Weekly Review — June 4, 2012, 5:40 pm

Weekly Review

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In Egypt, former president Hosni Mubarak and former interior minister Habib El-Adly were sentenced to life in prison for complicity in the murder and attempted murder of protesters in the 2011 uprising that removed Mubarak from power. “The people released a collective sigh of relief after a nightmare that did not, as is customary, last for a night,” said the judge at Mubarak’s sentencing, “but for almost thirty black, black, black years.” The judge acquitted six police commanders of complicity and Mubarak’s two sons of corruption charges, leading to mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.[1][2][3][4] Former Liberian president Charles Taylor was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to 50 years for aiding Sierra Leonean rebels who raped, maimed, and murdered tens of thousands of civilians. “The sentence is outrageous,” said Taylor’s brother-in-law. “How can you give a man 50 years for only aiding and abetting?”[5][6] Syrian president Bashar al-Assad defended his regime’s military crackdown on opponents during a speech to parliament. “When a surgeon in an operating room . . . cuts and cleans and amputates, and the wound bleeds, do we say to him ‘Your hands are stained with blood?’ ” he asked. “Or do we thank him for saving the patient?”[7] Snigdha Nandipati won the Scripps National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling “guetapens,” a French-derived word meaning “ambush,” “snare,” or “trap.”[8][9] The New York Times reported that President Barack Obama oversees a secret “kill list” of prospective assassination targets abroad, and that he has adopted a method of counting civilian casualties that excludes military-age males within a strike zone who have not been explicitly proven innocent. “Laws,” said a former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, “are not going to get bin Laden dead.”[10] At the unveiling of George W. Bush’s official White House portrait, Obama praised his predecessor’s “strength and resolve” and thanked him for his guidance and encouragement. “You also left me a really good TV sports package,” said Obama. “I use it.”[11][12]

More than a million people celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee at a pageant of a thousand barges, tugboats, dragon boats, Maori war canoes, and Venetian gondolas on the River Thames. Britons celebrated in Hertfordshire with a naked picnic, in West Yorkshire with a 1950s-themed “knees-up,” and in Oxfordshire with the traditional tossing of currant buns from the roof of the county hall in response to the chant “We want buns!” A poll identified Queen Elizabeth II as the most popular monarch in British history, ahead of Victoria and Elizabeth I. “It’s not a good year for us,” said a spokesman for a British antimonarchy group.[13][14][15][16][17][18] Dutch crown prince Willem-Alexander expressed shame for having taken part in a Queen’s Day toilet-throwing competition at which he’d won a cup topped by a miniature flushing toilet; Norway’s Ila Prison planned to hire people to play chess and hockey with Anders Behring Breivik, at whose trial a judge was caught playing computer solitaire; and the Stuxnet computer worm that infected Iran’s Natanz nuclear reactor was revealed to have been a joint American–Israeli project code-named “Olympic Games.”[19][20][21][22] John Edwards was acquitted of one charge of accepting illegal contributions to his 2008 presidential campaign, while a deadlocked jury led to the declaration of a mistrial on the five remaining charges.[23] Former first lady Nancy Reagan offered her endorsement to Mitt Romney over cookies and lemonade after he earned enough delegates to secure the G.O.P.’s presidential nomination with a primary win in Texas.[24][25] Idaho’s state liquor division banned the sale of Utah-distilled Five Wives Vodka, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg argued that his proposed ban on soda servings larger than sixteen ounces would increase life expectancy. “Just before you die,” he said, “remember you got three extra years.”[26][27]

Police in Miami shot a naked man whom they found gnawing at another man’s “half-eaten” face on a highway off-ramp; a college student in Maryland was charged with killing a boarder in his family’s home and eating the victim’s brains and heart; a male porn actor who allegedly dismembered an acquaintance and sent his body parts to Canadian politicians was apprehended in Berlin; and a New Jersey man stabbed himself and flung bits of his intestines at police officers called in to help him.[28][29][30][31] Sheep rained from the sky near Melbourne, Australia.[32] A scarf-wearing pig eluded capture by Pennsylvania state troopers.[33] A hen in Abilene, Texas, laid an egg inside another egg.[34] Residents of a Splendora, Texas, home claimed that an outline of Jesus in the mold on their bathroom wall was keeping one of them out of jail and ameliorating the HIV of another. “It kinda looks like me!” said neighbor Michael Bearden.[35] Serpent-handling Pentecostal preacher Mack Wolford was killed by a rattlesnake that bit him during a service at the Panther Wildlife Management Area in West Virginia, nearly 30 years after his serpent-handling father was killed by a rattlesnake bite. “I hated to see him go,” Wolford once said of his father, “but he died for what he believed in.”[36]

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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.

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