Weekly Review — April 28, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: All In My Eye, December 1853]

An American cattleman.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control declared a public-health emergency over an outbreak of swine flu that has infected at least 20 people in California, Kansas, New York, Ohio, and Texas. The virus is believed to have originated in Mexico City, where more than 149 people, all aged between 20 and 40, have died, and at least 1,300 people have gotten sick. Mexico‘s government closed all schools, universities, and zoos, canceled church services, soccer games, and bullfights, and banned visits to beauty salons and juvenile detention centers. Swine flu has been found in Canada, China, France, Israel, New Zealand, and Spain, prompting the World Health Organization to consider raising the pandemic alert level from 3 to 4 out of 6.New York TimesYahoo NewsA hunter in Hawaii was arrested for stabbing to death a couple’s blind pet pig.Honolulu AdvisorThe International Monetary Fund released a report that predicts that the economic crisis will “be deep and long lasting,” that it will result in $4.1 trillion in losses for banks and financial institutions, and that the global economy, now in its first recession since World War II, would shrink by 1.3 percent in 2009. New York TimesBBCDavid Kellerman, the chief financial officer of Freddie Mac, hanged himself. New York TimesPresident Barack Obama convened his first official meeting with his Cabinet and told its members that they must cut spending by $100 million. Few were impressed. “Let’s say,” said economist Paul Krugman, “the administration finds $100 million in efficiencies every working day for the rest of the Obama administration’s first term. That’s still around $80 billion, or around 2 percent of one year’s federal spending.”Washington PostThe Conscience of a Liberal

The Sri Lankan government rejected a call by the Tamil Tigers for a cease-fire, instead demanding the rebel group surrender. Hundreds of Sri Lankan civilians have been killed amid the government’s recent push to wipe out the Tigers, and tens of thousands have been forced into refugee camps; at a hospital where more than 1,700 refugees have arrived seeking aid, one doctor said, “The old don’t seem to make it here. There’s a few. But I think they’re mostly dying on the way.”New York TimesNew York TimesBea Arthur, best known as Maude Findlay of “Maude” and Dorothy Zbornak of “The Golden Girls,” died.The Los Angeles TimesA writer for the Chicago Tribune who had been covering the recession for the paper in a blog titled “The Recession Diaries” was laid off,True/Slantand a live shark was dumped on the doorstep of an Australian newspaper. “We arrived,” said Constable Jarrod Dwyer, “and poured some water on it just to see if it was still breathing and it kicked around for a little while.” AnanovaA supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy billions of light-years away was found to be spewing water vapor. BBCThe U.S. Census Bureau reported that Americans were relocating at the lowest rate since the Bureau began tracking mobility six decades ago.New York TimesResearchers found that ants are better than humans at finding good homes.BBC

Philip Markoff, a 23-year-old medical student in Boston, was arrested on his way to a casino with his fiancée and $1,000 in cash and charged with the murder of one masseuse and the robbery of another, both of whom he arranged to meet via Craigslist. “I think it’s really unfortunate that someone that bright would be in this much trouble,” said professor Frank Hauser, who taught Markoff at SUNY-Albany. “Since I don’t give many A’s, he was obviously an excellent student.”New York TimesWilliam Parente, a New York lawyer believed to have run a Ponzi scheme, gathered his family at a Maryland hotel, then bludgeoned and strangled his wife, Betty, and their two daughters, Stephanie, 19, and Catherine, 11, then slit his wrist and bled to death. Asked whether the economy makes domestic abuse more prevalent, Richard Gelles, a dean at the University of Pennsylvania, said, “The warning sign is when these familicide cases begin to cluster. In the past few months, they have begun to pop off across the country.”MSNBCA Salt Lake City teenager who went to steal a car and was startled to find a police officer sitting inside it, soiled himself. “Yeah,” he told the officer, “I crapped my pants.”Desert NewsA class of eighth graders taunted a moose that had wandered onto the grounds of their Alaskan middle school, frightening the animal so badly that it threw itself against a wall until it died.The FrontiersmanToxic-mining wastes in Idaho were killing tundra swans, which feed on the area’s lead-contaminated roots and tubers. “For me, it’s like bearing witness,” said Kate Healy, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They die slow, agonizing deaths.”Anchorage Daily 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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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.

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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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