Weekly Review — May 11, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Lost Souls in Hell, 1875]

Lost Souls in Hell, 1875.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld apologized for the torture of Iraqi prisoners and said that there are “many more photographs and indeed some videos” of American soldiers engaging in “blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman” behavior; Rumsfeld took “full responsibility” for the abuse but still refused to resign. “It’s going to get a good deal more terrible, I’m afraid.” Specialist Sabrina Harman, who faces court martial because of her role in the torture, said in an email that she never even saw a copy of the Geneva Conventions until recently. “I read the entire thing,” she said, “highlighting everything the prison is in violation of. There’s a lot.” Harman said her job was to “soften up” prisoners for interrogation.TelegraphAmerican soldiers allegedly put a harness on an elderly Iraqi woman and rode her like a donkey.NewsdayNew charges included rape, murder, and child molestation.Intelwire“The system works,” Rumsfeld told the Senate.GuardianPresident Bush, who authorized his staff to leak the fact that he had privately rebuked Donald Rumsfeld for failing to tell him about the torture photographs, apologized on Arab television; British Prime Minister Tony Blair also apologized, though there were questions about the authenticity of the British images.New York Times, Agence France-PressePresident Bush continued to maintain that the Abu Ghraib torturers were un-American, but human-rights advocates pointed out that similar abuse takes place in U.S. prisons all the time, especially in Texas.New York TimesThe Council on American-Islamic Relations reported that anti-Muslim bias incidents are up 70 percent, and aNew York Timesnew Justice Department report warned that Al Qaeda is recruiting supporters in American prisons.New York TimesSomeone desecrated the grave of James Byrd Jr., the black man who was dragged to death behind a pickup in Texas, for the second time.New York TimesIt was reported that CACI International, the company that employs one of the accused Abu Ghraib torturers, also sells the Bush Administration ethics training tapes.IntelwireDon Rumsfeld is the best secretary of defense the United States has ever had,” said Vice President Dick Cheney. “People ought to let him do his job.”New York Times

The Bush Administration was trying to persuade European and other leaders to support Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, even though Sharon’s own Likud Party rejected it.New York TimesSudan, where government-sponsored Arab militias called Janjaweed have been slaughtering black farmers, was elected to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights over the objections of the United States. One Sudanese diplomat scoffed at the U.S. objection and pointed to the American atrocities in Iraq.New York TimesU.S. officials postponed the release of this year’s international human-rights report because the timing was somewhat embarrassing.New York TimesEthnic violence continued in Nigeria between the Taroks and Fulanis.ReutersThe prime minister of Nepal resigned after weeks of violent street protests against the king.New York TimesPresident Akhmad Kadyrov of Chechnya was killed along with a dozen more officials in a bomb attack at Dynamo stadium in Grozny, where a celebration of the defeat of Nazi Germany was under way.CNNRussian legislators hired a Siberian shaman to purge the parliament building of “negative energy.”AnanovaSheikh Abdul-Sattar al-Bahadli, an aide to Moktada al-Sadr, offered rewards for the capture or killing of British soldiers; he said that female soldiers could be kept as slaves.GuardianAlabama police were chasing a gang of cross-dressing car thieves, andNew York TimesAl Gore and a group of investors bought a cable television news channel they plan to market to young people.New York TimesChile legalized divorce.Associated Press

A German ornithologist discovered that urban nightingales, forced to compete with noise pollution, can sing so loud they break the law. The loudest recorded was 95 decibels, which is as loud as a chainsaw.New ScientistBrazilians were worried that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva drinks too much.New York TimesThe Congressional Research Service said that Bush Administration officials broke the law when they ordered the Medicare actuary to withhold information on the true cost of the new Medicare law from Congress.New York TimesA new federal building was dedicated in Oklahoma City.New York TimesOsama bin Laden offered a reward of 10,000 grams of gold for the head of L. Paul Bremer, and atAssociated Pressleast ten people died in a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in Karachi, Pakistan.Agence France-PresseBrooklyn police arrested a forty-three-year-old armless man for raping and beating one of his fellow nursing-home inmates.NY1Haitian farmers have been reduced to eating the seed that they should be planting, a German aid agency said; otherNews24.comHaitians were eating biscuits made out of butter, salt, water, and dirt.New York TimesFifteen Chinese warehouse workers were crushed to death by an avalanche of garlic.BBCWorld grain carryover stocks were at a 30-year low, it was reported, well below the 70-day consumption level that is considered the minimum for basic food security.Earth Policy InstituteThe Pentagon was thinking about setting up a new office to plan postwar operations for future wars, and theNew York TimesSelective Service System proposed requiring women to register for the draft.Seattle Post-IntelligencerThe Walt Disney Companyrefused to distribute a new Miramax documentary by Michael Moore called Fahrenheit 911, which is highly critical of President Bush.New York TimesAfrican clawed frogs were invading San Francisco.Associated PressIt was discovered that Paroxetine, an antidepressant, helps relieve irritable-bowel syndrome, and a University of Pittsburgh Medical Centernew study found that Americans get substandard medical care most of the time, despite the fact that they spend about $1.4 trillion a year for it.New York TimesMarijuana use was up in the United States.New ScientistChinese researchers found evidence that SARS is spread by sweat, andNew Scientistscientists announced that women with large breasts and narrow waists are especially fertile.New Scientist

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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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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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