Weekly Review — September 24, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Deadly terrorist attacks in Nairobi and Peshawar, House Republicans attempt to defund Obamacare, and a bookless library opens in San Antonio

An American Mastiff.

An American Mastiff.

In Nairobi, two groups of gunmen stormed the upscale Westgate shopping mall on Saturday and killed at least 62 people, then took some shoppers hostage and began a standoff with Kenyan security forces that continued into Monday night. The assailants, who were believed to belong to the Somali terrorist organization Al Shabab, reportedly told Muslims to flee while other shoppers hid in ventilation shafts and behind mannequins. The International Criminal Court excused Kenyan vice president William Ruto from his trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity so he could help resolve the hostage crisis, while Kenyan forces launched a rescue mission on Sunday night, with operations continuing through Monday amid government reports that 11 soldiers had been wounded, that the gunmen were a “multinational collection,” and that all hostages had been freed. “We have ashamed and defeated our attackers,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose nephew was among the dead. “Let us continue to wage a relentless moral war.”[1][2][3][4] A wing of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed 78 worshippers at a church in Peshawar, and the Pakistani government released one of the founders of the Afghan Taliban from prison.[5][6][7] Iran freed more than 90 political prisoners, announced that its sole Jewish parliamentarian would attend the United Nations General Assembly, and said that it was not pursuing a nuclear-weapons program. “We consider war a weakness,” said Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. “He will smile all the way to the bomb,” said Israel’s intelligence minister.[8][9][10][11] A Chinese court sentenced former Communist Party official Bo Xilai to life in prison for corruption and abuse of power. “I could suffer even greater miseries,” said Bo, who is expected to appeal the sentence. “I will wait quietly in the prison.”[12][13] A federal judge ordered the retrial of five former New Orleans police officers convicted of civil-rights violations related to the 2005 deaths of two black men after it was revealed that a prosecutor had commented anonymously about the case on a newspaper website, and a Texas appeals court overturned the conviction of former House majority leader Tom DeLay for illegally funneling money to Republican candidates. “This was an outrageous criminalization,” said DeLay, “of politics.”[14][15]

House Republicans passed a bill cutting $40 billion from the federal food-stamp program, passed another bill that would fund the U.S. government until December only if all spending for the Affordable Care Act were eliminated, and threatened to allow the country to begin defaulting on its debts when its borrowing authority runs out in mid-October. “If we don’t raise the debt ceiling,” said President Barack Obama, “America becomes a deadbeat.”[16][17][18] Citing the ongoing federal budget sequestration, a Brooklyn judge rejected a request to sequester the jury in a murder trial.[19] Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi announced that he would not relinquish his senate seat despite a conviction for tax fraud earlier this year and a police investigation into his alleged solicitation of underage prostitutes. “Berlusconi is on trial for living with women,” said Russian president Vladimir Putin. “If he were homosexual, nobody would dare touch him.”[20][21] Italian lawmakers staged a same-sex kiss-in during a parliamentary session, and Pope Francis said in an interview that the Catholic church’s pastoral ministry needed to soften its preaching about the evils of homosexuality and abortion. “The moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards,” said Francis, “losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”[22][23] Sweden’s National Food Agency confirmed that the anal secretions with which beavers mark their territory can be used as vanilla flavoring in baked goods.[24]

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Former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden claimed that terrorists prefer Gmail and defended the right of the United States to police the Internet. “We built it,” said Hayden. “It was quintessentially American.”[25] Brazilian hackers seeking to attack the NSA embedded the message “Stop spying on us” on several websites belonging to NASA.[26] Facebook apologized for permitting an online-dating site to run an ad featuring the photograph of a girl who committed suicide after she was gang-raped then taunted on Facebook, and Coca-Cola apologized to the family of an autistic girl after her sister discovered the words YOU RETARD printed under a bottle cap.[27][28] A bookless library opened in San Antonio, a former Amazon executive was killed by a van delivering Amazon orders, and Randolph County, North Carolina, banned Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man from its schools. “It was a hard read,” said board of education chairman Tommy McDonald.[29][30][31] A Florida man was arrested after he beat his daughter to the rhythm of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”[32] The French senate passed a bill banning child beauty pageants, in an attempt to combat the hypersexualization of minors, and Norwegian social anthropologists credited school-supervised “positive touching” with improving the sociability of young boys.[33][34] Several University of Alabama sororities accepted their first minority students after systematic segregation in the Greek system was revealed by the school’s student newspaper, the Crimson White.[35] Leith, North Dakota, was considering a plan to condemn the home of neo-Nazi Paul Craig Cobb in order to prevent him from building a white-supremacist colony in the town. “Legal paperwork is being drafted,” said a commander of the American National Socialist Movement, “to ensure the civil rights of Mr. Cobb.”[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.

— 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.

“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

Factor by which single Americans who use emoji are more likely than other single Americans to be sexually active:

1.85

Brontosaurus was restored as a genus, and cannibalism was reported in tyrannosaurine dinosaurs.

Moore said he did not “generally” date teenage girls, and it was reported that in the 1970s Moore had been banned from his local mall and YMCA for bothering teenage girls.

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How to Make Your Own AR-15

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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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