Weekly Review — January 3, 2012, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Babylonian lion, 1875]

People around the world celebrated the passing of another year as 2012 began. The first to ring in the new year were the South Pacific nations of Samoa and Tokelau, which officially switched to the Western side of the international date line by jumping ahead to Saturday on Thursday at midnight. New York City celebrated by dropping the Times Square Ball; objects dropped in other American cities included a giant peach, in Atlanta, a giant sardine, in Eastport, Maine, and a giant conch, a pirate wench, and a giant glittering red high-heeled shoe bearing a drag queen named Sushi, in Key West, Florida. In the Philippines, powerful illegal fireworks sold under such names as “Goodbye Philippines” caused nearly 200 injuries. “Doctors are waiting with surgical saws, bone cutters, and drills in case your fingers need to be amputated,” said health official Enrique Tayag.APUSA TodayUSA TodayOfficials in Beebe, Arkansas, began an investigation when, for the second year in a row, New Year??s fireworks sent blackbirds, which are nightblind, flying at top speed into houses, signs, trees, and the ground, killing scores. “There [was] evidence of fireworks set off in the middle of the roost,” said an Arkansas Game and Fish spokeswoman. “We know it wasn??t a coincidence.” CNNScientists showed that ingestion of the planktonic diatom Pseudo-nitzschia likely caused a wave of apparently crazed seabirds to fly into homes and fall from the sky in Monterey Bay, California, in 1961??the event that is said to have inspired Alfred Hitchcock??s “The Birds.”USA TodayNature GeoscienceUSA Today

Tens of thousands of citizens and military personnel gathered in Pyongyang for the funeral procession of Kim Jong-Il, who ruled North Korea for seventeen years. Kim??s body, a large portrait of him, and a giant wreath were each carried atop mid-1970s armored black Lincoln Continentals. “What are we supposed to do without you?” shouted mourners. Kim??s son, Kim Jong-Un, was formally named North Korea??s new Supreme Leader. Boasting that parts of the country were “socialist fairylands,” a joint editorial published by three major newspapers said “The whole party, the entire army, and all the people should possess a firm conviction that they will become human bulwarks and human shields in defending Kim Jong-Un unto death.”ABCNYTimesGuardianNew York TimesTelegraphWhile on vacation with his family in Hawaii, U.S. President Barack Obama released four sea turtles into Hanauma Bay and signed into law a military-spending bill, despite expressing reservations about certain provisions, including one that imposes sanctions on Iranian oil exports. USA TodayNew York TimesIran announced that it had successfully built and tested the country??s first domestically produced nuclear fuel rod, and threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz to oil tankers in response to sanction threats from the West. “Our response to threats is threats,” said Revolutionary Guard deputy commander Hossein Salami. CNNAFP via Raw StoryRival monks brawled with brooms during the annual cleaning of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, GuardianAmericans were found to have purchased record numbers of guns in December. TelegraphLos Angeles police arrested a man believed to have set 53 fires in four nights in and around Hollywood, and impounded his van, which was suspected to contain fire-starting materials. “That??s headed to the crime lab,” said councilman Tom LaBonge.San Jose Mercury NewsNew York TimesLos Angeles Times

A Montoursville, Pennsylvania, couple reportedly pleaded guilty to having sex on a city bus while a friend held their infant daughter in the seat in front of them. “randell was in jail PRC [pre-release center] when it happend,” the woman wrote in response to criticism on Facebook. “i was ridin for my HUSBAND SO STOP TALKIN SHIT.” Smoking GunOne day after Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced that she will undergo surgery for thyroid cancer, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez suggested that the United States might have given cancer to several recently diagnosed South American heads of state??a group that includes Fernández, Paraguay??s Fernando Lugo, Brazil??s Dilma Rousseff, and Chávez himself. “It would not be strange if they had developed the technology to induce cancer and nobody knew about it until know,” said Chávez. “It??s a bit difficult to explain this, to reason it, including using the law of probabilities.” New York TimesReutersAn administrative court ruled that the Egyptian military violated female protesters?? rights by subjecting them to invasive “virginity tests” last spring.New York TimesShell Oil denied an environmental group??s claim that oil from an offshore spill had reached the Nigerian coastline. “It must have come from a third party,” said Shell spokesman Precious Okolobo.AFP via Raw StoryNigeria??s president, Goodluck Jonathan, declared a state of emergency in parts of the country struck by a recent surge of Islamist violence, and ended government fuel subsidies for Nigerians, causing an immediate rise in gas prices and riots in Abuja and Kano. “We intend,” said an official with the Nigeria Labour Congress, “to make the country ungovernable.”ReutersBBCAFPWorkers at more than 800 IP addresses belonging to the U.S. House of Representatives were revealed to have illegally downloaded software, television shows, Hollywood films, and pornography, as well as self-help and reference books. Among the books were “Crucial Conversations??Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High,” “Do Not Open??An Encyclopedia of the World??s Best-Kept Secrets,” and “How to Answer Hard Interview Questions And Everything Else You Need to Know to Get the Job You Want.”TorrentFreakBoing Boing

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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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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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