Weekly Review — September 21, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: The Wire Master and his puppets, 1875]

The wire master and his puppets, 1875.

The Tea Party scored several upsets in midterm primary elections, with Christine O’Donnell winning the Republican nomination for Senate in Delaware. O’Donnell was endorsed by Sarah Palin but criticized by many prominent Republicans, including Karl Rove, who accused her of saying “a lot of nutty things.” “I never joined a coven,” O’Donnell once said, “but I did, I did . . . I dabbled into witchcraft.” She described her introduction to sorcery: “We went to a movie and then had a midnight picnic on a satanic altar.” The anti-masturbation candidate, who ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility, has a history of personal finance problems and is alleged to have misused campaign funds for personal expenses; she does not believe that condoms can prevent AIDS and has said that efforts to promote condom use are “anti-human.”New York TimesCNNABC NewsABC NewsSarah Palin threatened to run for president in 2012.Fox NewsA rare saola, or “Asian unicorn,” was spotted in Laos for the first time in ten years, and New York City was struck by two tornadoes, the ninth and tenth to hit the the city since 1950.Science DailyNPRNew York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, announced a widespread ban on outdoor smoking.New York PostBy a vote of 246 to 1, the French Senate passed a bill banning full Islamic veils in public, and a French quadruple amputee swam across the English Channel.Associated PressUSA Today

Sarah Shourd, one of three American hikers imprisoned last year in Iran on charges of spying, was released, though her fiancĂ© and a friend were still being held in Tehran’s Evin prison.Yahoo NewsA prominent Wisconsin district attorney repeatedly sexted a domestic abuse victim whose ex-boyfriend he was prosecuting. “I would not expect you to be the other woman,” he wrote. “I would want you to be so hot and treat me so well that you’d be THE woman! R U that good?”AP via Yahoo NewsSchools were banning cancer-awareness bracelets that read “I Love Boobies,” and office romances were on the decline.AOL NewsBloomberg BusinessweekIn a visit to Britain, Pope Benedict XVI expressed shame over “unspeakable crimes” against children by members of the Catholic church, and warned the country against “atheist extremism,” which he said led the Nazis to perpetrate the Holocaust.The TelegraphBBCA study found that old people give good advice because they are blunt.Scientific AmericanThe International House of Pancakes sued the International House of Prayer for trademark infringement.KansasCity.com, via Obscure StoreThe Republican Party in Montana was considering outlawing homosexuality.CBS NewsScientists concluded that the precursor to HIV has been in monkeys and apes for at least 32,000 years, and Craigslist closed its Adult Services section in order to thwart sex traffickers.New York TimesLos Angeles TimesTen thousand birds were trapped in the twin beams of light projected up from the World Trade Center site, dazzled and unable to return to their migratory paths. Wired

The federal government declared BPâ??s Macando oil well officially dead, and the Obama Administration announced that an additional 3,500 abandoned oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico would have to be plugged.New York TimesMSNBCA Michigan researcher found that women are more likely than men to believe the scientific consensus on global warming.Science DailyAs Arctic sea ice dropped to its third lowest level in recorded history, scientists reported a rare mass-migration of thousands of walrus from ice floes to dry land along Alaska’s coast, raising concerns that climate change is endangering the animals.The GuardianThe FDA considered approving genetically modified salmon, called “frankenfish” by its detractors, and the Corn Refiners Association proposed renaming the much-maligned high-fructose corn syrup “corn sugar,” because “whether it’s corn sugar or cane sugar, your body can’t tell the difference. Sugar is sugar.”AP via Yahoo NewsMSNBCCuba announced that it would lay off half a million state workers and allow more jobs to be created in the private sector.CNNA couple who worked at the Los Alamos National Lab were charged with conspiring to help Venezuela develop a nuclear weapon, and a Washington State woman whose face was disfigured by acid admitted that her injuries were self-inflicted and not, as she had previously claimed, the result of an attack.USA TodayKGW.comA Japanese teacher apologized for asking his seven-year-old students during a math lesson, “There are 18 kids. If we kill three per day, how many days will it take?”ABC NewsResearchers found that violent video games can help players make decisions faster in real life, “Super Mario” turned 25, and a truck crashed in Monterey County, California, spilling 30,000 pounds of squid into a field of broccoli.ReutersChristian Science MonitorMonterey County Herald

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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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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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A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

An Iraqi man complaining on live television about the country’s health services died on air.

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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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