Weekly Review — August 10, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Christian martyr, 1855]

A Christian martyr.

Federal judge Vaughn Walker ruled that California’s Proposition 8, which sought to ban gay marriage, violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution. “Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians,” the judge said in his opinion. “The evidence shows that, by every available metric, opposite-sex couples are not better than their same-sex counterparts.” Conservative groups opposed to the ruling claimed Walkerâ??s own sexual orientation influenced his decision. “Here we have an openly gay federal judge,” explained chairwoman of The National Organization for Marriage, Maggie Gallagher, “substituting his views for those of the American people and of our Founding Fathers who, I promise you, would be shocked by courts that imagine they have the right to put gay marriage in our Constitution.” “I feel,” said one protestor of the ruling, “like I don’t live in America.” ReutersRaw StoryMSNBCMexico‘s Supreme Court upheld a Mexico City law allowing gay people to marry, the mayor of ReykjavĂ­k marched in drag in the city’s gay pride parade, and a group of men in Sudan were publicly flogged for dancing in a “womanly fashion.” LA TimesIceland ReviewBBCA veterinarian in San Bernardino, California, performed sex reassignment surgery on a hermaphroditic Pomeranian, and the Milwaukee teachers union demanded that its health insurance cover Viagra, alleging that failing to do so discriminates against male employees. Press-EnterpriseRaw Story

Elena Kagan became the 112th justice of the Supreme Court and the fourth female justice. Washington PostThe Senate passed a $26 billion spending bill to aid state budget shortfalls, and BP successfully deployed its “static kill” strategy, plugging the blown-out Deepwater Horizon well with mud and cement. “You want to make sure it’s really dead dead dead,” explained Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “Don’t want anything to rise out of the grave.” “Clearly there’s lots of oil and gas here,” said BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles, “and we’ll have to think about what to do with that at some point.” Raw StoryNew York TimesWashington PostCNNA piece of ice measuring 100 square miles broke off of Greenland, and wildfires burned across Russia, while world leaders met in Bonn, Germany, to continue the climate change talks that stalled last winter in Copenhagen, but again failed to produce a binding resolution. “It’s like a flashback,” said one environmental activist. “At this point,” said U.S. delegate Jonathan Pershing, “I am very concerned.” BBCBBCRaw StoryEngineers in Bristol developed a “poo-powered” Volkswagen Beetle, the Cadillac Escalade was the most stolen vehicle for the eighth straight year, and Caroline Giuliani, the daughter of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, was arrested for shoplifting at a Sephora. BBCCNNNew York TimesDermatologists at the University of Edinburgh reported that the genuine allover tan was an impossibility.BBC

A woman in Atlanta used her toes to type for help after burglars left her tied up in her home, and a man in Michigan discovered he had Type 2 Diabetes after his dog bit off his big toe while he was passed out drunk. “He ate it,” said the man. “I mean, he must have eaten it, because we couldn’t find it anywhere else in the house.” AOL NewsGrand Rapids NewsSnooker world champion Alex Higgins, once described by Daily Mail as “a belligerent narcissist, filled with self-pity and towering anger,” who “never allowed concern for others to put any restraint on his appetites, whether it be for drink or drugs or sex,” died at 61. NYTimesBill Cosby denied being dead, and Florida’s health department reported an outbreak of Dengue Fever in Key West. Vanity FairCNNA carnival in Pennsylvania took down its “shoot a dart at Obama” game. Raw StoryMichelle and Sasha Obama vacationed in southern Spain, spending time on a hundred-yard stretch of beach cleared by the Spanish police, while President Obama celebrated his 49th birthday at a “finance dinner,” which guests paid $30,400 to attend.Christian Science MonitorChristian Science MonitorFormer Fugee Wyclef Jean, whose hits include “Ready or Not,” “Gone Till November,” and “We Trying to Stay Alive,” announced his intention to run for the Haitian presidency. “If not for the earthquake,” said Jean, “I probably would have waited another 10 years before doing this.”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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