Weekly Review — July 15, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The United States prepares to return thousands of minors to Central America; Israel launches an offensive in Gaza; and a wildfire traces back to Freddie Smoke

Early Lessons in Self-government (March 1876)

Early Lessons in Self-government (March 1876)

The Obama Administration requested $3.7 billion from Congress to confront a rapid rise in the number of unaccompanied children reaching the southern U.S. border from Central America, and announced that the United States would return most of the children to their countries of origin. Social-welfare agencies attributed the inflow of more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors caught sneaking over the border since October — double the number caught during the same period the year before — to rural poverty in Guatemala and urban gang violence in El Salvador and Honduras. “At first we saw a lot of kids who were being killed because when the gang came for their parents they happened to be in the car,” said a medical examiner in Santa Barbara, Honduras. “Now we see kids killing kids.”[1][2][3] HIV was detected in a Mississippi infant who last year had been declared cured of HIV, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that it had discovered six vials of the virus that causes smallpox in an unsecured storage room in Maryland, and the World Health Organization documented 46 new deaths from Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, bringing to 539 the total number of fatalities from an outbreak that began in February.[4][5][6][7] A Virginia man told journalists he had planted a flag in unclaimed territory between Egypt and Sudan, renamed it the Kingdom of North Sudan, and begun addressing his seven-year-old daughter as Princess Emily.[8] Candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani agreed to resolve Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election with an international audit, and to form a unity government regardless of who won.[9] A New Mexico judgeship was decided by coin toss.[10] Germany defeated Argentina 1–0 in extra time to win the 2014 World Cup, and the website Pornhub asked users to stop uploading highlights of Germany’s 7–1 semifinal victory over host nation Brazil to its “public humiliation” category.[11][12] A previously undocumented Amazonian tribe was reported to have made peaceful contact with a team of Brazilian scientists investigating complaints of crop and machete thefts from villagers. “They might have discovered,” said an American anthropologist, “that they can raid weaker neighbors and get goodies.”[13]

The Israeli Defense Forces launched more than 1,300 airstrikes in Gaza, killing at least 186 people and wounding 1,390, and Palestinian militants fired more than 1,000 rockets into Israel, wounding several people. Israel accused Hamas of incurring civilian casualties by firing rockets from populous areas, and said that it had shot down an unmanned Hamas drone over Israeli airspace. “Hamas is trying everything it can to produce some kind of achievement,” said defense minister Moshe Yaalon. “I wish I were a young man, so I could wear a suicide belt and go blow myself up in Tel Aviv,” said a 77-year-old Palestinian whose house had been bombed.[14][15][16][17] Iraq discovered 53 blindfolded and handcuffed corpses in the predominantly Shia village of Khamissiya, and notified the United Nations that insurgents from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had seized 88 pounds of non-enriched uranium compounds from a research lab in Mosul.[18][19] Germany ordered the chief U.S. intelligence officer stationed in Berlin to leave the country in response to allegations that two German officials had been spying for the United States.[20] Juneau, Alaska, closed Killewich Avenue during a jökulhlaup from Suicide Basin, and Swedish filmmaker Anders Weberg released a 72-minute trailer for his planned 720-hour film, Ambiancé. “Time,” said Weberg, “is something we can’t do anything about.”[21][22]

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South African author and Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer died at age 90.[23] Singapore’s National Library Board ordered the destruction of publicly collected copies of the children’s book And Tango Makes Three, in which two male penguins raise a chick, and China acknowledged that it allows citizens to trade in skins from captive tigers. “We do ban trade in tiger bones,” said an official.[24][25] Legal marijuana sales began in Washington State; Berkeley, California, ordered medical-marijuana dispensaries to give free marijuana to low-income residents; and authorities blamed a Shasta County, California, wildfire on marijuana farmer Freddie Smoke.[26][27][28] Fish were found to forge friendships in search of food. “You see little cliques develop,” said a biologist at the University of St. Andrews.[29] The Church of England voted to allow women to become bishops, and a truck carrying scented candles on a Bristol highway caught fire and covered the tarmac in wax.[30][31] Farmers attributed a rise in American chicken prices to the genetic manipulation of cocks. “When he got big,” said an official at the country’s third-largest poultry producer, “he didn’t breed as much.”[32] In Turner, Oregon, a Humpty Dumpty statue toppled from a wall and couldn’t be reassembled, and at the San Fermín festival in Spain, Bill Hillmann, a co-author of Fiesta: How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona, was gored in the thigh. Said a great-grandson of Ernest Hemingway: “Bill fell.”[33][34]


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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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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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