Weekly Review — February 7, 2012, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its campaign to suppress dissent and backing an Arab League plan for Bashar al-Assad to step down as Syrian leader. The vote came as the Assad regime was launching a major offensive on the city of Homs, whose residents were under mortar attack over the weekend and into Monday morning. “A couple members of this council remain steadfast in their willingness to sell out the Syrian people and shield a craven tyrant,” said the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov argued that the resolution placed too little emphasis on the “armed extremists” attempting to unseat Assad, and characterized Western reactions as “somewhere on the verge of hysteria.” “People are in a state of panic,” said one Homs resident. “They are screaming, â??May God help usâ?? or â??Where are the Arabs?â??” In Damascus, one of the Syrian cities previously least affected by civil strife, residents were stockpiling food and water and enduring rolling blackouts. “Nobody is comfortable anymore,” said one socialite, adding that she had curtailed her weekly visits to the nail salon. “And I paint my nails black when I come, just like the situation.”ReutersNPRReuters via The Daily StarAFPNY TimesAt least 70 people died in a riot at a soccer stadium in Port Said, Egypt, and in Moscow, tens of thousands of activists rallied in Bolotnaya Square to oppose Vladimir Putinâ??s presidential candidacy, while tens of thousands of Putin supporters rallied at Poklonnaya Gora, calling the antigovernment activists “Orange trash” and “Bolotnaya snot.” Putinâ??s detractors, some of them dressed as condoms, turned out in spite of below-freezing temperatures. “We are not revolutionaries in mink coats!” shouted one speaker. “I am!” replied a woman in a mink coat. “We are a snowball,” said an interior decorator, “and we are rolling.”NY TimesNY TimesRIA Novosti

A cold snap in Europe killed scores in Ukraine, dumped three feet of snow on Sarajevo, caused a dam in Bulgaria to collapse, and forced temporary shutdowns of the Roman Colosseum and the Manneken-Pis, a 17th-century bronze statue in Brussels that depicts a young boy urinating.AP via CTVAP via Yahoo!ReutersTwo of the three peacocks living on the grounds of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York failed to display their plumage, auguring an extended winter. “Theyâ??re not allowed to have anything with sugar,” said a local woman of the birds, whose names are Jim, Phil and Harry, “and they probably shouldnâ??t have the Chinese noodles.”New York TimesA fifth of dogs and a quarter of cats in America were classified as obese. “I didnâ??t notice the weight creeping on,” said an Atlanta woman of her dog, Dodger. “All of a sudden he was just this fat dog.”CNNThe New York Giants, who won the Super Bowl in Indianapolis on Sunday, observed their Friday post-practice ritual of eating pizzas from a Long Island restaurant, which packaged the pies in heat-retaining bags and sent them by police escort to La Guardia Airport for the flight to Indiana.ReutersNY PostNewt Gingrichâ??s presidential campaign deployed robo-calls falsely accusing Mitt Romney of having deprived Holocaust survivors in nursing homes of kosher meals during his tenure as Massachusetts governor, and New Jersey governor Chris Christie refused to apologize for calling a gay state assemblyman “numbnuts.”Atlantic WireNJ.comLouis Helmburg III, a college student in West Virginia, filed suit against the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and one of its members for negligence, claiming that the accidental detonation of a bottle rocket inside the memberâ??s rectum had startled Helmburg and caused him to fall off the fraternityâ??s deck.UPI

In India, where busloads of underprivileged children donned Gandhi costumes to mark the 64th anniversary of the Mahatmaâ??s death, people continued to plug headphones into robotsâ?? crotches in order to have their fortunes told.Chron.comDiscoverMitt Romney said on CNN that he wasnâ??t “concerned about the very poor,” and the Dutch bedding company Snurk angered Swedish homeless-advocacy groups by selling luxury duvet covers resembling cardboard boxes.APUPIA hotel guest in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, discovered a Manchurian black water snake hanging from her trouser press, and a 12-year-old ball python named Annie latched onto a Wisconsin womanâ??s face during a book-club meeting.UPIUPIResidents of ĂŤsafjörĂ°ur, a town in northwestern Iceland, celebrated the return of the sun, which arrived several days late, and Russian scientists had nearly penetrated the two and a half miles of ice atop Antarcticaâ??s Lake Vostok, which has remained sealed off for more than twenty million years. “If it doesnâ??t go well,” said one researcher of the drilling, “it casts a pall over the whole effort to explore this wet underside of Antarctica.”The ReykjavĂ­k GrapevineWashington PostBBCA federal judge in Iowa approved a fire sale of eighteen llamas, and American monkey-lovers continued to evade wildlife-control agents. “Itâ??s not what I fought for, to be treated like this,” said Jim Clark, a disabled Vietnam veteran who lives in a motor home on the Texas-Louisiana border with his wife, Donita, and their four capuchins, Tina Marie, Meeko Mae, Sara Jo, and Hayley Suzanne. “So many of us want to disappear,” said Ann Newman, president of the Simian Society of America, “and have our own community where we can safely keep our monkeys.”KCCI Des MoinesAP via USA TODAY

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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.

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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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