Weekly Review — September 8, 2015, 9:04 am

Weekly Review

The president of Guatemala resigns, the war-crimes trial of Bosco Ntaganda begins, and 32 cockatiels inherit $100,000

HarpersWeb-Weekly-ON-tallAt least 13,000 migrants fleeing civil war in Syria traveled on trains from Hungary to Germany, where the government reported that it expects to admit 800,000 refugees by the end of the year.[1] French president Francois Hollande announced that his country plans to admit 24,000 asylum seekers over two years, and British officials announced that their government would accept 15,000 migrants from refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon.[2] A three-year-old Syrian boy was found dead on a Turkish beach after his dinghy capsized en route to Greece.[3] Riots broke out between police and some of the 17,000 Syrian refugees who live on the Greek island of Lesbos, prompting the United Nations to call for the evacuation of the island.[4][5] The White House reported that Russia sent a military team to Syria to support Bashar al-Assad, and President Xi Jinping announced that China will cut its armed forces by 300,000.[6][7] The military rulers of Thailand rejected a new constitution, the war-crimes trial of the Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda began at the International Criminal Court, and the president of Guatemala resigned his post and was then arrested on charges of fraud and corruption.[8][9][10][11] In Tennessee, a judge cited the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in his rejection of a straight couple’s divorce petition. “Tennessee’s judiciary must now await the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court,” he wrote, “as to what is not a marriage.”[12]

In Kentucky, a county clerk who refused to offer same-sex marriage licenses was taken into custody for contempt of court.[13][14] In New York, a federal judge overturned the four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was accused of conspiring to deflate footballs during the AFC championship game last season.[15] In South Carolina, prosecutors announced that they will seek the death penalty for the 21-year-old man who went to a prayer meeting at a Charleston church in June and shot and killed all nine attendees.[16] Leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump signed a loyalty pledge promising his party that he will not mount an independent campaign for the presidency, and Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig launched a presidential campaign after receiving $1 million in crowdfunded donations. “I’m running to get people to acknowledge,” Lessig said, “the elephant in the room.”[17][18]

The logo for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was scrapped following allegations that the creator plagiarized the design from a Belgian artist.[19] At the U.S. Open in New York, a drone piloted by a schoolteacher crashed into the stands, and in North Carolina, a pilot on an American Airlines flight was caught texting during takeoff.[20][21] A Danish video-game company pulled a game called Slave Tetris in which players stack bodies in the bottom of a slave ship after outcry in the American press and on social media. “I have reached the conclusion,” said the CEO, “that no matter what we had done it would have been wrong.”[22] A California man rushed into his burning home to save a rack of barbequed ribs.[23] Eighty-nine pounds of wool were removed from a wandering sheep in Australia, and 32 cockatiels in the Hamptons were bequeathed $100,000 in a will.[24][25] A Fox News anchor filed a $5 million suit against the toymaker Hasbro for using her name and likeness for a toy hamster.[26] It was reported that 24 people suffered concussions during an annual pillow fight at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point last month.[27] A police officer in Massachusetts was placed on leave following the discovery that he had staged a drive-by shooting by firing on and burning his own cruiser. “These things happen,” the department’s sergeant said, “in law enforcement.”[28]


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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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