Weekly Review — December 30, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Israel bombed Hamas targets in Gaza for three days, killing at least 300 people, 50 of them civilians, and blowing up a mosque and a television station. Palestinians seeking to flee into Egypt were turned back; a doctor at a Gaza hospital said that after 18 months of Israeli sanctions the lack of medical facilities made it better for a patient “to be brought in dead.” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the bombing, ordered in retaliation for ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas, would be “widened and deepened as is necessary,” and an area around Gaza was declared a “closed military zone,” with access forbidden to civilians, including journalists. “No one,” explained an Israeli government spokeswoman, “is trying to hide anything.” Anti-Israeli protests and demonstrations erupted throughout the Arab world, and UFO-cultists in Tel Aviv canceled a “mega-orgy” for world peace.New York TimesYnet NewsNew York TimesA poll found President-elect Barack Obama, who was photographed shirtless while on vacation in Hawaii, to be the man Americans most admire,USA TodayChicago Tribuneand Manpower Inc., a temporary-staffing agency, lowered its fourth-quarter financial forecast due to a rapid decline in demand.Wall Street JournalEartha Kitt, who sang “Santa Baby,” died,New York Timesand a man dressed as Santa Claus opened fire at his in-laws’ Christmas Eve party in Covina, California, killing at least eight people before setting fire to the house and killing himself.New York TimesPresident Bush signed, then withdrew, a pardon for a real estate developer whose family donated more than $40,000 to the Republican Party,Washington Postand Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters it was too early to judge the Bush Administration a failure. “I mean, for goodness’ sakes,” Rice said, “good historians are still writing books about George Washington.”Associated PressA study found that women find prestige more appealing than dominance in potential mates.Science Daily

A suicide car bomb at a school in Shalbandi, Pakistan, killed more than 30 people, suicide bombs in Afghanistan killed at least 20 people, including 13 schoolchildren, a car bomb in Baghdad killed at least 24 people, and cancer rates were on the rise worldwide.New York TimesNew York TimesNew York TimesNew York TimesSomalian President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, whose government controls only a few city blocks in a country nearly the size of Texas, resigned and was expected to return to the northern stronghold of his clan, leaving the country to be run by insurgents. Islamist militant group Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jama killed ten members of rival Islamist militant group the Shabab and called for its own members to “prepare themselves for jihad against these heretic groups” in order to “restore stability and harmony in Somalia.”New York TimesNew York TimesMilitary officers in Guinea took control of the country in a bloodless coup,New York Timesand protesters in Thailand surrounded the parliament, delaying the new government’s opening legislative session.New York TimesIt was revealed that the CIA has been bribing Afghani tribal leaders with Viagra,CBS Newsand Bjork started a venture-capital fund in Iceland.New York Times

Scientists found that chimpanzees use the same region of the brain as humans to recognize familiar faces.Science DailyAt a movie theater in Philadelphia a man shot another man in the arm for making too much noise during a Christmastime showing of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,Associated Pressand a man in Pittsburgh was arrested for assault after he failed to change his three-year-old’s diaper for several days, causing second-degree burns on the child’s legs and genitals.The Pittsburg Post-GazetteHedge-fund manager and New York Yacht Club member Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, who lost more than a billion dollars in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, stayed late after work at his Manhattan office, slit his wrists with a box cutter, and bled to death at his desk.The IndependentChip Saltsman, a Tennessee Republican seeking the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, defended his decision to include the song “Barack the Magic Negro” on a holiday mix CD he sent to Committee members. “I think most people recognize political satire when they see it,” Saltsman said. “I think RNC members understand that.”CNNDozens of people in Illinois contracted food poisoning from contaminated ham served at the Lawrence County Health Department Christmas party. “It’s not been funny,” said the head of the department, who was among those sickened by the ham. “It’s taken the punch out of my whole Christmas.”MSNBCAn eight-year-old Saudi Arabian girl was denied a divorce from her 58-year-old husband because she was too young to file, Guardiana man in Massachusetts died of carbon monoxide poisoning after a raccoon became stuck in his furnace exhaust, The Boston Channeland an Ontario woman was found buried under three feet of snow three days after she went missing. “Wow,” she told rescue workers. “I’ve been here a long time.”CNN

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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.

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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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