Weekly Review — June 4, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Tension in Turkey, storm-chasing tragedy in Oklahoma, and auf Wiedersehen to Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz

Cupid (July 1876)In Istanbul’s Taksim Square, police fired water cannons and tear-gas canisters at demonstrators protesting plans by the government of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to convert the last major public green space in the city into replica Ottoman-era army barracks. More than 1,000 people were injured and more than 1,700 arrested as tens of thousands joined in protests in at least 67 cities over the weekend, fueled by discontent over what critics described as Erdogan’s increasingly repressive and antisecularist rule. “For the past year,” said an Istanbul shopkeeper, “it has felt like I run a shelter for gas-raid victims.” Erdogan proposed to construct a mosque in Taksim Square, one man was killed by police gunfire and another by a taxi, volunteers offered free meatballs to anyone who helped clean up, CNN Türk aired the penguin documentary Spy in the Huddle, and Syria warned its citizens against traveling to Turkey. “We call upon Erdogan to show wisdom,” said Syrian information minister Omran al-Zoubi.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] Russia criticized the European Union for allowing its embargo on arms sales to Syria to expire, thereby leaving member states free to arm opposition forces, and prepared to ship an S-300 missile-defense system to the Syrian government. “We think this delivery is a stabilizing factor,” said Russia’s deputy foreign minister, “and that such steps in many ways restrain some hotheads.” The primary Syrian opposition coalition announced that it would boycott a proposed U.N. peace conference amid arguments over procedural matters, opposition forces clashed with Hezbollah inside Lebanon, and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad warned that the fighting might spread to the Golan Heights region of Israel.[11][12][13][14][15] Yiddish scholars objected to the final round of the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee, which was won by a 13-year-old from Queens, New York, who spelled the name of a traditional type of dumpling “k-n-a-i-d-e-l” in accordance with Webster’s Third New International Dictionary rather than their preferred spelling, “k-n-e-y-d-l.” “K-n-a-d-e-l,” said a Yiddish speaker at a Bronx seniors center. “K-n-a-w-d-l-e,” said a man at a nearby table. “There’s no real spelling of the word,” said the owner of a Manhattan deli that sells T-shirts reading “kneidel.”[16]

Twelve days after a tornado killed 24 people in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, the region was again hit by tornados and flash floods, this time killing 18, including three professional storm chasers. “Oklahoma is considered the Mecca of storm chasing,” said Tim Samaras in an interview conducted just prior to his death. “We know ahead of time when we chase in Oklahoma, there’s going to be a traffic jam.”[17][18][19] Torrential rain forced the evacuation of thousands of homes in Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany, and the first German census since the country’s 1990 reunification revealed that it has 1.5 million fewer people than previously believed.[20][21] A Texas veteran accused of sending letters laced with ricin to U.S. president Barack Obama, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Bloomberg’s gun-control lobbying group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, reportedly told police he was being framed by his estranged wife.[22][23] The U.S. Army began court-martial proceedings against Bradley Manning, the intelligence analyst accused of providing 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks in the knowledge that Al Qaeda would be able to access them, and Moktar Belmoktar, who planned the January attack on a gas plant near Amenas, Algeria, was revealed to have left Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb after receiving a letter from his superiors admonishing him for “backbiting, name-calling, and sneering” and enumerating 30 other complaints against him. “We ask our good brother,” they wrote, “why do you only turn on your phone with the emirate when you need it?”[24][25][26][27] Members of the far-right English Defense League were chased through the streets of London by women dressed as badgers.[28]

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At least 119 workers were killed in a series of fires and explosions at a poultry plant in Mishazi, China; Australia confirmed that Chinese hackers had stolen the schematics for its new $600 million spy headquarters; and a species of florescent pink slugs was discovered on Australia’s Mount Kaputar. “People tend to focus on the cute and cuddly bird and mammal species,” said a park ranger. “I’m a big believer in invertebrates.”[29][30][31] In Albuquerque, a drunk driver who crashed his SUV while having sex was discovered behind a cactus with his shorts inside out.[32] Federal prosecutors revealed that a client of an online currency exchange accused of laundering over $6 billion had registered under the username Russia Hackers, and that an undercover agent had successfully created an account under the name Joe Bogus for the purpose of “cocaine.”[33] Washington State police were desensitizing drug-sniffing dogs to marijuana, Florida authorities lassoed and tasered an escaped llama named Scooter, and police in Madras detained three goats accused of vandalizing a patrol vehicle, while nine goats remained at large.[34][35][36] A change to a state law eliminated the longest word in the German language, Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz (beef labeling monitoring assessment assignment law), and the word galocher was added to the Petit Robert dictionary, formally giving the French a verb for French kissing. “It never stopped us,” said a Robert employee, “from doing it.”[37][38]


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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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"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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