Weekly Review — July 1, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The U.S. Supreme Court weakens the ACA’s contraception mandate; ISIL attempts to legitimize its territorial gains in the Middle East; and Facebook gives you feelings 

Babylonian LionIn a 5–4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act contravenes the religious freedom of “closely held” businesses like Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City–based arts-and-crafts retailer that had contested the law’s requirement that it provide female employees with insurance that covers such contraceptives as Ella, Plan B, and intrauterine devices. “Suppose an employer’s sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent, “or according women equal pay for substantially similar work.”[1][2][3] In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers must usually obtain court-issued warrants before searching the cell phones of persons they arrest. The ruling vacated the convictions of two men, David Riley and Brima Wurie, whose cell-phone data had provided police in San Diego and Boston, respectively, with evidence of crimes other than those for which the suspects were being detained. “Once an officer has secured a phone and eliminated any potential physical threats,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts, “data on the phone can endanger no one.”[4][5][6] Acting under court order, the Justice Department released a heavily redacted version of the memo that provided the U.S. government with legal justification for the 2011 killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, in a drone strike in Yemen. “I think even the groups that sharply criticized us would call this a win for transparency,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “The public still knows scandalously little about who the government is killing and why,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Jameel Jaffer.[7][8][9] Department of Veterans Affairs appointment scheduler Pauline DeWenter disclosed that a VA facility in Phoenix had excised from medical records confirmations of the deaths of seven veterans who had died while awaiting care. “If you don’t do this my way,” DeWenter recalled being told by her supervisor, “I will personally buy you a pass for the 7th Street bus out of the VA.”[10][11] A line in a full-page New York Times ad offering $300 and free lunch to 1,000 homeless people at a restaurant in Central Park turned out to have been a translator’s error.[12][13]

A plane carrying the Spanish national soccer team home following its first-round defeat in the World Cup was struck by lightning.[14] Colombian midfielder James Rodríguez became the tournament’s leading scorer, with five, after scoring two goals to defeat Uruguay, and star Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez was suspended for nine games after biting an Italian player on the neck in the first round, earning payouts for 39 gamblers on the bookmaking site Betsafe, at odds of 174:1.[15][16][17] Veterinarian Carlos Valderrama was found to have castrated a wild descendant of African hippopotamuses purchased by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar for his personal zoo during the 1980s.[18] In a nationwide sting, the FBI arrested 281 alleged pimps and took into protective custody 168 children who had been trafficked.[19] Militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) declared the establishment of an Islamic caliphate near the Iraq–Syria border, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at its head.[20] The Sudanese government reconstituted the janjaweed, the militia accused of fomenting genocide in Darfur, and set free a woman who had been sentenced to death for being a Christian and had given birth in prison while shackled.[21][22] The U.S.-based Fund For Peace placed Sudan atop its 2014 Fragile States Index; ranked last was Finland, where the Helsinki Airport announced plans for a clothing-optional unisex sauna.[23][24]

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Facebook acknowledged that its data scientists had manipulated the newsfeeds of 689,003 users in order to study how social factors influence mood, and had concluded that people respond positively to positive emotion displayed by their friends. “[This] stands in contrast to theories that suggest viewing positive posts,” said the study, “affect[s] us negatively.”[25] An inquiry into the death of a zoo ostrich in La Teste-de-Buch, France, concluded that the bird had been killed not by a pony, as a zookeeper had claimed, but by the zookeeper himself.[26] In Alaska, a 180-pound black bear fell through a skylight into a private home during a child’s birthday party, ate several cupcakes, went to a different house, and was killed by police. “It was up by the window,” said the child’s mother, “like, ‘I want more cupcakes.’ ”[27][28] Boko Haram gunmen were fleeing snake and bee attacks on their hideouts in the Sambisa Forest of northeastern Nigeria.[29] The Bristol Zoo treated a 32-year-old tortoise for sinusitis.[30] At Dartmoor Prison in Devon, England, inmates who had climbed onto the roof were offered sunscreen by staff. “It’s only going to encourage other inmates to get on the roofs and expect sun cream,” said a correctional-workers union official, “and possibly cold drinks and ice creams as well.”[31] The British Fertility Society warned of a shortage of sperm.[32] In Sydney, two British–Australian dual citizens became the first men to wed in a British consulate, then returned to Australian jurisdiction, where same-sex marriage is not recognized.[33] Astronomers confirmed the existence of a diamond as massive as the sun.[34]


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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.

“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

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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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"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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