Weekly Review — January 29, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A grasshopper driving a chariot, 1875]

At 20 points along the Gaza Strip’s southern border, Hamas operatives detonated explosives to topple an Israeli-built fence, allowing as many as 200,000 Palestiniansâ??13 percent of the territory’s populationâ??to cross into Egypt and shop. The Gazans purchased camels, candy, cement, chairs, cheese, cigarettes, computers, cows, doughnuts, gasoline, generators, goats, mattresses, medicine, motorcycles, pistols, potato chips, sheep, snack cakes, soap, and televisions. Supplies at Egyptian shops dwindled, prices spiked, and fistfights ensued. Several Gazan women married Egyptians, and the Israel Defense Force patrolled its southern border for would-be suicide bombers and hostage takers.New York TimesJerusalem PostAFPDublin IndependentSeif al-Islam Qaddafi, the 36-year-old son of Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Qaddafi was linked to attacks that killed 38 Iraqis, wounded 225, and destroyed 50 buildings in a Mosul slum. The London School of Economics graduate, known in Libya as “the Engineer” for his reputation as a reformer and an advocate of human rights, allegedly funds the Seifaddin Regiment, which is allied with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. APStanching rumors circulating in a widely forwarded email that he is a radical Muslim, Senator Barack Obama repeatedly professed his faith in an “awesome” Christian God and defeated former President Bill Clinton’s wife in the South Carolina Democratic primary.Boston GlobeNew York TimesSenator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts endorsed Obama, and Fred Thompson and Dennis Kucinich withdrew from the presidential race.New York TimesSacramento BeeIndonesian dictator Suharto, Archbishop Christodoulos of the Greek Orthodox Church, Mormon church president Gordon B. Hinckley, and actor Heath Ledger died.New York TimesNew York TimesNew York TimesNew York Times

Jerome Kerviel, a 31-year-old arbitrager for the French bank Societe Generale recalled by many of his acquaintances as a mediocrity, was arrested in Paris for allegedly losing $7 billion of his employer’s capital in fraudulent stock bets. Experts linked the bank’s unwinding of Kerviel’s trades to last week’s precipitous drop in world markets. “Wouldn’t it be embarrassing,” asked Barry L. Ritholtz, chief of the investment firm FusionIQ, “if the Fed had to make one of the biggest emergency rate cuts ever because of some rogue trader?” New York TimesNew York TimesLeaders gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, attempted to dispel a global mood of pessimism. “People have to keep in mind, throughout history we have always had cycles,” said JPMorgan CEO James Dimon. “Corporation,” said PepsiCo chief Indra K. Nooyi, “has soul.” “The good news about our world today,” said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, “is that idealism is the new realism and the reason for that is the interconnectedness.”CNNBritish Conservative MP Hugh Walpole delivered a speech in Parliament against the creation of a permanent president of the European Council, a position said to be coveted by Blair. Such a consolidation of power, he said, would make it difficult for national governments to restrain dictates from Brussels “even if the European Commission proposed the slaughter of the first-born.”Parliament

Eleven Luo children and eight Luo adults in Naivasha, Kenya, were incinerated when a mob of Kikuyus chased them into a house and burned it down. The number of revenge killings following Kenya’s recent elections had reached 750, mostly by means of burning, arrows, and machetes. Local radio programs were blamed for perpetuating the violence through dehumanizing metaphors: Kalenjins call Kikuyus “mongooses”; Kikuyus call Luos “beasts of the west”; and Luos refer to the election of President Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, as “the leadership of the baboons.” New York TimesRelief WebTestifying before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia, Milton Blayee, a.k.a. General Butt Naked, confessed to war crimes that he and his Butt Naked Battalion often committed in the nude. The born-again Christian evangelist apologized for “the killing of an innocent child and plugging out the heart which was divided into pieces for us to eat. More than 20,000 people fell victim. They were killed.”TelegraphSelectmen in Brattleboro, Vermont, passed a measure allowing town residents to vote to indict President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for war crimes, Rutland Heraldand Paul Wolfowitz rejoined the Bush Administration as an adviser on arms control.Boston GlobeOmar Osama bin Laden, son of Osama bin Laden, announced that he is organizing a multi-month horse race across North Africa to promote peace. CNNCanadian police Tasered a man who was attempting to scalp himself in the bathroom of an Ottawa-bound bus, Ottawa Sunand authorities arrested a 16-year-old Louisiana male for plotting to hijack a Southwest Airlines plane.CNNDwarf thieves had infested Swedish buses,AnanovaLithuania was pondering changing its name,Reutersand a plot by retired TurkishArmy officers to kill Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk was foiled. New York TimesPolice in Malda, India, were battling avian flu by conducting a poultry massacre. “We have planned to collect ‘backyard chickens’ from the houses in the evening and kill all of them late at night,” said the district’s deputy director of animal-resources development, N. K. Shit.The HinduGeorge Piro, the FBI field agent who interrogated Saddam Hussein, recalled his last meeting with the Iraqi dictator, when the two smoked cigars and Saddam kissed Piro on the cheek three times. “It made me feel,” he said, “somewhat awkward.”CBS News

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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.

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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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