Weekly Review — April 15, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Twenty U.S. soldiers were killed last week fighting across Iraq, and 1,300 Iraqi officers and soldiers were fired for poor performance. The Bush Administration said it was optimistic that many more refugees from the estimated 4.4 million people who had fled Iraq or had been “internally displaced” would be allowed into the United States. Since the war began the United States has accepted only 5,000 Iraqi refugees. Sweden has taken 34,000.ReutersIHTHillary Clinton and John McCain accused Barack Obama of elitism after Obama commented on the bitterness of working-class people in a speech at an expensive San Francisco fund-raiser. “They cling to guns,” said Obama, “or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment, as a way to explain their frustrations.”AFPNBC11BBC NewsZombie TimesBob Dylan won a Pulitzer Prize,The New York Timesand scientists identified a group of 8,000-year-old Norway spruce trees in western Sweden, believed to be the oldest on earth. The trees, which took root after the last Ice Age, stayed at a shrublike size for most of their lives. “The past few decades we have seen a much warmer climate, which has meant that they have popped up,” said tree expert Leif Kullman.Reuters

There were riots in Haiti, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Cameroon over increasing food costs. Some blamed the rising price of corn (up 31 percent from 2005) on the burgeoning biofuel industry, pointing out that to fill up an SUV with a tank of ethanol uses as much corn as can feed a person for a year. World Bank President Robert Zoellick called for more contributions to the $500 million World Food Program. “We have to put our money,” he said, “where our mouth is.”The AgeThe 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay, a tradition that began in 1936 as a celebration of Nazi ideology, traveled to Dar es Salaam, guarded by China’s 30-person paramilitary Sacred Flame Protection Unit; onlookers chanted “Tanzania is a peaceful country” as a police helicopter hovered overhead.The GuardianThe Washington PostTimes OnlineAll AfricaBBC NewsTwo Arizona chemists published a paper expressing concern over the uncontrolled use of odor-fighting socks, which may, when washed, pollute aquatic ecosystems with nanoparticle silver.Science DailyResearchers in Virginia found that due to pollution the scent of flowers, which could travel up to 4,000 feet during the nineteenth century, now travels not even a quarter of that distance.Live ScienceKiller bees attacked Mexican policemen after one officer shot up their hive,New York TimesEuropean scientists used lasers to stimulate electrical activity in thunderclouds,Scientific Bloggingand geneticists were reportedly impressed by a new cloning technique that, according to the chief scientific officer of U.S. firm Advanced Cell Technology, “can actually produce a child.”A poll by the science journal Nature found that 20 percent of its readers use brain-enhancing drugs.The Globe and Mail

In the Indian city of Bhubaneshwar, Biranchi Das, former coach of six-year-old marathon runner Budhia Singh, was shot dead after a dispute with a gangster over a small-time actress,NDTV.comand villagers in northern India began worshipping a newborn girl with two faces as the reincarnation of Durga, Hindu goddess of valor. “She drinks milk from her two mouths,” said a hospital director, “and opens and shuts all the four eyes at one time.”AP via BreitbartThe U.K. Privy Council approved reforms that allow Sark, a small island off the coast of Normandy, its own parliamentary government. “These moves are intended to be a step away from a feudalist system,” said the seneschal of Sark.The IndependentFrench and Canadianastronomers announced the discovery of the coldest brown-dwarf star on record, 40 light-years away,AP via Google Newsand Russia was considering sending monkeys to Mars.BBC NewsJohn Wheeler, a physicist who coined the term “black hole,” died at age 96. In his 1999 autobiography he explained what can be learned by studying black holes: “That space can be crumpled like a piece of paper,” he wrote, “into an infinitesimal dot.”New York Times

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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.

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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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