Weekly Review — June 21, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

Workers at Japanâ??s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, where 110,000 tons of radioactive water have collected since an earthquake and tsunami in March, were forced to suspend a new filtration scheme after a cesium absorber that was expected to last a month wore out in five hours. Addressing fears that Japanâ??s seasonal rains could cause some of the contaminated water to spill into the Pacific, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Company said the utility would “probably be able to solve the problem” before the holding facility was overwhelmed. Kyodo via Japan TimesBBCIn China, where the worst floods in half a century displaced millions of people in the south and east of the country, and the worst droughts in half a century continued to plague some northern regions, officials in charge of the controversial Three Gorges Dam released a report calling the structure “hugely beneficial” in controlling floods and preventing droughts. XinhuaBBCXinhuaXinhua via China DailyBlack smoke hung over Vancouver after riots following the Canucksâ?? loss to the Boston Bruins in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals. “This isnâ??t what the Canucks are about,” said a dejected Vancouverite. “Iâ??m seriously disappointed in the city of Vancouver and the country of Canada,” said another, “because it makes me feel the insecurity I read about in other parts of the world.”AP via Seattle TimesCBC

Federal goose counters descended on New York in preparation for the cityâ??s second annual Canada goose cull. Unlike last year, when the geese were gassed and carted to the dump, officials plan to round up the fowl and ship them alive to Pennsylvania, where they will be slaughtered and distributed to hungry residents.NYTA couple in Rexburg, Idaho, filed for bankruptcy after discovering their dream home was infested with garter snakes. “It felt like we were living in Satanâ??s lair,” said former owner Amber Sessions. “Weâ??re not going to pay for a house full of snakes,” said her husband, Ben. AP via YahooSeveral weeks after publicly tweeting a lewd photo of his crotch, Representative Anthony Weiner (D., N.Y.) announced he would resign, “so that I can continue to heal from the damage that I have caused.” Though he was roundly heckled during his speech, Weiner had some sympathizers. “I know the computer is dangerous to everyone,” said one of his constituents. “It brings the devil in the house.” NYTIn Iran, authorities deployed 70,000 morality police to crack down on shorts-wearing and scientists announced plans to launch a monkey into space. GuardianForeign PolicyA rabbinical court in Jerusalem was erroneously reported to have sentenced a local dog to death by stoning because it was believed to contain the spirit of a cursed secular lawyer, and researchers in New Zealand induced several genetically modified goys â?? female goats trapped in the bodies of sterile males â?? to lactate.YnetNZPA via Hawkeâ??s Bay Today

A Spaniard refused to have his house painted Smurf blue, Afghans blamed an Iranian pimp for tainting the number 39, and an eight-century-old relic of Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost objects, went missing.Der SpiegelReuters via Hartford CourantNYTCustoms agents along the U.S.-Mexico border seized 159 pounds of iguana meat, while their Russian counterparts in the town of Blagoveshchensk apprehended a China-bound cache of 1,041 bear paws, five woolly mammoth tusks, and 143 pounds of elk lips. ReutersNYTBeneath the ice of Russiaâ??s White Sea, a diver tamed a pair of beluga whales. Since belugas are thought to dislike artificial materials such as wetsuits and breathing apparatus, the diver entered the freezing water naked, using yoga to stay alive. Daily MailIn Portland, Oregon, 7.8 million gallons of drinking water were discarded after a man relieved himself in a reservoir in the early hours of the morning. Asked what difference a small amount of urine made, given that city officials routinely find dead animals in the reservoir, Water Bureau administrator David Shaff replied, “This is different. Do you want to drink pee?”The Oregonian

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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.

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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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