Weekly Review — August 10, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Weighing the Soul, 1875]

Weighing the soul, 1875.

Finance experts warned that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the government agency that insures company pensions, could be forced into a situation similar to the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, which led to a $200 billion bailout, as a result of cascading pension defaults in the airline industry.New York TimesEconomic growth was slowing,Washington Postfewer jobs were being created, crude oil prices reached a record high of $44.41,New York Timesand the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped to a new low for 2004.Associated PressBerkshire Hathaway’s second quarter earnings were down 42 percent.ReutersThe Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the layoff rate during the first three years of the Bush Administration was 8.7 percent (11.4 million people lost their jobs), the worst layoff rate since the early 1980s.New York TimesIt was the 40th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which gave President Lyndon Johnson the authority to escalate the war in Vietnam; historians noted its similarity to the October 2002 congressional resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq, which was also based on falsehoods.NewsdayTom Ridge, the secretary of Homeland Security, “categorically” denied that the recent terror alerts, which were based on three- and four-year-old intelligence, were politically motivated.USA TodayRick James died, andVoice of AmericaGeorge W. Bush acknowledged that the war on terror has been “misnamed”; he said that it ought to be called “the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world.”Whitehouse.gov

Iraq’s new government reinstated capital punishment and issued an arrest warrant for Ahmad Chalabi on counterfeiting charges; Salem Chalabi, Ahmad’s nephew and the head of the special tribunal that will try Saddam Hussein for war crimes, was accused of murder.Associated PressPrime Minister Iyad Allawi signed an amnesty law for Iraqis who have committed minor crimes since the American occupation began, and he ordered the closure of the Baghdad office of Al-Jazeera for one month.CTV.caGrand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s preeminent Shiite cleric, was flown to London for treatment of a heart condition; there was talk of a power vacuum.GuardianSix Guantánamo Bay detainees boycotted military reviews of their cases.USA TodayJohn Kerry promised to significantly reduce the number of American troops in Iraq by the end of his first term as president.Washington PostA white elephant was seen in Sri Lanka.Nature.comBombs exploded in Karachi, Pakistan, and in Dhaka, Bangladesh, andAssociated Pressthere were at least 12 explosions in Baghdad on Saturday night.Associated PressMoktada al-Sadr defied the new Iraqi government and said he would continue to battle American forces: “the Mahdi Army and I will keep resisting. I will stay in holy Najaf and will never leave. I will stay here until my last drop of blood.”New York TimesA U.S. helicopter was shot down over Sadr City, Baghdad’s Shiite slum.New York TimesIsraeli officials were studying whether to use marijuana to treat soldiers suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder from keeping the Palestinians down.Agence France-PresseBritain banned toothy smiles from passport photos.Agence France-PresseTwo Nigerian policemen were shot and two were stabbed in a battle with wife swappers.ReutersMyanmar was cracking down on peacock poachers.Associated Press

The United States announced that it will insist that the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, which would ban countries from making enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear bombs, be stripped of any mechanism for enforcement, such as inspections. This position, which would render the treaty useless, apparently was reached because the Bush Administration does not wish to submit to inspections.New York Times“My most solemn duty as president,” said Bush, “is to protect our country.”MSNBCScientists said that alcohol makes your brain work better.TelegraphAutism was up in Maryland, andUndernewsProzac was found in Britain’s drinking water.ReutersThai police put a stop to orangutan boxing matches at Safari World, a zoo near Bangkok.Associated PressMissouri’s voters approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.ReutersSeveral Nigeriansorcerers were arrested after skulls, body parts, and 50 corpses were found in shrines belonging to a cult called Alusi Okija; the chief priest of the cult was not arrested, however, because he’s an old man and police didn’t want him to die in custody.Associated PressRussian researchers from the Voronezh State Technological Academy said they had perfected a method for using cow blood as a high-protein dairy replacement in foods such as yogurt.TelegraphBritish scientists discovered mad cow prions in a person who contracted the disease via blood transfusion and died of unrelated causes; they concluded, on the basis of the victim’s genotype, that about half the human population is susceptible to mad cow disease.Sunday Times, Washington PostLocusts were still plaguingMauritania.Agence France-PresseScientists found the reason why mouse mothers are so brave, andNew ScientistDutch lawmakers called for a ban on unsolicited toe licking.Newsday

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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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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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