Weekly Review — April 22, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Boko Haram steps up its attacks in Nigeria, South Korea mourns a ferry disaster, and Gabriel García Márquez dies at 87

Saluting the Town (Weekly)In Nigeria, Boko Haram insurgents claimed responsibility for a bus-terminal bombing that killed 75 people on the outskirts of Abuja, and were believed to have killed 20 people, including a local monarch, and to have kidnapped at least 230 schoolgirls in the northeastern state of Borno. The Nigerian defense ministry announced that all but eight of the kidnapped girls, whom the government feared would be turned into cooks or sex slaves, had been returned to safety, then retracted the claim. “The issue of Boko Haram is temporary,” said President Goodluck Jonathan. “Remember,” said Boko Haram leader Abubekar Shekau to Jonathan in a video, “this is exactly the fifth year that you boasted you were going to finish with us.”[1][2][3][4][5][6] Russia, Ukraine, the European Union, and the United States struck an agreement in Geneva calling for pro-Russia militants to withdraw from towns in eastern Ukraine. The police chief of Horlivka was attacked and hospitalized after he threw from a 20-foot ledge a man attempting to replace the police station’s Ukrainian flag with the Russian flag. Militants assured residents of Slovyansk — where armed “green men,” shown by Ukraine to include a Russian operative, overtook the police station — that their missing mayor was safe. “She’s in a normal condition,” said a man who had declared himself the People’s Mayor. “It’s just that yesterday she had a small crisis. She is recovering from an operation. She doesn’t feel well. She signed a letter of resignation.”[7][8][9][10] A Russian Fencer fighter jet made 12 close-range passes over the USS Donald Cook navy destroyer in the Black Sea, and Russian president Vladimir Putin played a taped question from former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden during a town-hall meeting that was broadcast on Russian state television. “Does Russia intercept, store, or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals?” asked Snowden. “Our special services, thank god,” said Putin, “are strictly controlled by the society and by the law.”[11][12][13]

The ferry Sewol capsized while transporting 476 people, including 323 high school students, from Seoul to a South Korean resort island, killing at least 86 and leaving at least 220 missing. The ship’s captain was arrested after it emerged that he had not issued an evacuation order until 30 minutes after the ship had begun to tilt, by which time many passengers were likely already trapped. “Unforgivable, murderous behavior,” said South Korean president Park Geun-hye.[14][15][16] Two Pakistani brothers previously convicted for disinterring five bodies and eating them were arrested after the head of an infant was found in their home, and a woman in Pleasant Grove, Utah, confessed to depositing the corpses of seven of her infants, six of whom she’d suffocated after birth, in boxes in her garage.[17][18] Iraq closed Abu Ghraib prison for fear that it would be overrun by insurgents.[19] The New York Police Department closed a special investigative unit, formed after 9/11, that documented where Muslims prayed, worked, and shopped.[20] The Great Men Wax Museum of China admitted that it had agreed to a request from North Korea to increase the height of a wax figure of deceased Great Leader Kim Il-Sung by six inches, and the North Korean embassy in London urged British authorities to make a hair salon remove a poster mocking the pompadour of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un. “I don’t really see it catching on,” said the salon owner’s son.[21][22][23] At least 13 Nepalese Sherpas died in an avalanche over Mount Everest’s Khumbu Icefall.[24] Boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, whose 19-year wrongful imprisonment for murder was memorialized in a film and Bob Dylan song, died at age 76, and Colombian author and Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez died at age 87. “A thousand years of loneliness and sadness,” said Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos. “His work will safeguard his memory,” tweeted the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). “You’d be at a bordello,” said the journalist Francisco Goldman, “and the woman would have one book by her bed and it would be Gabo’s.”[25][26][27]

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After being convicted of tax fraud in Italy, 77-year-old former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced to a year of community service at a home for the elderly in Lombardy.[28] In its response to a customer complaint on Twitter, US Airways tweeted a link to a photograph of a model Boeing 777 inserted in a woman’s vagina.[29] A federal judge ordered Ohio to recognize the same-sex marriages of couples wed out of state, and India’s Supreme Court ordered state and federal governments to allow people to identify themselves as transgendered on official documents.[30][31] A policeman in Pulaski Township, Pennsylvania, revealed that he had spent much of the winter disguised as an Amish woman in an unsuccessful attempt to apprehend a flasher.[32] Residents of the Norwegian valley town of Rjukan, which spends six months of the year in darkness, were complaining about the $840,000 the municipality spent erecting mirrors to reflect sunlight onto the town square. “It’s just a flash in the pan,” said a retiree.[33] A missing toddler in Lincoln, Nebraska, was discovered inside a bowling-alley claw game filled with stuffed animals.[34] Cumberland County, New Jersey, was reported to have summoned a German Shepherd named IV Griner to jury duty.[35] A Texas man was sentenced to 18 months in jail for urinating on the Alamo, and Portland, Oregon, discarded nearly 38 million gallons of drinking water after surveillance cameras recorded 19-year-old Dallas Swonger peeing into a city reservoir. “During the summertime,” said Swonger, “I’ve seen hella dead animals in there.”[36][37] A man looking for an alligator along Florida’s Alligator Alley was bitten by a water moccasin.[38] While swimming off the Spanish island of Lanzarote, British prime minister David Cameron was stung by a jellyfish. “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” he said.[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.

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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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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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