Weekly Review — March 5, 2012, 7:15 pm

Weekly Review

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Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won the Arizona and Michigan Republican primaries, as well as the Washington State Republican caucus. Newt Gingrich, who placed last in Michigan and Washington, said that Romney was not a “convincing” front-runner and that the campaign for the G.O.P. nomination would “go on for a good while.”[1][2] President Barack Obama’s approval rating rose above 50 percent for the first time in nearly a year, and Senator Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) accused Obama of disregarding blue-collar workers in his energy policy. “President Obama has traded in the hard-hat and lunch-bucket category of the Democratic Party,” said Hatch, “for a hipster fedora and a double-skim latte.”[3][4] The American Mustache Institute criticized Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R., Md.) for the “shameful reversal” of his support for a $250 tax credit for mustachioed Americans, and Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, presenting a literacy initiative to Denver elementary-school students, botched his introduction of Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia. “Now I get to introduce that rising sex star,” Hickenlooper said of Garcia. “Symbol. I mean symbol. Not star.”[5][6] Rush Limbaugh apologized for describing Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she spoke in favor of health-care provisions for free contraceptives at a Democratic Party steering-committee hearing.[7][8] Senator Olympia Snowe (R., Maine) announced that she would not seek re-election this fall, citing a lack of bipartisan cooperation in Congress. “Simply put,” Snowe wrote in an editorial, “the Senate is not living up to what the Founding Fathers envisioned.”[9][10]

President Obama affirmed his commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. “When the chips are down,” he said “I have Israel’s back.”[11] North Korea permitted the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the country’s largest nuclear reactor in exchange for a quarter million tons of U.S. food aid.[12] After the United States posted more than $5 million in bail, Egyptian officials lifted a travel ban imposed on seven Americans charged with operating unlicensed NGOs, leading the country’s parliament to open a probe. “We cannot accept any type of foreign intervention in Egypt’s affairs,” said house speaker Saad al-Katatni. The same day, the U.S. State Department publicly endorsed Egypt’s efforts to secure a $3.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.[13][14] Al Qaeda gunmen killed 25 Iraqi policemen in Haditha, and 140 people died in clashes following an Al Qaeda attack on army bases in southern Yemen.[15][16] More than 200 Congolese died and at least 1,500 were wounded following a series of explosions at a munitions depot in Brazzaville.[17] Vladimir Putin was elected president of Russia for the third time, thousands of opposition protesters rallied outside the Kremlin amid reports by international observers that the election was unfair, and a Moscow museum began staging a puppet show in which Putin comes to terms with the loss of his penis.[18][19][20][21] Researchers determined that sperm cells lack a sense of smell, that American immigrants who speak English are healthier than those who do not, that the wealthy are more likely to take candy from children, and that Ötzi the Iceman was lactose intolerant.[22][23][24][25] A section of the Great Wall of China was discovered in Mongolia.[26]

Jan Berenstain, who co-wrote and co-illustrated the Berenstain Bears books, died, as did 43-year-old conservative media entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart, who helped popularize the Drudge Report and was, on his own websites, the first to break such stories as the Anthony Weiner Twitter scandal. “RIP 'O Mighty Warrior!” tweeted Texas governor Rick Perry.[27][28] A suspicious item that caused Disneyland to be locked down was found to be a scroll bearing a “spiritual message of goodwill,” and two Georgia schools were locked down after a student’s cell phone autocorrected the word “gunna” to “gunman,” resulting in the text message “Gunman be at West Hall Today.”[29][30] In Texas, a group of Girl Scouts robbed of their cookie-sale proceeds traded blows with the male thieves as they tried to get away. “I hope your face hurts from when Iravia punched you, jerk,” said scout Rachel Johnson in an interview.[31] Whitney Purvis, who was profiled on the reality-television series 16 and Pregnant, was arrested in Georgia for attempting to steal a pregnancy test from Walmart.[32] A carpenter was arrested in Zimbabwe for speculating that President Robert Mugabe may not himself have inflated all the balloons at his eighty-eighth birthday party.[33] Montana district judge Richard Cebull admitted he was wrong to send an email insinuating that President Obama was born of an affair between his mother and a dog, the Pentagon disclosed that some remains of 9/11 victims ended up in a Delaware landfill, and Groupon withdrew a discount deal for a walking tour of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s stalking grounds in Milwaukee. “Guides march guests through the grisly corridors of Jeffrey Dahmer’s life and killing spree as they narrate the triggers of his psychosis and the heinous crimes he committed,” read the description of the tour, which 15 people had signed up for. “We’re providing information, much like if you would pick up a book or watch a documentary,” said organizer Amanda Morden. “It’s just in a different format than I guess people are used to.”[34][35][36][37]

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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.

“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

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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"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

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