Weekly Review — November 8, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Babylonian lion, 1875]

Greek prime minister George Papandreou agreed to step down following a week in which he proposed a referendum on EU measures to save his country’s collapsing economy, narrowly won a confidence vote, retracted his referendum proposal, and signed a coalition deal to approve the bailout. “I am not tied to my chair,” said Papandreou. ReutersCNNReutersGuardianAmid sex scandals and corruption allegations, and ahead of a key budget vote, Silvio Berlusconi denied rumors he would step down as Italian prime minister. Berlusconi was also reported to have delayed the release of his Greek-folk-influenced album, “True Love,” over concerns about the European financial crisis. Available online was the lead track, “Music,” which begins, “Listen to these songs, they are for you/ Listen to them when you have a thirst for caresses/ Sing them when you are hungry for tenderness.”LA TimesGuardianG.O.P. presidential contender Herman Cain responded to allegations of sexual harassment in front of the National Press Club, saying he “would be delighted to clear the air” and singing the gospel song “He Looked Beyond My Faults.”Washington PostThe StrangerFollowing speculation Texas governor Rick Perry might have been drunk or otherwise impaired during a speech he giggled and meandered through in Manchester, New Hampshire, Perry said he??d “felt good” when he spoke. “This is such a cool state,” he said during the speech. “I mean, come on, ??Live Free or Die??? You gotta love that, right? I come from a state where they had this little place called the Alamo, and they declared ??Victory or death.?? You know, we??re kinda into those slogans, man, it??s like ??Live Free or Die,?? ??Victory or death,?? bring it!”CBS NewsFor the second time in ten years, Congress reaffirmed “In God We Trust” as the national motto. “Is God God?” asked Trent Franks (R., Ariz.) during the House debate. “Or is man God?”Washington Post

Two and a half million Muslims began the annual hajj pilgrimage from the holy city of Mecca to Mount Arafat; an American company introduced ArKay, the world??s first alcohol-free “halal” whiskey; and the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were firebombed following its publication of a cover featuring a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed saying “100 lashes if you??re not dying of laughter.”Raw StoryDaily MailCNNNewfoundland lieutenant-governor John Crosbie apologized for telling a joke in which a caller to a suicide hotline in Pakistan is asked whether he can drive a truck, and an Iranian judiciary official said that two of his country??s soccer players, accused of inappropriate celebratory behavior after one pressed his hand between the other??s buttocks following a goal, may be publicly lashed on the field where the incident took place. “When I was playing in Germany,” said former national-team member Mehdi Mahdavikia of the groping, “such things happened all the time.”Globe and MailWashington PostTexas state representative Larry Taylor (R.) explained the compensation process for windstorm victims by saying, “Don??t nitpick, don??t try to Jew them down,” adding, “That??s probably a bad term.”Mother JonesAfter being declared “tobacco free” by his physician, President Barack Obama was reportedly observed chewing nicotine gum at the G-20 summit in Cannes, while scientists at Columbia University discovered that nicotine causes changes in gene regulation that enhance subsequent responses to cocaine, lending credence to the notion of “gateway drugs.” “People think it??s backed by conservative movements to make a case for making marijuana illegal,” said researcher Amir Levine, “when it is simply the sequence of adolescent drug use as found in epidemiological studies.”USA TodayUSA TodayScientific American

Former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine resigned as head of MF Global, the recently bankrupted securities firm now under investigation by the FBI. With some $600 million in MF Global investor funds still unaccounted for, Corzine declined a $12 million severance package and hired a criminal-defense lawyer.Washington PostBusiness InsiderDiscount service Groupon launched the most successful Internet IPO since Google, netting $700 million; Bank of America dropped plans to charge debit-card users a $5 monthly fee; and a nine-foot-tall, 900-pound, $900,000 statue of Ronald Reagan debuted at the airport named after him in Washington, D.C.AP via NPRPublic Radio InternationalGuardianRaw StoryHacker collective Anonymous threatened the Mexican Zeta drug cartel, Kenya tweeted warnings to nine Somali towns harboring members of the terrorist group al-Shabab before launching attacks, and Detroit Lions fans campaigned online for the cancellation of Canadian rock band Nickelback??s halftime performance at the team??s Thanksgiving game.BBCBBCGlobe and MailPETA sued SeaWorld, claiming the marine-park chain is violating the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. According to a PETA spokesperson, performing whales Corky, Kasatka, Katina, Tilikum, and Ulises “are denied freedom and everything else that is natural and important to them while kept in small concrete tanks and reduced to performing stupid tricks.”Sky NewsNicholas Modrich and Jamie Hughes of Snellville, Georgia, denied police reports that they had fed LSD to their dog, Oscar, who died after being hit by a car while they were tripping. “When [Modrich] went outside naked, I went chasing after him,” said Hughes. “I think that??s when the dog got out.”Smoking GunWSB-TV

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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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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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