Weekly Review — March 30, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism official who has criticized the Bush Administration for its poor efforts at fighting terrorism and its misguided invasion of Iraq, appeared before the commission investigating September 11 and apologized for the government’s and his own failure to prevent the attacks. President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice have all refused to testify publicly before the commission.ReutersBush Administration operatives were working very hard to discredit Clarke, and Condoleezza Rice agreed to speak with the 9/11 panel once again but not publicly and not under oath.ReutersRice did appear publicly on 60 Minutes and confirmed Clarke’s claim, originally denied by the White House, that on September 12, 2001, President Bush ordered Clarke to focus on possible Iraqi involvement in the 9/11 attacks, which the CIA had already concluded were carried out by Al Qaeda.New York TimesDefense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, speaking of Pakistan’snuclear-weapons trafficking, said, “I do not believe that there’s any evidence or any suggestion that President Musharraf was involved.” Musharraf, for his part, denied that he had made a deal with the Americans to crack down on Al Qaeda in return for lenient treatment for selling nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya, Iran, and others; he also denied that his country’s proliferation had done much harm. “If I hand over a missile or a bomb to any extremist, believe me, he can do nothing about it,” Musharraf said. “He cannot explode it.”ReutersIndia defeated Pakistan in a cricket tournament.ReutersUkraine’s minister of defense announced that quite a few missiles that were supposed to have been decommissioned after the fall of the Soviet Union were in fact lost. “Unfortunately strange things happen,” he said. “We are currently looking for several hundred missiles.”BBCThe Transportation Security Administration searched an American Airlines flight to Dallas after a psychic called in a warning that a bomb might be aboard the plane.Associated PressPeople all over the world were astonished when President Bush, during a speech, showed a slide of himself looking under his desk and then joked: “Those weapons of mass destruction got to be here somewhere.”Herald SunGeneticists suggested that a mutation that weakened the jaw muscles of early humans 2.4 million years ago might have enabled the skull to grow larger to provide more space for the brain.ReutersVampire bats attacked 20 people in Mansiche, Peru.Herald Sun

Forty-nine retired U.S. generals and admirals signed a letter begging President Bush to delay spending billions of dollars on his untested and unnecessary missile defense shield and to spend the money instead to protect likely targets of terrorism such as U.S. ports and nuclear-weapons depots.ReutersThe Caribbean Community refused to recognize the new U.S.-backed government in Haiti because of questions about the circumstances under which Jean-Bertrand Aristide left office; the 15-nation group called for the United Nations to investigate Aristide’s charges that he was abducted by the United States and forced to leave Haiti.Associated PressGrand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani warned the United Nations not to endorse the interim Iraqi constitution; the ayatollahNew York Timeswas also said to be considering a fatwa declaring the new government illegitimate and condemning all Iraqis who take part in it.New York TimesPoor people in Venezuela were said to be eatingflamingos.CNNPolitical violence continued in Kosovo, Gaza,New York TimesIvory Coast,New York TimesIraq, Sudan, Pakistan, Taiwan, Afghanistan,New York TimesThailand, andNew York TimesSyria;New York Timesthere was unrest in Haiti, where armed gangs continued to terrorize the people;New York Timesin Congo, where the government put down a coup attempt;Guardianand in France, where firefighters battled police during a strike over retirement benefits. The firefighters threw garbage cans, firecrackers, and smoke bombs; the police fired tear gas.New York TimesIsrael’s state prosecutor recommended that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon be indicted for taking bribes from a real-estate developer and submitted a draft indictment to the attorney general.ReutersPolice no longer need search warrants in Louisiana, an appeals court said, though the judgment was supposedly limited to “brief searches”; two dissenting judges denounced the ruling as the “road to Hell.”New Orleans ChannelAn elementary school in Oklahoma City suspended 125 of its 136 sixth graders for raising hell during lunch.New York Times

British researchers found that strange murders have increased in recent decades and that, contrary to expectations, the murders are not being committed by crazy people; most strange homicides, it was discovered, are committed by young men on drugs.British Medical JournalIt was found that health-carelobbyists spent $237 million lobbying Congress in 2000, more than every other industry combined; drug companies spent $96 million, quite a bit more than other medical sectors.Case Western Reserve UniversityThe European Union fined Microsoft $613 million for abusing its “near monopoly” on personal computers.Washington PostAstrophysicists suggested that a highway of dark matter ripped from the dwarf galaxy Sagittarius, which is being consumed by the Milky Way, is streaming right through Earth.Science DailyA lamb was born in Hebron with “Allah” spelled out in Arabic on its flank; the lamb’s owner said the animal was born on the day Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was assassinated. Some people claimed they could see the word “Muhammad” spelled out on the lamb’s other side.BBCPeople in Angola were beating and torturing their own children because they believe them to be sorcerers.Chicago TribuneFederal regulators issued a warning that antidepressant medication can drive some patients to suicide, and theNew York TimesArmy confirmed that the suicide rate has been higher among soldiers stationed in Iraq.New York TimesThe FDA approved a quick saliva test for HIV, and researchersNew York Timesannounced that circumcised men are six to eight times less likely to contract the virus.ReutersThe Senate passed a bill making it a crime to harm a fetus while committing a violent crime.Associated PressA new study found that buckyballs can cause brain damage in fish, and sexAmerican Chemical Societyresearchers found that impotent men for whom Viagra failed to work were severely distressed.British Medical JournalBenton County, Oregon, decided to stop issuing marriage licenses to heterosexuals.New York Times

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Progress is impossible without change,” George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1944, “and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” But progress through persuasion has never seemed harder to achieve. Political segregation has made many Americans inaccessible, even unimaginable, to those on the other side of the partisan divide. On the rare occasions when we do come face-to-face, it is not clear what we could say to change each other’s minds or reach a worthwhile compromise. Psychological research has shown that humans often fail to process facts that conflict with our preexisting worldviews. The stakes are simply too high: our self-worth and identity are entangled with our beliefs — and with those who share them. The weakness of logic as a tool of persuasion, combined with the urgency of the political moment, can be paralyzing.

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On a balmy day last spring, Connor Chase sat on a red couch in the waiting room of a medical clinic in Columbus, Ohio, and watched the traffic on the street. His bleached-blond hair fell into his eyes as he scrolled through his phone to distract himself. Waiting to see Mimi Rivard, a nurse practitioner, was making Chase nervous: it would be the first time he would tell a medical professional that he was transgender.

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In the summer of 2016, when Congress installed a financial control board to address Puerto Rico’s crippling debt, I traveled to San Juan, the capital. The island owed some $120 billion, and Wall Street was demanding action. On the news, President Obama announced his appointments to the Junta de Supervisión y Administración Financiera. “The task ahead for Puerto Rico is not an easy one,” he said. “But I am confident Puerto Rico is up to the challenge of stabilizing the fiscal situation, restoring growth, and building a better future for all Puerto Ricans.” Among locals, however, the control board was widely viewed as a transparent effort to satisfy mainland creditors — just the latest tool of colonialist plundering that went back generations.

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In 1899, the art critic Layton Crippen complained in the New York Times that private donors and committees had been permitted to run amok, erecting all across the city a large number of “painfully ugly monuments.” The very worst statues had been dumped in Central Park. “The sculptures go as far toward spoiling the Park as it is possible to spoil it,” he wrote. Even worse, he lamented, no organization had “power of removal” to correct the damage that was being done.

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After losing their savings in the stock market crash of 2008, seniors Barb and Chuck find seasonal employment at Amazon fulfillment centers.

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A gay penguin couple in China’s Polar Land zoo were ostracized by other penguins and then placed in a separate enclosure after they made repeated attempts to steal the eggs of straight penguin couples and replace them with stones.

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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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