Weekly Review — November 27, 2018, 12:04 pm

Weekly Review

Migrant children were teargassed; carbon dioxide levels have reached three to five million year high; missionary killed by remote tribe

In Afghanistan, 55 people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked the Uranus Wedding Palace in Kabul during a religious event; some 27 soldiers were killed on an Afghan Army base after a bomb exploded at a mosque during Friday prayers; 20 police officers were killed during an ambush in western Farah Province; and 10 soldiers were killed at an army checkpoint in northern Afghanistan.1 2 3 4 It was reported that the US-led coalition has dropped almost as many bombs on Afghanistan this year as it did in 2011, when a record high of 5,411 were dropped, and a report from the United Nations concluded that 289,867 people had been displaced as a result of violence in Afghanistan this year.5 Dozens of people were arrested in Tijuana, Mexico, when hundreds of migrants fleeing violence and poverty in Central America and who had been participating in a peaceful protest, pushed past the police, and attempted to climb a border fence and enter the United States, prompting the US Border Patrol to fire tear gas into the crowd and to temporarily close the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry between Tijuana and San Diego.6 7 President Donald Trump told reporters that the nearly six thousand soldiers positioned at the US–Mexico border were authorized to use lethal force against asylum seekers trying to enter the country from Central America, and the US Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that a record 14,000 unaccompanied immigrant children are currently in US custody.8 9 Trump said the CIA’s report that concluded Saudi Arabia’s crown prince ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was based on “feelings,” and insisted the US relationship with Saudi Arabia was too important to jeopardize.10 In a statement that began with “America First! The world is a very dangerous place!” the president elaborated, “If we foolishly cancel these contracts [with Saudi Arabia], Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!”11 It was reported that women’s rights advocates imprisoned in Saudi Arabia were being beaten, administered electric shocks, flogged, and otherwise tortured.12

On the busiest shopping day of the year, the federal government released its 1,656-page congressionally mandated National Climate Assessment, which found that the continental United States is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was 100 years ago; has suffered increased wildfires, more intense heat waves, and severe crop failures linked to climate change; and forecast the potential for hundreds of billions of dollars in crop losses, property damages, and reduced productivity.11 12 Carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere reached levels not seen in three to five million years, and were 46 percent higher than levels before the Industrial Revolution. Researchers found that climate change was forcing harvests of wine grapes to be carried out earlier in the season; that climate change may be increasing the rate of miscarriages among women on the east coast of Bangladesh; and that climate change in southern Europe could lead to the extinction of black truffles.13 14 15 16 Scientists found that heat waves linked to climate change could decrease the quality of the sperm of beetles.17 New York City celebrated its coldest Thanksgiving Day since 1901 and hundreds of sea turtles washed up on the shores of Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, after being “flash-frozen” by cold temperatures, “flippers in all weird positions like they were swimming.”18 19 The CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, said he was considering moving permanently to Mars.20

It was claimed that the world’s first gene-edited babies were born in China.21 A man in Ocala, Florida, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for plotting to bomb Target stores across the East Coast in the hopes of lowering the retailer’s stock price; a monk in Cambodia was arrested and defrocked for killing a former girlfriend he had met on Facebook; and a Moroccan woman living in the United Arab Emirates was accused of murdering her boyfriend and cooking his remains into a traditional rice and meat dish, after her boyfriend’s tooth was found in her blender.22 23 24 Farmers in Turkey have been accused of stockpiling onions in order to drive up prices.25 “Nobody has the right to sell expensive products to my citizens,” said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A man in Amsterdam was arrested and charged with money laundering after he was found to be hiding $400,000 in a washing machine.26 An 18-year-old caught speeding in Germany lost his driver’s license 49 minutes after having been issued it.27 It was determined that a man in England who died in a forklift accident was killed when his Jack Russell terrier pushed a lever in the cab and ran him over; a dog was found in Florida after going missing from its home in Brooklyn, New York, 18 months ago after its owner died in a gun accident; and it was reported that a woman in China was filing a lawsuit after she was paralyzed when a dog fell from a building and landed on her head.28 29 30 In Vancouver, British Columbia, an otter took up residence in a classical Chinese garden and began eating the garden’s prized koi population.31 A 26-year-old evangelical missionary from Vancouver, Washington, was killed by the Sentinelese, a tribe of a few dozen people living on an Indian island in the Bay of Bengal, after he approached the island by kayak, singing songs and offering fish.32 Writing in his journal shortly before his death, he mused, “Is this island Satan’s last stronghold?”33Sharon J. Riley

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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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