Weekly Review — June 21, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

Workers at Japanâ??s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, where 110,000 tons of radioactive water have collected since an earthquake and tsunami in March, were forced to suspend a new filtration scheme after a cesium absorber that was expected to last a month wore out in five hours. Addressing fears that Japanâ??s seasonal rains could cause some of the contaminated water to spill into the Pacific, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Company said the utility would “probably be able to solve the problem” before the holding facility was overwhelmed. Kyodo via Japan TimesBBCIn China, where the worst floods in half a century displaced millions of people in the south and east of the country, and the worst droughts in half a century continued to plague some northern regions, officials in charge of the controversial Three Gorges Dam released a report calling the structure “hugely beneficial” in controlling floods and preventing droughts. XinhuaBBCXinhuaXinhua via China DailyBlack smoke hung over Vancouver after riots following the Canucksâ?? loss to the Boston Bruins in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals. “This isnâ??t what the Canucks are about,” said a dejected Vancouverite. “Iâ??m seriously disappointed in the city of Vancouver and the country of Canada,” said another, “because it makes me feel the insecurity I read about in other parts of the world.”AP via Seattle TimesCBC

Federal goose counters descended on New York in preparation for the cityâ??s second annual Canada goose cull. Unlike last year, when the geese were gassed and carted to the dump, officials plan to round up the fowl and ship them alive to Pennsylvania, where they will be slaughtered and distributed to hungry residents.NYTA couple in Rexburg, Idaho, filed for bankruptcy after discovering their dream home was infested with garter snakes. “It felt like we were living in Satanâ??s lair,” said former owner Amber Sessions. “Weâ??re not going to pay for a house full of snakes,” said her husband, Ben. AP via YahooSeveral weeks after publicly tweeting a lewd photo of his crotch, Representative Anthony Weiner (D., N.Y.) announced he would resign, “so that I can continue to heal from the damage that I have caused.” Though he was roundly heckled during his speech, Weiner had some sympathizers. “I know the computer is dangerous to everyone,” said one of his constituents. “It brings the devil in the house.” NYTIn Iran, authorities deployed 70,000 morality police to crack down on shorts-wearing and scientists announced plans to launch a monkey into space. GuardianForeign PolicyA rabbinical court in Jerusalem was erroneously reported to have sentenced a local dog to death by stoning because it was believed to contain the spirit of a cursed secular lawyer, and researchers in New Zealand induced several genetically modified goys â?? female goats trapped in the bodies of sterile males â?? to lactate.YnetNZPA via Hawkeâ??s Bay Today

A Spaniard refused to have his house painted Smurf blue, Afghans blamed an Iranian pimp for tainting the number 39, and an eight-century-old relic of Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost objects, went missing.Der SpiegelReuters via Hartford CourantNYTCustoms agents along the U.S.-Mexico border seized 159 pounds of iguana meat, while their Russian counterparts in the town of Blagoveshchensk apprehended a China-bound cache of 1,041 bear paws, five woolly mammoth tusks, and 143 pounds of elk lips. ReutersNYTBeneath the ice of Russiaâ??s White Sea, a diver tamed a pair of beluga whales. Since belugas are thought to dislike artificial materials such as wetsuits and breathing apparatus, the diver entered the freezing water naked, using yoga to stay alive. Daily MailIn Portland, Oregon, 7.8 million gallons of drinking water were discarded after a man relieved himself in a reservoir in the early hours of the morning. Asked what difference a small amount of urine made, given that city officials routinely find dead animals in the reservoir, Water Bureau administrator David Shaff replied, “This is different. Do you want to drink pee?”The Oregonian

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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.

— 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

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