Weekly Review — February 27, 2012, 9:36 pm

Weekly Review

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Syria’s government reported that nearly 90 percent of voters had approved a draft constitution introducing democratic reforms, including a multiparty system. The referendum was boycotted by opposition groups and condemned by international leaders. “To open polling stations but continue to open fire on the civilians of the country,” said British foreign secretary William Hague, “has no credibility in the eyes of the world.” Activists reported that at least 140 Syrians had been killed in recent days in Homs, where government shelling also killed two Western journalists. In her final dispatch, one of the journalists, Marie Colvin, wrote, “I was met by a welcoming party keen for foreign journalists to reveal the city’s plight to the world. So desperate were they that they bundled me into an open truck and drove at speed with the headlights on, everyone standing in the back shouting ‘Allahu akbar’—God is the greatest. Inevitably, the Syrian army opened fire.”[1][2][3][4] Sergeant Frank Wuterich, the only U.S. Marine to be found guilty of any charge related to the 2005 killing of 24 Iraqis in Haditha, was honorably discharged.[5] In Afghanistan, about 40 people were killed, including two American military advisers, amid protests over the burning of Korans by NATO personnel at a Bagram Air Field garbage pit. President Barack Obama apologized to Afghans for the error, prompting Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum to say, “I think it shows weakness.”[6][7][8][9][10] Mitt Romney praised Michigan’s automakers during a campaign stop in the state, saying, “I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually. And I used to have a Dodge truck. So, I used to have all three covered.” Asked later in the week whether he follows NASCAR, Romney responded, “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans. But I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners.”[11][12]

The German Bundestag voted in favor of a $170 billion bailout for Greece, the largest share of which will be funded by Germany. “Greece needs a Marshall Plan,” said Left Party leader Gregor Gysi, who opposed the plan, “not a Versailles Treaty.”[13][14] The Royal Bank of Scotland announced it would pay out about $630 million in bonuses despite an expected $3.5 billion in losses this year, the fourth in a row it has failed to post a profit, and British Labour MP Eric Joyce was arrested after he became enraged in a House of Commons bar, hit several fellow MPs, and headbutted the MP from Pudsey. “There are too many fucking Tories in here,” said Joyce. [15][16] Dominique Strauss-Kahn was held overnight in Lille to be questioned about possible connections between a prostitution ring and orgies he attended in Paris and Washington. “I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other woman,” a lawyer for Strauss-Kahn said on French radio in December.[17] Bribery charges against former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi were thrown out of court in Rome, the sixth time a trial involving Berlusconi has ended because the statute of limitations had expired.[18][19] Police in the Indian state of Kerala continued their murder investigation into two Italian marines accused of shooting two Indian fisherman from the deck of the oil tanker Enrica Lexie; more than 1,000 passengers on the Italian cruise ship Costa Allegra were adrift following a fire off the coast of Seychelles; and Italy began selling off a group of Sardinian lighthouses in response to its debt crisis.[20][21][22]

The OPERA group at Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory acknowledged that readings it reported showing neutrinos to have surpassed the speed of light may have been caused by a faulty connector. “This connector was not perfectly plugged,” said Gran Sasso director Lucia Votano. “Okay?”[23][24][25][26] A Naples, Florida, man was charged with aggravated assault after brandishing a weapon outside a bank and telling deputies he was the director of the CIA, Elvis Presley’s brother, and half orangutan, and that he needed to call the “fusion center” to ask about his monkey blood.[27] Clouds were found to have been getting lower for the past decade, and Sifrhippus, a species of tiny horse that lived 56 million years ago, was found to have shrunk over thousands of years as the earth’s climate got hotter.[28][29][30] Astronomers confirmed the existence of a “waterworld” exoplanet 40 light-years from Earth; NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovered solid buckyballs (buckminsterfullerene) in outer space, and Kellogg’s produced a box of chocolate, marshmallow, shortbread, and raisin Totes Amazeballs cereal for Charlatans U.K. singer Tim Burgess after he tweeted the name as a joke.[31][32][33] Whitney Houston was found to have been the subject of 10 percent of all U.S. media coverage during the week after she died, and a Michigan man whose son died in Iraq, angry that Houston’s home state of New Jersey was flying its flags at half-staff in her honor, burned a New Jersey state flag on his backyard grill. “It was $12.95,” said the man of the flag, “and it was the best money I ever spent.”[34][35]

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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.

Illustration by Richard Mia
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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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Photograph from the United Arab Emirates by the author. This page: Ruwais Mall
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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.

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