Weekly Review — September 27, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

Mahmoud Abbas went before the United Nations General Assembly in support of Palestine’s bid for UN membership, saying his was a “defenseless people, armed only with their dreams, courage, hope, and slogans.” “Yeah,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his UN address. “Hopes, dreams, and 10,000 missiles.” Abbas returned to cheering crowds in Ramallah, though some Palestinians were skeptical of his quest. “We are not against a peaceful solution, but we don’t believe it,” said one West Bank resident.BBCUnited NationsUnited NationsNY Times

In what it called an expression of Islamic mercy, Iran released a pair of American hikers detained in the country for two years. In exchange, it received $1 million in bail money, posted by Oman.LA Times

After decades of contentious litigation that saw seven of nine eyewitnesses recant their testimony, Troy Davis was executed in Georgia. “The question is not whether you can avoid errors,” said a former prosecutor about Davis’s case. “The only realistic question in an adult mind is which set of errors you’re going to accept.”NY TimesTimeNY Times

As the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York’s Zuccotti Park entered its second week, police used Tasers and pepper spray to control the crowd, corralling some activists behind orange netting and taking others away in handcuffs. Brookfield Office Properties, which owns the park, sent men in suits to pass out fliers laying out rules against tarps and sleeping bags, prompting the protesters to chant “Don’t take the papers” then accuse the men of littering when they left the leaflets on park benches and tables.ABC NewsNew York Magazine Daily IntelWSJThe Nation

Neutrinos blasted from Switzerland arrived in Italy sixty billionths of a second earlier than expected, apparently outpacing the speed of photons and threatening to upend Einstein’s theory of relativity. Physicists advised caution. “The constancy of the speed of light essentially underpins our understanding of space and time and causality,” said Oxford University’s head of particle theory. “If we do not have causality, we are buggered.”ScienceGuardianBBC

At a Republican presidential debate on Thursday, Michele Bachmann pledged to sign the “mother of all repeal bills” to abolish the Department of Education, and Rick Santorum called President Barack Obama “the new King George III.”NY Times

In honor of Pope Benedict XVI’s controversial visit to Germany, a Berlin beermaker brewed an organic pilsner and “ensouled” it by playing Gregorian chants from a boom box on the eve of the new moon.Spiegel OnlineSpiegel Online

Government officials announced the seizure in New York’s Chinatown of 6,000 units of illegally imported pesticides, including vials of a Chinese rat poison, labeled “The cat be unemployed,” that contained the powerful anticoagulant brodifacoum in concentrations sixty times the legal limit. Some of the chemicals, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, smelled “like cookies or other objects that would attract the human touch.”NY Times

The Department of Justice admitted it had paid too much for muffins, the Pentagon struggled to meet the “huge gaseous helium requirements” of its blimps, an Arkansan archivist discovered a moon rock among Bill Clinton’s gubernatorial papers, and Chinese panda breeders noticed that Atlanta-born Mei Lan, previously thought to be a female, had testes. “If it wasn’t a giant panda,” said Zoo Atlanta’s mammal curator, “this just would have been a paperwork change.”ReutersWiredReutersAtlanta Journal-Constitution

In Fife, Scotland, the presence of a single red squirrel threatened to scuttle a new housing development. “One red squirrel should not stand in the way of mankind’s march of progress,” said a councillor.Scotsman

Authorities in Edinburgh revealed that a violin case, a potato peeler, and a quill pen had been used this year as weapons on city streets, and in Somalia, the Islamist militant group al-Shabab handed out grenades and Kalashnikovs as prizes in a children’s trivia game.ScotsmanNY Times

An American car club broke a world record by parading fifty-one hearses in Hell, Michigan.Detroit Free Press

Citing evidence of a “live fast and die young” mentality among cephalopods, marine biologists reported that deep-sea squid shoot packets of sperm indiscriminately at members of both sexes. “In the deep, dark habitat where O. deletron lives,” wrote the scientists, “potential mates are few and far between.”GuardianBiology Letters

In California, researchers implicated bottlenose dolphins in a recent rash of porpoise killings, but couldn’t determine whether the mammals were venting sexual frustration or merely practicing infanticide. “We call them ‘porpitrators,'” said cetologist Thomas Jefferson.San Francisco Chronicle

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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.

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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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