Weekly Review — January 22, 2020, 10:11 am

Weekly Review

Donald Trump complained about dishwashers; Washington, D.C., was declared the bedbug capital of the United States; the Duma blamed Russia’s warm winter on an American “climate weapon”

Articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump alleging two counts of high crimes and misdemeanors were delivered to the Senate from the House of Representatives.1 Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi named seven members of Congress, three of whom are women, as impeachment managers.2 On the evening the articles were delivered, Trump complained at a rally that “women” have told him that dishwashers only provide “four drops of water,” even when you “press it twelve times,” and appointed to his legal team Alan Dershowitz, who was an attorney of Jeffrey Epstein’s, and Ken Starr, who led the investigations of Bill Clinton that preceded his impeachment and whom Trump has previously called a “lunatic.”3 4 5 (Dershowitz has called Starr “dangerous to our liberties,” and Starr was also on Jeffrey Epstein’s defense team.)6 7 The Trump Administration proposed a rule to repeal the public-school nutritional standards that were introduced by Michelle Obama and broaden the definition of “snack” to include hamburgers, and the National Archives apologized for digitally altering signs critical of Donald Trump that were visible in a photograph of the 2017 Women’s March.8 9 The U.S. Space Force debuted camouflage uniforms, and a researcher demonstrated the U.S. government’s IT vulnerabilities by “Rick-rolling” the National Security Agency.10 11 Washington, D.C., was declared the bedbug capital of the United States.12

Smoke from Australian bushfires had circled east across the globe and reached Australia’s western coast, and in areas plagued by fires on the country’s eastern coast, heavy rains caused flash flooding and baseball-size hail destroyed cars.13 14 15 Scientists discovered that a warm “blob” in the Pacific Ocean in 2015 and 2016 was responsible for the deaths of one million seabirds, and the Calgary Zoo canceled a “penguin walk” because the cold weather was dangerous to the king penguins.16 17 In Russia, where less than half the population believes that climate change is a major threat, a representative in the Duma blamed the nation’s warm winter on an American “climate weapon.”18 The United Kingdom’s Counter Terrorism Policing force published, and later disavowed, a brochure that listed the climate-change activist group Extinction Rebellion alongside Islamic terrorist and white-supremacist organizations, and the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a warning about the violent threat posed by involuntary celibates.19 20 “What begins as a personal grievance due to perceived rejection by women,” the report’s authors wrote, “may morph into allegiance to, and attempts to further, an Incel Rebellion.” The FBI arrested three neo-Nazis in Virginia, and Governor Ralph Northam banned guns at the Virginia State Capitol and declared a state of emergency ahead of a Richmond rally against new statewide gun-control measures that attracted some 22,000 people.21 22 The West Virginia Senate encouraged neighboring Frederick County of Virginia to join their state.23

The rapper Akon finalized an agreement with the Senagalese government under which he was granted 2,000 acres to build Akon City, in which the official currency will be Akon’s own cryptocurrency, AKoin.24 West Point officials acknowledged that one of the academy’s cadets had launched a GoFundMe to help him pay the travel expenses for a porn star to join him at a formal academy banquet.25 The Transportation Security Administration apologized to an Ojibwa activist after a TSA agent in Minneapolis grabbed her braids as though they were a horse’s reins and told her to “Giddyap!” and Facebook apologized for a “technical issue” in which President Xi Jinping of China’s name was translated as “Mr. Shithole.”26 27 In response to a major volcanic eruption, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines vowed he would “eat that ashfall. I’m even going to pee on Taal, that goddamned volcano,” and the Mexico City transit authority blamed frequent escalator breakdowns in the subway system on “corrosion due to urine.”28 29 “When we open the escalators,” said an assistant transit manager, “there is always urine.” The discovery of a Parioscorpio venator fossil in Wisconsin suggested that the first animal in earth’s history to breathe on land was a scorpion.30

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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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