Weekly Review — August 3, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Devil Spanker, 1875]

The United States raised its terror alert level and said that Al Qaeda might be planning to attack financial institutions in New York, Washington, and Newark, New Jersey. Howard Dean pointed out that, once again, the timing of a new federal terror alert was suspiciously convenient; other Democrats, such as Joseph Lieberman, denounced Dean’s suggestion as “outrageous.”Independent, Washington PostIt was reported that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a close associate of Osama bin Laden, retracted his claim that Iraq helped Al Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction, andNew York Timesthe 9/11 commission, which runs out of funds next month, was seeking private donations so that it can continue its work.New York TimesPresident Bush asked Congress to create a national intelligence director.ReutersKuwait banned Fahrenheit 9/11, andAgence France-Presseit was revealed that the Census Bureau has been giving population statistics on Arab-Americans, broken down by zip code, to the Department of Homeland Security.New York TimesThe White House predicted that this year’s federal budget deficit will be $445 billion.New York TimesFive Christian churches in Baghdad were targeted by suicide car bombers, andWashington Postanalysts at Deutsche Bank warned that oil prices could rise to $100 a barrel.ScotsmanPresident Bush crashed his mountain bike.Associated Press

The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling on Sudan to disarm its militias in Darfur but declined to use the word “sanctions” and made no mention of using force to stop the ongoing genocide; Sudan denounced the resolution as a declaration of war.Daily TimesMillions of Bangladeshis were left without homes because of flooding; hundreds of people died.New York TimesThere were explosions at the American and Israeli embassies in Uzbekistan, andNew York Timesa gas pipeline blew up in Belgium.New York TimesA Jordanian company said that it would pull out of Iraq after a militant faction called the Group of Death kidnapped two of its employees.New York TimesIraqi gunmen executed a Turkish truck driver.Boston GlobeDoctors Without Borders pulled out of Afghanistan, andNew York Timesricin was found in baby food in Irvine, California.Associated PressMore than 300 people died in a supermarket fire in Paraguay.ScotsmanA government audit found that Halliburton lost about one third of the property it was given to manage in Iraq; 6,975 out of 20,531 items were missing. The lost government property was worth $18.6 million.Houston ChronicleBritish troops allegedly forced Iraqi detainees to “dance like Michael Jackson.”Courier MailIsrael’s cabinet approved betting on horses, andNew York TimesSaddam Hussein was said to be enjoying his American-style cookies and muffins.Reuters

A team of scientists led by Stanley Prusiner, the neurologist who won a Nobel prize for his work on the prion hypothesis, succeeded in creating a synthetic prion that produced a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy in mice.New York TimesFrancis Crick died.New York TimesThe UN was urging that domestic Asian ducks be vaccinated for avian flu, which scientists say has become so common that quarantines and culls will no longer be sufficient.New York TimesThe Bush Administration issued a new rule that will permit the EPA to approve pesticides without finding out from wildlife agencies whether the chemicals will harm plants and animals protected by the Endangered Species Act.Associated PressThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that truancy because of fear of schoolyard violence was on the rise.Associated PressThe Vatican criticized feminists for trying to ignore the differences between men and women and said that a woman “is not a copy of a man.”Associated PressItaly was upset about a poster campaign in the London subway urging people not to eat smelly food; the posters show an overweight man sitting on a train surrounded by parma hams and salamis and strings of garlic.ReutersThe Bush Administration was making plans to harvest methane gas.New York TimesCemeteries in South Africa were recycling graves.New York TimesScientists discovered that fatigue is all in the mind.New Scientist

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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.

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What We Think About When We Think About Soccer, by Simon Critchley. Penguin Books. 224 pages. $20.

Begin, as Wallace Stevens didn’t quite say, with the idea of it. I so like the idea of Simon Critchley, whose books offer philosophical takes on a variety of subjects: Stevens, David Bowie, suicide, humor, and now football — or soccer, as the US edition has it. (As a matter of principle I shall refer to this sport throughout as football.) “All of us are mysteriously affected by our names,” decides one of Milan Kundera’s characters in Immortality, and I like Critchley because his name would seem to have put him at a vocational disadvantage compared with Martin Heidegger, Søren Kierkegaard, or even, in the Anglophone world, A. J. Ayer or Richard Rorty. (How different philosophy might look today if someone called Nobby Stiles had been appointed as the Wykeham Professor of Logic.)

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