Weekly Review — July 8, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Storks, 1864]

Colombian military commandos infiltrated a settlement operated by the guerilla group FARC and freed 15 hostages, among them three U.S. contractors and the Colombian-French politician Ingrid Betancourt. President George W. Bush called Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to congratulate him. “What a joyous occasion it must be to know that the plan had worked,” said Bush. “That people who were unjustly held were now free to be with their families.”WhiteHouse.govA federal appeals court ruled that evidence against Hozaifa Parhat, a ChineseMuslim held at Guantanamo Bay for six years, consisted of nothing more than the reassertion of his guilt in three top-secret documents. “Lewis Carroll notwithstanding,” wrote one judge, quoting “The Hunting of the Snark,” “the fact the government has ‘said it thrice’ does not make the allegation true.”CNN.comFormer inmates of Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison were suing contractors in four American states for subjecting them to electrical shocks, mock executions, and forced nudity, and the Iraqi government announced that the United States had agreed to strip private security contractors of their legal immunity, though the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad refused to confirm the statement.BreitbartBBCnews.comA survey found that Americans feared terrorist attacks less than at any point since September 11, 2001,CNN.comand President Bush removed Nelson Mandela from the terrorism watchlist.BBCnews.comA poll revealed that a third of Welsh college students believe that a flirtatious or drunk woman is to blame for being raped, and a survey of the National Assembly for Wales found that 3 of the 8 legislators who responded had been raped but had not reported the crime.BBCnews.comIn Australia, where inflation is at a 16-year-high, Treasury Secretary Ken Henry left his post to look after 115 endangered hairy-nosed wombats for five weeks. “I think,” said an opposition politician, “we all love the hairy-nosed wombat.” BBCnews.com

Bozo the Clown and Jesse Helms died, and the new waxwork Hitler at the Berlin Madame Tussauds museum was beheaded.CNN.comBBCNews.comBBCnews.comFifteen boys were killed and 90 hospitalized in Eastern Cape, South Africa, due to botched circumcisions,BBCnews.comOttawa firefighters sprayed children with E. coli-contaminated water to celebrate Canada Day,CBCNews.caand a Dublin, Ohio, man was arrested again for using Saran Wrap to collect and drink little boys’ urine.10TV NewsGoogle co-founder Sergey Brin explained that he had decided to raise his company’s on-site daycare fee to $57,000 a year because he was tired of employees who felt entitled to free “bottled water and M&Ms” (although a spokesman denied that he had said this),NYTimes.comand a judge ruled that Google subsidiary YouTube must provide Viacom, which is suing over copyright claims, with details of the viewing habits of everyone who has logged in and watched a video.BBCNews.comPsychologist Himanshu Tyagi claimed that children raised to use online social networking sites will “put less value on their real world identities” and may be in danger of “impulsive behaviour or even suicide.”BBCnews.comBritishstudies warned that eating junk food during pregnancy might cause lasting damage to the child, and that eating too much tofu could lead to dementia.BBCnews.comBBCnews.comResearchers at Texas A&M’s Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center found that watermelons have a “Viagra-like effect,” but a researcher in Oklahama pointed out that this benefit may be offset by the melon’s diuretic properties.Associated Press

The Dow Jones Industrial Average officially entered a bear market. The cost of oil surged, and shares of General Motors fell to their lowest price since 1954.Bloomberg.comSpeeding drivers in Holly Springs, Georgia, were paying police a fuel surcharge to cover the price of their pursuit,BBCnews.coma Kentucky woman was arrested after trading sex for a $100 Speedway gas card,Smoking Gunand Nevada brothels were offering customers “double your stimulus” incentives that included $100 gas cards.CNN.comThe United Nations brought female excrement carriers from India to New York City to appear on the catwalk alongside top models at a fashion show, crowning one woman the princess of sanitation workers. “This is the dream coming true of Indian independence hero Gandhi-ji,” said an organizer.BBCnews.comAn unemployed former trucking company owner posing as a federal agent was under investigation after he worked with local police to search homes and make methamphetamine arrests in a Missouri town,NY Timesand a fake priest was caught trying to take confessions in St. Peter’s Basilica.CNN.comIt was reported that a stone tablet inscribed decades before the birth of Jesus described a messiah who would come back to life after three days. “What happens in the New Testament,” said Bible scholar Israel Knohl, “was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story.”NY TimesThe George Washington Foundation unearthed the founding father’s childhood home in Fredericksburg, Virginia, uncovering slave quarters and a Civil War trench but no cherry tree. “I don’t think we’ll ever find the cherry tree,” an archaeologist said.CNN.comMercury was shrinking,BBCnews.comand Earth, said scientists who study radio waves, is shrieking.Yahoo 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.”

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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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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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