Weekly Review — August 9, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

Somali government troops killed at least ten famine refugees at the Badbaado camp in Mogadishu after distribution of dry rations by the World Food Program devolved into looting. “They fired on us as if we were their enemy,” said Abidyo Geddi. “We donâ??t get much food, and the rare food they bring causes death and torture.” Thousands of Somalis fled to the United Nationsâ?? Dadaab complex in Kenya, enduring a weeks-long journey through hyena- and bandit-infested desert. “It is peaceful here,” said Ali Hulbale, who lives with his family at the edge of the camp. “There is no gunfire. But we are starving.”The GuardianLos Angeles TimesWhile Syrian tanks bombarded the cities of Hama and Deir Al-Zour to quash what the government called “acts of killing and terrorism,” police shot and killed 29-year-old Mark Duggan in the North London neighborhood of Tottenham, setting off riots throughout the British capital and in Birmingham.AP via Toronto StarChristian Science MonitorNew York TimesThe GuardianThe GuardianPresident Obama wished the worldâ??s Muslims a Ramadan Kareem (“Bountiful Ramadan”), avoiding the more common phrase Ramadan Mubarak (“Blessed Ramadan”), and the trial of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on murder and corruption charges began in Cairo.AFPReuters via New York TimesAl JazeeraThe Atlantic

Despite having overestimated the U.S. federal debt by at least $2 trillion, Standard and Poorâ??s downgraded the Unites Statesâ?? long-term credit rating from AAA to AA-plus, prompting one market analyst to warn, “This crisis will run and run, and could make Lehman look like a Tupperware party.”New York TimesThe GuardianIn session for a total of 59 seconds, a skeleton crew of Senate Democrats ended a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, putting 4,000 employees back to work and allowing the government to resume collecting $200 million per week in airline-ticket taxes.New York TimesAP via Yahoo!Former New York gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party and Oscar-winning actress Faye Dunaway faced eviction from their rent-regulated apartments. “You donâ??t tell an American how to live,” McMillan said to reporters. “I hope you have a terrible life,” Dunaway said to her landlord.New York PostNew York TimesGovernor Rick Perry, whose April entreaty to his fellow Texans to pray for rain failed to alleviate the stateâ??s devastating drought, led some 30,000 worshippers in the Response, a Christian prayer gathering at Houstonâ??s Reliant Stadium. Though Perry and others urged attendees to fast, concession stands sold nachos and smoothies throughout the seven-hour event. A San Angelo revivalist skipped lunch but bought a hot dog around 4:00 p.m. “Thatâ??s the agreement I made with God earlier,” he said.The Texas TribuneNew York TimesThe Texas TribuneThe Texas TribuneThe Texas Tribune

Graduate students in Texas demonstrated that such materials as grass, chocolate, cockroach legs, and miniature-dachshund feces can be used to create graphene, a form of carbon prized for its conductivity, and estimated that a sheet of graphene derived from a box of Girl Scout shortbread cookies would cover three football fields and be worth $15 billion.Science DailyAustralian researchers persisted in attempting to engineer artificial dingo urine, and Tasmanians testified that local marsupials remain a threat to the islandâ??s opium crop. “We have a problem with wallabies entering poppy fields, getting as high as a kite and going around in circles,” said attorney general Lara Giddings. “Then they crash.”ReutersGlobal PostWomen in the remote Colombian town of Barbacoas continued to protest inadequate roads and medical care by withholding sex from their partners, and South African scientists found that elephant seal cows, who are sometimes crushed by bulls during lovemaking, use the ocean to their advantage. “Coercing a female is so much more difficult in the water because she has more options,” said one ecologist.The GuardianDiscoverCattle ranchers tested their herds for brisket disease, Ukrainians vowed to stop forcing vodka on bears in roadside hotels, Buddhists freed 534 lobsters in observance of Wheel Turning Day, and journalists in Connecticut investigated the mariachi trio responsible for serenading a beluga whale at the Mystic Aquarium last month. “It seems that you can have interactions with a beluga,” said guitarist Eduardo Rocha. “You cannot do that with a shark.”New York TimesReutersReutersWSHU

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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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