Weekly Review — October 23, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Saluting the Town, March 1854]

Michael Mukasey, President George W. Bush‘s nominee for attorney general, received a warm reception on his first day before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he decried torture and promised a nonpartisan Justice Department. On his second day, however, he hedged on whether waterboarding is torture and argued that the president could disregard laws passed by Congress. “I don’t know,” said Senator Patrick Leahy, “whether you received some criticism from anybody in the administration last night after your testimony, but I [sense] a difference.”New York TimesNew York TimesThe Senate Intelligence Committee agreed to grant retroactive immunity to phone companies that provided the government with subscribers’ phone and e-mail records,Washington Postand the House failed to override President Bush‘s veto of the SCHIP health care plan, which was intended to provide health insurance to 10 million children. New York TimesArkansas lawmakers were unable to muster enough votes to ban tobacco-chewing in the state’s legislative chambers.New York TimesVladimir Putin traveled to Iran and cautioned the United States against a military strike; President Bush responded by saying that democracy might not be in the “Russian DNA” and threatened World War III if Iran acquired nuclear weapons.The GuardianWashington PostIranian and Chinese companies won contracts worth $1.1 billion to build power plants in Sadr City, Iraq,. New York Timesand the Turkish parliament authorized attacks on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq by a vote of 507 to 19. New York TimesSecretary of State Condoleezza Rice painted an upcoming U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference as a “moment of opportunity” for Israelis and Palestinians, while film director David Lynch claimed that 250 experts in Transcendental Meditation could end that conflict by dissolving “the suffocating rubber clown suit” of hatred.The Boston HeraldCheckpoint Jerusalem

The Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal. “We are furious,” said Zhang Qingli, secretary of China’s Party Committee of Tibet Autonomous Region. “If the Dalai Lama can receive such an award, there must be no justice or good people in the world.”Washington PostNew York TimesPakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto returned from self-imposed exile to Karachi, where bombs struck her welcome parade, killing 134 and wounding 450; police believed they had found the bomber’s head.New York TimesCNNState inspectors visited a Texas youth jail to find spoiled food, overflowing toilets, walls smeared with feces, and a curriculum reliant on crossword puzzles.New York Times It was reported that students at 31 New York City high schools will now receive thousand-dollar prizes for a top score on any advanced placement examNew York Timesand that middle schoolers in Portland, Maine, can obtain birth control pills from their schools without notifying parents.New York TimesIn England, cooks at a Suffolk middle school discovered maggots in a rice dish,BBC and a government study found that 50 percent of Britons will be clinically obese by 2050.Daily MailA British restaurant began serving gray squirrel pancakes.Daily MailA poll revealed that a quarter of Germans think National Socialism had “good sides,” including low crime, low unemployment, and “the encouragement of the family.”New York TimesFrench president Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife divorced.New York Times

James Watson, who won the Nobel Prize for his role in the discovery of DNA, said that while he wishes everyone were equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true.” CNNLynn Cheney announced that her husband and Barack Obama are eighth cousins. “Every family,” said the Obama campaign, “has a black sheep.”BBCA New York man was arrested after wearing a stolen Rolex watch to his parole meeting, New York Timesan Ohio woman stood accused of digging up her ex-boyfriend’s grave and stealing his ashes,CNNand a Virginia woman was fined for attacking a Comcast store with a hammer after the company cut off her phone and Internet connections. ”I smashed a keyboard, knocked over a monitor and I went to hit the telephone,” she said. ”I figured, ‘Hey, my telephone is screwed up, so is yours.”’ New York TimesA New Jersey woman sent 80,000 cans of Silly String, which can locate trip wires, to U.S. troops in Iraq; a military spokesperson thanked her but admitted that soldiers don’t use as much Silly String today as they did at the beginning of the war.CNN Forty-nine percent of New Jersey residents admitted they’d rather live somewhere else.Fox NewsTaku the killer whale died unexpectedly at the San Antonio SeaWorld,New York Times5 of the world’s 350 remaining Asiatic Lions were found dead next to an electric fence in India,New York Timesand the curator of the Rotterdam Natural History Museum asked the public to donate pubic crabs, claiming that their population was dwindling as a result of Brazilian waxes. ”When the bamboo forests that the Giant Panda lives in were cut down, the bear became threatened with extinction. Pubic lice,” he explained, “can’t live without pubic hair.”New York Times

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Weekly Review September 23, 2007, 12:00 am

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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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Last fall, a court filing in the Eastern District of Virginia inadvertently suggested that the Justice Department had indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and other outlets reported soon after that Assange had likely been secretly indicted for conspiring with his sources to publish classified government material and hacked documents belonging to the Democratic National Committee, among other things.

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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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