Weekly Review — September 23, 2003, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Attorney General John Ashcroft mocked librarians for their opposition to provisions of the USA Patriot Act that permit federal agents to seize citizens’ library records; Ashcroft said that the librarians were indulging in “baseless hysteria” and wondered why the FBI would care “how far you have gotten on the latest Tom Clancy novel.” He did not make clear why the government needs access to library records, however,New York Timesand later said that no requests for such records had yet been made.New York TimesMembers of the House and Senate appropriations committees agreed to kill funding for the Pentagon’s Terrorist Information Awareness program (formerly known as Total Information Awareness) but said parts of the program would be used to spy on foreigners.New York TimesThe Bush Administration announced a new counterterrorism center that will assemble a “watch list” of about 100,000 terrorism suspects.New York TimesJetBlue Airways admitted that last year it shared 5 million passenger itineraries with a defense contractor that was testing a passenger-screening system for the Transportation Security Administration.Wired NewsAmerican soldiers continued to die in Iraq.New York TimesHans Blix, the former U.N. weapons inspector, denounced the British government’s controversial dossier on Iraq’s weaponry, which he said was the result of a “culture of spin, of hyping.” “Advertisers will advertise a refrigerator in terms they do not quite believe in but you expect governments to be more serious and have more credibility.”BBCPresident Bush admitted that he has “no evidence” that Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks, though he continued to assert, contrary to all known evidence, that there were “ties” between Hussein and Al Qaeda.Los Angeles TimesAn American soldier who was drinking beer after hours at the Baghdad city zoo shot and killed a Bengal tiger that had bitten another soldier who was trying to feed it.ReutersPaleontologists announced the discovery of the fossil remains of a prehistoric 1,500-pound rodent called Phoberomys pattersoni, or “Patterson’s fearsome mouse.”Associated PressThe United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Israel refrain from deporting Yasir Arafat.Los Angeles TimesThe International Monetary Fund accused Arafat of moving about $900 million into a bank account under his personal control.New York TimesRichard Grasso, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, resigned because of a scandal over his compensation, which at $139.5 million was thought by some people to be excessive.Merrill Lynch avoided criminal charges in the Enron affair by agreeing to let the government monitor some parts of its affairs for the next 18 months; the firm promised not to engage in any more shady business deals.New York TimesThe Senate passed a resolution of disapproval condemning the Federal Communication Commission’s new rules giving more freedom to media monopolies.New York TimesAOL Time Warner dropped “AOL” from its corporate name.Washington Post

Prime Minister Tony Blair, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and President Jacques Chirac got together to talk about the latest American proposal for a Security Council resolution on Iraq.Chirac noted that “On Iraq, our views are not fully convergent.”New York TimesThe next day Chirac called for an immediate transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people.New York TimesL.Paul Bremer, the American overseer of Iraq, said that Iraqis were not quite ready for self-rule.ReutersAkila al-Hashemi, one of three women on the Iraqi governing council, was severely wounded in an assassination attempt.New York TimesThe government of Afghanistan was trying to explain why the homes of 30 families in Kabul were being demolished to build new houses for government officials.New York TimesBurmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was hospitalized and underwent surgery for an unknown gynecological condition.BBCPresident Bush admitted that his “road map” to peace in the Middle East wasn’t working very well and blamed it all on Yasir Arafat.New York TimesBosnia began accepting bids for 105 tanks, 20,000 machine guns, 13,000 submachine guns, 21 missiles, and 13 million pieces of artillery and ammunition that were left over from its civil war.ReutersChinese troops were said to be massing along the North Korean border.New York TimesPresident Bush defended his latest “relaxation” of the Clean Air Act and said that letting companies pollute more will lead to cleaner air.New York TimesThe National Park Service confirmed that the face of Mount Rushmore is moving.Associated PressCanada’s government-grown medicalmarijuana was getting very poor reviews.ReutersA new report from the British government claimed that Britons are the worst binge drinkers in Europe,Reutersand Danish scientists discovered that women who drink wine have an easier time getting pregnant.Agence France-Presse

Scientists announced the discovery of the oldest known genitals, which belonged to the 400-million-year-old ancestor of the daddy longlegs; the fossil penis was two thirds the length of the creature’s body.ReutersBritish authorities were worried about the recent popularity of “dogging,” or meeting strangers in public for unprotected sex, and they said that sexually transmitted diseases were on the rise.BBCArchaeologists were surprised by evidence that Roman Britons wore socks with their sandals.AnanovaArnold Schwarzenegger claimed to have been lying when he boasted years ago about having group sex; he said that he was just trying to impress people and promote body building.New York TimesGovernor Gray Davis of California said that California has “people from every planet.”San Francisco ChronicleThe Dalai Lama met with singer Ricky Martin and then said that it was too early to tell whether the conquest of Iraq was a mistake.New York TimesA new study found that magnets do not ease foot pain.ReutersIt was reported that an elevator to space was under development and could be working in about 15 years.Space.comVoters in Seattle rejected a proposed 10-cent tax on espresso.ReutersSeven thousand mink were set free in Finland,Reutersand 800 piglets blocked traffic for several hours on Interstate 40 in Oklahoma.ReutersA South Koreanfarmer set himself on fire during a memorial for another Korean farmer who committed suicide (by stabbing himself in the heart with a Swiss Army knife) at the World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun, Mexico.ReutersThe World Bank declared that Middle Eastern women are a “huge, untapped” resource.New York TimesThe Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow fired ballerina Anastasia Volochkova because, at 110 pounds, she is too fat.ReutersScientists were surprised to discover that low-calorie diets prolong the life of fruit flies no matter when the diet begins.”The system,” said one professor, “has no memory.”New York TimesA giant star was observedeating three planets.New ScientistPhysicists in Romania created gaseous plasma blobs that grow, replicate themselves, and communicate, suggesting that life might emerge in a wider variety of conditions than scientists have thought possible.New ScientistThe Galileo spacecraft crashed into Jupiter.Associated PressPhysicists created the coolest object in the universe.New ScientistLos Angeles banned lap dancing.New York Times

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In February 1947, Harper’s Magazine published Henry L. Stimson’s “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb.” As secretary of war, Stimson had served as the chief military adviser to President Truman, and recommended the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The terms of his unrepentant apologia, an excerpt of which appears on page 35, are now familiar to us: the risk of a dud made a demonstration too risky; the human cost of a land invasion would be too high; nothing short of the bomb’s awesome lethality would compel Japan to surrender. The bomb was the only option. Seventy years later, we find his reasoning unconvincing. Entirely aside from the destruction of the blasts themselves, the decision thrust the world irrevocably into a high-stakes arms race — in which, as Stimson took care to warn, the technology would proliferate, evolve, and quite possibly lead to the end of modern civilization. The first half of that forecast has long since come to pass, and the second feels as plausible as ever. Increasingly, the atmosphere seems to reflect the anxious days of the Cold War, albeit with more juvenile insults and more colorful threats. Terms once consigned to the history books — “madman theory,” “brinkmanship” — have returned to the news cycle with frightening regularity. In the pages that follow, seven writers and experts survey the current nuclear landscape. Our hope is to call attention to the bomb’s ever-present menace and point our way toward a world in which it finally ceases to exist.

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The Ambassador Bridge arcs over the Detroit River, connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, the southernmost city in Canada. Driving in from the Canadian side, where I grew up, is like viewing a panorama of the Motor City’s rise and fall, visible on either side of the bridge’s turquoise steel stanchions. On the right are the tubular glass towers of the Renaissance Center, headquarters of General Motors, and Michigan Central Station, the rail terminal that closed in 1988. On the left is a rusted industrial corridor — fuel tanks, docks, abandoned warehouses. I have taken this route all my life, but one morning this spring, I crossed for the first time in a truck.

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But the exercise of labor is the worker’s own life-activity, the manifestation of his own life. . . . He works in order to live. He does not even reckon labor as part of his life, it is rather a sacrifice of his life.

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To look at him, Sweet Macho was a beautiful horse, lean and strong with muscles that twitched beneath his shining black coat. A former racehorse, he carried himself with ceremony, prancing the field behind our house as though it were the winner’s circle. When he approached us that day at the edge of the yard, his eyes shone with what might’ve looked like intelligence but was actually a form of insanity. Not that there was any telling our mother’s boyfriend this — he fancied himself a cowboy.

“Horse 1,” by Nine Francois. Courtesy the artist and AgavePrint, Austin, Texas
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What We Think About When We Think About Soccer, by Simon Critchley. Penguin Books. 224 pages. $20.

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