Weekly Review — August 6, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Zimbabwe re-elects Robert Mugabe, a fatwa against croissants, and a lemonade-stand robbery at BB-gunpoint

ALL IN MY EYE.Zimbabwe’s national election commission announced that Robert Mugabe had won 61 percent of the vote in the country’s presidential election, securing him a seventh consecutive term as leader. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change party alleged that Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party had stacked the voters’ registry with invalid names, intimidated voters in rural areas, and plotted to swap out ballot boxes. “There are clearly hundreds of thousands of deceased people on the voters’ roll,” said an independent monitor. “Either that or Japan does not have the oldest-age population in the world. There are thousands of 114-year-olds.” Australia’s foreign minister called for the election to be re-run, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry said the result was “the culmination of a deeply flawed process,” and journalists asked Mugabe after he cast his ballot whether he was nervous about the outcome. “No, no, no,” he said. “I’ve gone past that.”[1][2][3] Russia granted temporary asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who faces prosecution in the United States for leaking classified documents, and canceled a concert by the American band Bloodhound Gang after bassist Evil Jared shoved a Russian flag down his pants and said “Don’t tell Putin” during a concert in Ukraine.[4][5] In Cleveland, Ariel Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for 937 charges related to his subjection of three women to beatings, rape, and starvation while he held them hostage for over nine years. ‘‘A lot of harmony went on in that home,” said Castro.[6][7] Gangster James “Whitey” Bulger declined to testify in his trial for racketeering and 19 counts of murder in Boston. “Do what youse want with me,” said Bulger.[8] Two weeks after he was acquitted of murdering Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman informed a police officer who pulled him over in Texas for speeding that he had a registered gun in his glove compartment. “Just take it easy,” said the officer. “Don’t play with your firearm, okay?”[9]

The U.S. government announced the temporary closure of 22 embassies and consulates across the Middle East and Africa after reportedly intercepting a threatening message sent among senior Al Qaeda figures.[10] A sharia committee in a rebel-held area of Aleppo, Syria, issued a fatwa banning croissants, and the Observatoire du Pain launched an advertising campaign to combat a steep decline in baguette-eating among the French.[11][12][13] Pakistani talk-show host Dr. Aamir Liaquat Hussain gave away two abandoned baby girls during a live television broadcast, and it was reported that a baby weighing 13.4 pounds had been delivered vaginally in Leipzig, making it the largest non-Caesarian birth on record in Germany.[14][15] Aevin Dugas, of Reserve, Louisiana, was found to have the world’s largest afro, at 52 inches in circumference.[16] During a severe heat wave in southern and eastern China, city dwellers cooked bacon, eggs, and shrimp on manhole covers and pavement, a billboard spontaneously combusted, and eggs hatched without incubators.[17] A policeman rescued four chickens left unattended in a hot car in the English village of Cranleigh, several female British journalists who complained of online abuse against women were sent bomb threats via Twitter, and Scotland established a national register of inflamed bowels.[18][19][20][21]

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Eight New Jersey TGI Friday’s restaurants agreed to pay fines totaling $500,000 after they were found during the state’s Operation Swill to have filled premium liquor bottles with cheap spirits, dirty water, rubbing alcohol, and caramel food coloring.[22] A Portuguese court ruled that trash collectors couldn’t be fired for being drunk on the job. “With alcohol,” read the verdict, “this happy worker is a very efficient, excellent and quick remover of scrap.”[23] Gay bars in Europe and the United States were protesting the recent passage of antigay laws in Russia by boycotting Stolichnaya vodka, which is largely distilled in Latvia by a company based in Luxembourg and owned by a Russian exile.[24][25] A 12-year-old Pennsylvania boy held up a 10-year-old boy’s lemonade stand with a BB gun, and a Detroit pastor was shot to death when he asked his neighbors to quiet down. “It was devastating,” said his daughter. “I cried for a minute.”[26][27] The open-air Tent City Jail in Maricopa County, Arizona, gave inmates candy cigarettes to celebrate its twentieth anniversary.[28] The U.S. government agreed to pay $4.1 million to San Diego student Daniel Chong, who was abandoned in a windowless jail cell for four and a half days following a drug raid in 2012, and Chilean prosecutors exonerated the owners of a copper mine that collapsed in 2010, trapping 33 miners for 69 days. “I want to dig a deep hole,” said one miner, “and bury myself again.”[29][30]


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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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Moore’s wife published a letter of support signed by more than 50 pastors, and four of those pastors said they either had never seen the letter or had seen it before Moore was accused of sexual assault and asked to have their names removed.

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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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