Weekly Review — January 10, 2012, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Small Family, May 1874]

A Small Family.

Mitt Romney won the first stage of the Republican leadership race, beating Rick Santorum by eight votes, 30,015 to 30,007, in the Iowa caucus. “This has been a great victory for him,” said Romney of Santorum. Michele Bachmann, who had claimed she would stay in the race regardless of the Iowa results, suspended her campaign after receiving 5 percent of the vote.CBSThe 2008 Republican nominee, John McCain, endorsed Romney. “I am confident, with the leadership and the backing of the American people, President Obama will turn this country around,” said McCain. “President Romney,” he then corrected himself. “President Romney. President Romney.” During a speech to New Hampshire business leaders, Romney said “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesn??t give me the good service I need.” NBCAP on YouTubeBloomberg BusinessweekConcord MonitorHuffington PostNew York Times blogsThe U.S. Labor Department revealed that unemployment had fallen in December to 8.5 percent, the lowest level in almost three years, and President Barack Obama made the first recess appointments during a break of fewer than three days since 1949, nominating three people to the National Labor Relations Board and five-time “Jeopardy!” champion Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “I hope that the Senate has the backbone to say, ??You will withdraw these nominations or we are doing nothing,??” said Santorum. ReutersAtlanticBloombergNew York TimesBloombergMalaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was acquitted of sodomy after a two-year trial. “Thank God justice has prevailed,” said Anwar, who, if found guilty of having sex with a former aide, would have faced 20 years in prison. “To be honest, I am a little surprised.”BBC

Officials in Pibor, South Sudan, claimed that 3,141 people had been killed, that 1,293 children had been abducted, and that 375,186 cows had been stolen during an attack by members of the Lou Nuer ethnic group. Asked why only 800 troops were sent to defend Pibor even though it had been clear for two weeks that as many as 8,000 Lou Nuer fighters were marching on the town, South Sudanese army colonel Philip Aguer said, “It??s a long story.”New York TimesAt least 90 people were killed across Iraq in seven attacks targeting Shiites. BBCNew York TimesAP via Washington PostThe U.S. Army was preparing for the withdrawal from Afghanistan of tens of thousands of vehicles worth $30 billion, including a fleet of custom-made Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, each weighing more than ten tons, taller than a single-story dwelling, and prone to rolling over. “We aren??t very good at predicting future wars,” said a senior military official in Kabul, “[but] I??m sure we will use them for something.” GuardianCiting human-rights abuses uncovered by a domestic commission, Afghan president Hamid Karzai demanded that the United States relinquish control of the prison at Bagram Air Base; the commission??s deputy chief later acknowledged that most of the violations were on the Afghan side of the prison. New York TimesNew York TimesThree days after Iran warned an American aircraft carrier that it would employ the “full force” of the Iranian military if the ship tried to re-enter the Persian Gulf, the carrier??s battle group freed 13 Iranian hostages from Somali pirates who had attacked them near where the carrier was floating. “These might be the dumbest pirates ever,” said Rear Admiral Craig S. Faller. “I don??t have skills,” said pirate Mohammed Mahmoud.New York TimesFive radical Jewish settlers were charged with organizing a raid on an Israeli army base in the West Bank, and “Shara’a Simsim,” the Palestinian version of “Sesame Street,” was cancelled following the withdrawal of $200 million in funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development.New York TimesGuardian

Jay-Z and Beyoncé named their newborn daughter Blue Ivy Carter, and a man named Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop was arrested in Madison, Wisconsin.Washington Post blogsThe Cap TimesJakadrien Turner, 14, who was deported to Colombia after being arrested in Houston for theft and giving police the name of a 21-year-old Colombian woman, was returned to the United States.BBCJamaican president Portia Simpson Miller announced plans for Jamaica to become a republic. “She??s a beautiful lady,” said Miller of Queen Elizabeth II. “But I think time come.” GuardianAge-related cognitive decline was found to begin as early as 45, and sexual satisfaction in women was found to increase with age even as desire diminishes.Psychiatric AlertScience Daily A Colorado woman was charged with criminal mischief after punching and sliding down a $30 million painting by Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still, then urinating on herself. “It doesn??t appear she urinated on the painting or that the urine damaged it,” said a spokeswoman with the Denver district attorney??s office, “so she??s not being charged with that.”Denver PostTheoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking celebrated his seventieth birthday, confessing that he spent most of the day thinking about women. “They are,” he said, “a complete mystery.”Guardian

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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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