Weekly Review — August 19, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: All In My Eye, December 1853]

After more than a week of fighting and one failed cease-fire, Russia and Georgia signed a revised cease-fire agreement, but Russian troops remained within 25 miles of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev promised French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who negotiated the agreement, that Russian forces would soon withdraw from Georgia. He also insisted that troops would remain in the breakaway Georgian territory South Ossetia. “The superpower showed that she was able to defend her people,” said Marina Katayeva, a 30-year-old Russian doctor. “Now we will be more respected.” Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Russians were “twenty-first-century barbarians” who had essentially raped his country; “Can you say that, you know the victim of a rape is to be blamed for the rape because she wore a short skirt?”New York TimesBBCWhile reporting live from Gori, Tamara Urushadze, a 32-year-old Georgian TV reporter, was shot in the arm by a sniper. Urushadze looked down at the bloody scratch, then collapsed onto the ground, then, moments later, resumed her broadcast.New York TimesNew York TimesCanada Free PressDaily MailIn response to the crisis, President George W. Bush postponed a vacation trip to his Texas ranch by one day.Swamp PoliticsVesti FM, a Russian state-run radio station, reported that the South Ossetia conflict was part of a plot by Vice President Dick Cheney to prevent Barack Obama from being elected president of the United States,.The Timeswhile in the United States it was suggested that John McCain’s speech on Georgia was partly cribbed from Wikipedia. Aides to McCain said there are only so many ways to state historical facts. Politico

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf resigned.ReutersThe United States and Poland finalized a deal that would allow the United States to build a missile-interceptor base on Polish territory, and Ukraine offered the U.S. use of its missile-warning system. Poland, said Russian general Anatoly Nogovitsyn, “is exposing itself to a strike–100 percent.”BreitbartTelegraphThe musical designer for the BeijingOlympics admitted that Lin Miaoke, the nine-year-old Chinese schoolgirl who, suspended on wires, performed “Hymn to the Motherland” at the games’ opening ceremony, lip-synched the song after Chinese officials decided that the actual singer, seven-year-old Yang Peiyi, was too ugly and buck-toothed to perform before billions.TelegraphMichael Phelps, the American swimmer who won eight gold medals in Beijing, revealed that he consumes more than 12,000 calories a day by eating three egg sandwiches with fried onions, a five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast, three chocolate-chip pancakes, two ham-and-cheese sandwiches, two pounds of pasta, and an entire pizza. New York PostIt was reported that few of the 9 million overweight or obese children in the U.S. could afford weight-loss summer camp.New York TimesIn a joint statement, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announced that her name would be included in a state-by-state roll-call vote at the Democratic Convention,International Herald Tribuneand economists at the University of Maryland found that more than one million votes for Obama in the Democratic primaries could be attributed to Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement.Political WireAt a forum for the presidential candidates hosted by Reverend Rick Warren, Barack Obama and John McCain were asked to define “rich.” Anyone making $250,000 or more, said Obama. “If you’re just talking about income,” said McCain, “how about 5 million?”The Carpetbagger ReportBritish scientists unveiled Gordon, the world’s first robot controlled by living brain tissue.Bretibart

Trustees for a north Texas school district approved a policy change that will allow teachers to carry concealed handguns to class,Houston Chronicleand data released by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that minorities will become the majority by 2042. “It’s important to recognize that this is a choice we’re making,” said Steven Camarota, a researcher at the Center for Immigration Studies. “This is not weather that we have no control over.” Washington PostGerman researchers raised a giant reflective screen in the middle of the Swiss Alps in an effort to slow the melting of the Rhône glacier,Breitbartand Australianscientist George Wilson called on people to eat kangaroo instead of beef to reduce global warming. BBCPenguin Nils Olav, the Norwegian King’s Guard mascot since 1972, was knighted in front of a crowd of several hundred people and 130 guardsmen. Nils, who shat himself during the ceremony, was, read the proclamation from King Harald the Fifth, “in every way qualified to receive the honour and dignity of knighthood.”BBCTwo Bigfoot hunters said they had killed one such animal and were storing its carcass in a freezer; analysts found that of the two DNA samples that the hunters provided to prove Bigfoot’s existence, one was from a human and the other was 96 percent opossum.New York TimesNew York TimesResearchers at the University of California, Berkeley, developed a material for use in invisibility cloaks,BBCand a community of Welsh Cistercian monks who had been relying on a dial-up Internet connection opted to get a broadband connection. “Patience is one of the characteristics of monastic life,” said Father Daniel van Santvoort, “but even the patience of the Brothers was tested by our slow Internet.”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.

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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