Weekly Review — November 11, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Barack Obama was elected the 44th president, and first African-American president, of the United States, receiving 365 electoral votes in an election that saw perhaps the highest turnout among registered voters in a century. “If there’s anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible,” Obama told supporters, “tonight is your answer.” “The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly,” said John McCain in a teary-eyed concession speech. “What an awesome night for you,” President Bush said to Obama. “His choice, basically, is whether he is going to be Uncle Sam… or Uncle Tom,” said Ralph Nader, who received roughly 1 percent of the popular vote.New York TimesNew York TimesWashington PostNew York TimesNew York TimesBreitbartDallas Morning NewsIndependent Political ReportDemocrats added to their majorities in both houses of Congress, while Senate races in Minnesota, Georgia, and Alaska remained undecided.New York TimesCalifornia,Florida, and Arizona passed propositions banning same-sex marriage,New York TimesArkansas passed a measure preventing unmarried couples from adopting children,New York Timesand San Francisco voters rejected Measure R, which called for the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant to be renamed the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.Associated PressThe Treasury Department announced plans to buy $40 billion worth of AIG stock, bringing to $150 billion the amount the government has lent to or invested in the insurance company;U.S. Provides More Aid to Big InsurerGeneral Motors warned that it would run out of cash early next year without a merger or a government bail-out;We’ll go bust without bail-out of merger, says General Motorsunemployment rates reached their highest level in 14 years;Jobless Rate at 14-year High After October Lossesand sales at major retailers declined sharply, increasing expectations of the worst holiday shopping season in decades.Retailers Report Sales CollapseFormer Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta was named the head of Obama’s transition team, former Clinton political director and House Democratic caucus chairman Rahm Emanuel accepted an offer to become Obama’s chief of staff, and it was reported that top Obama aide Robert Gibbs would be named White House Press Secretary.Washington PostWashington PostPolitico“Itâ??s important that everybody understands that this is not going to happen overnight,” said Gibbs about reversing the damage done by the Bush Administration. “There has to be a realistic expectation of what can happen and how quickly.” “We’re in deep trouble,” said Georgia Representative John Lewis.New York TimesNew York Times

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev warned Obama against continuing Bush’s plans for missile-defense systems in Eastern Europe and threatened to move short-range missiles into the Baltic near Poland and “to neutralize, when necessary” American installations there, but Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi insisted, “I don’t see problems for Medvedev to establish good relations with Obama who is also handsome, young, and suntanned.”Washington PostReutersSouth African singer and longtime anti-apartheid activist Miriam Makeba, known as “Mama Africa,” died at 76.New York TimesChina announced a $585 billion economic-stimulus plan,New York TimesAmerican officials revealed that since 2004 the U.S. military has conducted around a dozen previously undisclosed attacks in Syria, Pakistan, and other countries on the authority of a classified order signed by Donald Rumsfeld,.New York Timesand a series of blasts in northern Baghdad killed 28 people.New York TimesU.S. missiles fired into a village in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan killed at least ten people,New York Timesthe Iraqi government continued to press for a firm withdrawal date for U.S. troops before signing a status-of-forces agreement,Washington Postand Iran’s parliament voted to impeach Interior Minister Ali Kordan after it was discovered that he had lied about receiving a Ph.D. from Oxford University. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the impeachment illegal, adding, “I do not care for a torn-up piece of paper.”CNN

The Secret Service revealed that a spike in death threats against the Obama family coincided with Sarah Palin’s attacks against Obama’s patriotism in the final weeks of the campaign, and McCain campaign insiders suggested that Palin lacked rudimentary understanding of civics and geography. “Those guys,” Palin said, “are jerks.”The TelegraphA study found that men who read “lad magazines” like Maxim and FHM are more likely than their peers to have body-image problems,Live ScienceDemocratic New Jersey councilman Steven Lipski was charged with assault after urinating off a balcony onto a crowd at a Grateful Dead tribute show in Washington, D.C.,New York Daily Newsand the United States attorney in Manhattan declined to press criminal charges against former New York governor Eliot Spitzer despite finding that “on multiple occasions, Mr. Spitzer arranged for women to travel from one state to another state to engage in prostitution.”New York TimesBritish researchers found that obesity may be socially contagious,The Guardiana council in London banned the placing of foster children in households with smokers,Reutersand 700 couples were married in a mass wedding in the Eurasian separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.EurasiaNetScientists in Japan produced clones of dead mice, a feat they say brings them closer to resurrecting extinct species,CNNand author Michael Crichton died.New York TimesSpanish authorities deported one of Osama bin Laden’s sons after denying his asylum application,New York Timesmonks brawled at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Christ was crucified and buried,CNNand Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the destruction of parts of an ancient Muslim cemetery, where some of Saladin’s warriors are buried, to make way for a new Frank Gehry-designed $250 million Museum of Tolerance.BBC

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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.

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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