshire to engage in “verbal combat” over immigration,New York Timesand Eric Alterman, author of the “Altercation” blog, was arrested after an altercation with police at the Democratic debate.CNNTwo John McCain campaign officials were fired for refusing to “rape and pillage” church directories for potential donors.Washington PostJohn Edwards said it was fine if Rudolph Giuliani chose a campaign platform of “four more years of what [the current] president has done.” “He will never be elected,” Edwards added. “But he is allowed to do that.”Washington PostViolence erupted in the Alabama state senate when a Democrat called Republican Charles Bishop a son of a bitch. “I responded to his comment with my right hand,” said Bishop.CNN“Fleeting expletives” were ruled legal by a U.S. court.Times of LondonThree Finnish fishermen were abducted by the Iranian government,BBC NewsU.S. efforts to recapture a shipping vessel taken by pirates off the Horn of Africa failed, New York Timesand Spanish naval authorities threatened to board two boats they believe hold stolen treasure.Yahoo NewsGlobal warming was linked to an upsurge of cat sex,LiveScience.comand NFL running back Clinton Portis explained why he ridiculed laws against dog fighting. “I’m not even a pets man,” Portis explained. “I’ve got a fish–that’s the easiest thing to keep up. I’ve never been into dogs, never dealt with dogs, don’t like playing with dogs. But at the same time,” he added, “there’s a lot of people who are crazy over pets.”CNNS.com

Students at Harvard University were scalping tickets to their own graduation,CNNhigh school officials in Galesburg, Ohio, withheld the diplomas of five seniors after their friends and families cheered too loudly at the commencement,New York Timesand three students were arrested in Aurora, Illinois, following a cafeteria food fight. “Milk cartons, full pop bottles, and blue slushies were flying around,” said one student. “Kids literally bought the food to throw it and, to me, that’s a little expensive.”CNNThe Spanish people resisted a government proposal to add lyrics to the national anthem. “It’s fine to identify a country with music,” said one Madrileno. “But a country with words, no, I don’t like it.”BBC NewsIn China, a spike in the price of pork tenderloin and bacon caused people to begin eating more fish,New York Timesand it was reported that Xiang Xiang, a five-year-old panda bred in captivity and released into the wild, was found dead in February. Wild pandas are suspected.BBC NewsForest guards in western India were using cell phone ring tones of cows mooing, goats bleating, and roosters crowing to lure hungry leopards away from human encampments. CNNIn Selmer, Tennessee, a preacher’s wife was sentenced to three years in prison for murdering her husband, whom she said forced her to perform “unnatural” sex acts with a black wig and platform shoes on,CNNand in Bautzen, Germany, three teenagers were found not guilty of impairing the sex drive of an ostrich.New York TimesBritain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds banned the word “cock” from its website. “Tit” and “swallow,” however, were still permitted.News.com.au via Nerve.comScientists successfully produced talking construction paper, trained dogs to track polar bear feces, and made stem cells out of adult mice.BBC NewsNew York TimesMedical News today via google newsCultural taboos against the public discussion of menopause were in decline among the American middle class,New York Times via Nerve.comand in England, gingerists, or people with a bias against red hair, were subjecting the auburn-headed to slurs like “you ginger bastard” or “you right ginger whinger.” BBC NewsThe Internet’s storehouse of wisdom, information, and pornographic images was determined to weigh 0.2 millionths of an ounce.Discover

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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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