Weekly Review — November 27, 2012, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

In Tel Aviv, a bomb exploded on a city bus and an Israeli man carrying a knife, an ax, a pitchfork, and a red bag attacked a guard at the U.S. Embassy.[1][2] In Cairo, representatives of Israel and Hamas brokered a ceasefire agreement, ending eight days of conflict in Gaza that had resulted in the deaths of five Israelis and 162 Palestinians. “This is a point on the way to a great defeat,” said Khaled Meshal, the exiled chairman of Hamas. “Israel failed in all its objectives.”[3][4] At a meeting with U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who served as Israel’s proxy negotiator in Cairo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would continue to take “whatever action is necessary” to protect his people. “This,” he said, “is something I don’t have to explain to Americans.”[5] Clinton praised Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, Hamas’s representative in the discussions, for his “responsibility and leadership”; the next day, Morsi issued a decree that expanded his presidential powers, allowing him to fire Egypt’s prosecutor-general and exempt himself from judicial review.[6][7][8][9] The Egyptian Judges’ Club threatened to strike, protesters in Alexandria set fire to the headquarters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, and thousands of demonstrators, some armed with stones and Molotov cocktails, gathered in Tahrir Square. “God willing we will remove Morsi,” said one man, “as we did Mubarak.”[10][11][12][13] Peace, one of two turkeys pardoned by President Obama last Thanksgiving, fell ill and was euthanized; Liberty continued to thrive.[14]

The Free Syrian Army captured a special-forces base near Aleppo, seizing five tanks, two armored vehicles, two rocket launchers, two artillery cannons, and a large stockpile of mortars and rifles. “There has never been a battle before,” said General Ahmad al-Faj, “with this much booty.”[15][16] Rebel soldiers also took control of a military airport outside Damascus. “Watch, people,” said a fighter in a video showing medics attending to a government soldier. “Watch Assad’s dogs! How we’re treating them with tenderness.”[17][18] At least 112 workers died in a factory fire in Bangladesh, and 14 workers were killed in a gas-leak explosion at a hot-pot restaurant in northern China.[19][20] Roman students protested cuts in education spending, royalists in Bangkok marched against the prime minister, who they claimed had ignored insults to the Thai monarchy, and Madrid’s trash collectors went on strike, prompting local residents to dump their garbage on the doorsteps of banks. “Make sure you check,” tweeted a protester, “that it’s not where someone sleeps.”[21][22][23][24] New York police were investigating the provenance of two corpses discovered in two parks in Queens by workers cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy, and South Pacific explorers bound for Sandy Island, which Google Maps identified as being midway between Australia and New Caledonia, found only ocean. “Time,” said Marlene Moses, chairwoman of the Alliance of Small Island States, “is clearly not on our side.”[25][26][27] Mexico and the United States reached a new deal to share water from the Colorado River, and Mexican president Felipe Calderón suggested removing “Estados Unidos” from his country’s official name.[28][29]

A man from Yonkers died clowning at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and spectators on Manhattan’s Upper West Side found shredded police-department documents amid the confetti. The parade’s organizers provided free transportation to residents of Rockaway Beach. “It’s nice for the city to treat us,” said one man, “when we have nothing.”[30][31][32] Black Friday began on Thursday.[33] “We’ll miss the actual being there with family,” said a Michigan woman who spent Thanksgiving camped outside a Best Buy, “but we’ll have the rest of the weekend for that.”[34] A milk-truck driver in Wisconsin ran over two cows; a deer in Whitehouse, Texas, chased two men into the bed of a pickup truck, then ate a pack of cigarettes; and scientists reported that apes have midlife crises.[35][36][37] An explosion in Springfield, Massachusetts, damaged 42 buildings, blowing out the windows of a tattoo parlor and flattening a Scores Gentlemen’s club, and a German woman was accused of trying to smother her boyfriend with her DD-cup breasts. “Treasure,” the man quoted his girlfriend as saying, “I wanted your death to be as pleasurable as possible.”[38][39]

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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.

— Karl Marx

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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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