Weekly Review — February 5, 2020, 11:31 am

Weekly Review

Alan Dershowitz testified on behalf of Donald Trump; the United Kingdom left the European Union; the Iowa Democratic caucuses remained undecided in part because of an app programming error

Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, who has previously argued in favor of bombing Iran and killing American citizens with drones, said that he had firsthand knowledge of the president’s withholding of U.S. military aid to Ukraine for political gain; the Senate voted not to let Bolton testify at Trump’s impeachment trial; Bolton’s lawyer sent a copy of his upcoming book containing the allegations to the White House; Trump said the accusations were a lie; and Trump’s attorney said the book couldn’t be published because it was classified.1 2 3 4 5 Alan Dershowitz, who once described himself as “a neutral civil libertarian when it comes to the Constitution,” testified on behalf of Trump that withholding the military aid to influence an election was not an impeachable offense.6 7 The United Nations announced that $730 million in humanitarian aid was needed to feed 9.4 million people living in poverty in Afghanistan, where, since October 2001, the U.S. has spent $1.5 trillion waging war, and the congressional budget office announced that the U.S. deficit this year would top $1 trillion dollars.8 9 10 The European Parliament voted nearly unanimously to approve the United Kingdom’s Brexit terms; MEPs then sang “Auld Lang Syne,” told British MEPs to “put your flags away and take them with you,” and asked the 27 remaining member states via email if they approved of the withdrawal terms, to which they replied yes.11 12 The United Kingdom left the European Union, and the majority of Scots said they wanted to exit the United Kingdom.13

In China, the death toll from coronavirus climbed to 425, and the doctor who was interrogated by the police last year for attempting to warn people about the emergence of the pathogen contracted the disease.14 15 China reportedly began sending the bodies of coronavirus victims directly to crematoriums without first identifying them, Russia closed its 2,600-mile Chinese border, and U.S. secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross said the coronavirus would bring jobs back from China to the United States and Mexico.16 17 18 It was announced that the longest smuggling tunnel ever discovered was found between Tijuana and San Diego, Trump signed the USMCA, and a section of border wall installed under Trump collapsed in high winds, with debris landing on the Mexican side.19 20 21 The Trump Administration loosened restrictions on the use of landmines, which are banned by 160 countries for the frequency with which they kill civilians, and it was reported that a factory in Iran is producing 2,000 U.S. and Israeli flags a month for protesters to burn.22 23 The Iowa Democratic caucuses remained undecided in part because of an app programming error.24

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry recommended releasing one million tons of radioactive water from the melted-down Fukushima Reactor 1 into the ocean.25 The forestry union in Turkey estimated that 90 percent of the 11 million trees planted by the government three months ago have died because they were planted by amateurs at the wrong time of the year, and the administration of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who himself planted some of the trees, denied the claim, stating a 95 percent survival rate for the trees, which under ideal conditions have a 65 to 70 percent survival rate.26 A man in Tennessee was arrested for smoking marijuana in open court while facing charges of marijuana possession, and the judge on the case was later reprimanded for saying he was going to work like a “regular white man” and not a “slave” because “they don’t allow that anymore.”27 28 A police officer in Maryland pulled over a driver, said he smelled PCP, handcuffed the man, placed him in the back of his police cruiser, and then shot him seven times, killing him.29 An entire class of 30 Georgia state troopers was kicked out of trooper school for cheating on a speed-gun operator exam, a postal worker pleaded guilty to hiding 1,500 pieces of mail in a storage unit because he “felt pressured” to deliver it, and a man being chased by a police officer attempted to escape by carjacking an undercover police officer.30 31 32 A Mennonite accountant was charged with defrauding his Amish neighbors, and France’s agriculture ministry announced that the country intends to make it illegal to put live male chicks in a shredder.33 34Joe Kloc

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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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A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

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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