Weekly Review — October 2, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: The Cloaca Maxima, 1872]

The Cloaca Maxima, 1872

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, hailed by his countrymen as the “Socrates of the Third Millennium” for “disarming other speakers through his sharp reasoning,” gave a speech on Monday in which he claimed that Iran had no homosexuals and disavowed reports of his nuclear ambitions. “Let me tell a joke here,” Ahmadinejad said. “I think the politicians who are after atomic bombs, or testing them, making them, politically they are backward, retarded.” On Tuesday he met with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, addressed the United Nations (where he announced that he would disregard any resolutions adopted by the Security Council), and hosted a reception at the Intercontinental Hotel that was attended by Brian Williams and Christiane Amanpour.Reuters via Yahoo! NewsAdnkronos InternationalReuters via Yahoo! NewsNew York TimesTimePresident George W. Bush skipped all events related to the U.N. discussions on global warming, except for dinner, because he was holding his own summit later in the week; reporters covering the Bush conference received a pocket-sized handout aimed at dispelling “myths” about the administration’s environmental policy, including the myths that Bush refuses to admit that humans are a factor in climate change, or that climate change is real.New York TimesAssociated PressA February 2003 transcript of a meeting between Bush and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar surfaced showing that Bush had knowledge that Saddam Hussein was prepared to go into exile. In the transcript, Bush complained about former French President Jacques Chirac, who “thinks he’s Mr. Arab,” and the European attitude toward Hussein. “Maybe it’s because he’s dark-skinned, far away and Muslim,” said the President, “lots of Europeans think everything’s okay with him.” Reuters via Yahoo! NewsThe annotated text of Bush’s address to the U.N. General Assembly appeared briefly on the U.N. website. The speech included phonetic spellings for the name of French President Nicolas Sarkozy (sar-KO-zee), Kyrgyzstan (KEYR-geez-stan), Mauritania (moor-EH-tain-ee-a), and the Zimbabwe capital Harare (hah-RAR-ray).Reuters via Yahoo! NewsA White House transcript of Bush’s Wednesday speech on education was amended from “children do learn” to “childrens (sic) do learn,”Associated Pressand British researchers studying intelligence announced that men were disproportionately represented in both the top and bottom two percentiles.Hindu

Protesters in Burma, which tied Somalia for the 2007 title of Transparency International’s most corrupt nation, taunted soldiers in the country’s largest anti-government demonstrations since 1988. “Fuck you, army,” jeered some protesters, “we only want democracy.” “May the people who beat monks be struck down by lightning,” implored others.Reuters via Yahoo! NewsAP via Yahoo! NewsRwanda, which will soon be paid a humanitarian visit by Paris Hilton, was named the most improved country in sub-Saharan Africa,SFGateBBC Newsformer Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was extradited to Peru and is expected to become the first head of state to be tried by the country he once led,Christian Science Monitorand former South African President Nelson Mandela opened a shopping mall in Soweto.AP via Yahoo! NewsJames Razsa, who cleaned the Kennebunkport pool of former President George H.W. Bush, told a reporter that “if every American had to pool-boy for these people for a day, you’d have a revolution on your hands.” SFGateBoth the Magna Carta and pearls that once belonged to Marie Antoinette were being readied for auction,New York TimesReuters via Yahoo! Newsand a Rudy Giuliani supporter in Palo Alto, California, charged guests $9.11 per person to attend a fundraiser.CNNThe board of the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network voted to remove its president after doubts were cast as to whether she was a survivor at all.New York Times

The Department of Homeland Security announced that the completion of a $20 million “virtual fence” pilot project along the Mexican border near Tucson would be delayed because its cameras and radar were unable to distinguish people and vehicles from bushes and cows. Washington PostNike unveiled the Air Native, a sneaker that has a larger fit for the distinct foot shape of American Indians and features several “heritage callouts,” including sunrise patterns, feather designs, and stars representing the night sky.Associated PressThe Mexicanshoemaker who made the pair of ostrich-skin cowboy boots that former President Vicente Fox gave to President Bush was indicted after the contraband skins of sea turtles, caimans, and other endangered species were found in an associate’s warehouse. Rocky Mountain NewsRiverside, New Jersey, joined the list of towns across the nation that were rescinding anti-immigrant ordinances because they were hurting local economies. “The business district is fairly vacant now, but it’s not the legitimate businesses that are gone,” said former mayor Charles Hilton. “It’s all the ones that were supporting the illegal immigrants, or, as I like to call them, the criminal aliens.” New York TimesA bus company on the Isle of Wight planned to teach visiting foreign students how to wait in lines,Agence France Pressean Austrian judge refused to declare a chimpanzee a person,AP via Yahoo! Newsand the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled women must return engagement rings should their wedding be canceled, even if the ring was received on Christmas Day.TennesseanA 14-year-old boy was reported to be the sixth American to die this year after contracting a brain-eating amoeba that thrives in warm-water lakes. AP via azfamily.comMiss Moneypenny died,AFPand two women dressed as ninjas and armed with a sword and dagger robbed a Pennsylvania gas station of cash, cigarettes, and lottery tickets.WTAEOfficials in Peru said that collective psychosis, rather than a meteorite, was to blame for an epidemic of sickness in a Peruvian town,Space.com via Yahoo! Newsand the Navy made plans to alter the barracks at Naval Base Coronado in California after satellite imagery showed the buildings were arranged in a swastika.Los Angeles TimesShannon Whisnant, a North Carolina man who found a leg in a barbecue smoker, was hoping to share custody of the leg with the man from whom it was amputated. Whisnant has been charging adults $3 and children $1 to look inside the empty smoker. “It’s a strange incident and Halloween’s just around the corner,” he said. “The price will be going up if I get the leg.”Seattle Times

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More from Miriam Markowitz:

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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.

Illustration by Darrel Rees. Source photographs: Kim Jong-un © ITAR-TASS Photo Agency/Alamy Stock Photo; Donald Trump © Yuri Gripas/Reuters/Newscom
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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.

— Karl Marx

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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.

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.)

Tostão, No. 9, and Pelé, No. 10, celebrate Carlos Alberto’s final goal for Brazil in the World Cup final against Italy on June 21, 1970, Mexico City © Heidtmann/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Minimum square footage of San Francisco apartments allowed under new regulations:

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A Disney behavioral ecologist announced that elephants’ long-range low-frequency vocal rumblings draw elephant friends together and drive elephant enemies apart.

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"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

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