Weekly Review — October 5, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Storks.]

Thai health officials confirmed that avian flu has probably begun to spread from person to person. Influenza experts were begging drug companies to begin manufacturing enough vaccine to prevent a pandemic but the companies were complaining that production is too expensive and that they will lose money if a pandemic does not occur. Patent issues were also cited.New York TimesEmory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, began notifying more than 500 patients that they might have been exposed to sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakobdisease because of inadequate sterilization procedures.Associated PressTony Blair underwent heart surgery, andNew York TimesMerck & Co. withdrew its arthritis drug Vioxx because it apparently doubles the risk of heart attack.New ScientistThe Pope beatified Karl I, the last emperor of Austria, an alcoholicadulterer who performed a miracle and used poison gas during World War I; the miracle allegedly occured in 1960, when a Polish nun prayed to Karl and was cured of sores and varicose veins.TelegraphA Muslim schoolgirl in France shaved her head to protest the ban on Islamic head scarves, and eightReutersstudents in Georgia were poisoned by a cookie.New York TimesTwenty-six people were killed by separatist bombs in the Indian state of Nagaland.Reuters

Senator John Kerry defeated President George W. Bush in their first debate. Bush was criticized by experts for giving simplistic answers, smirking, slouching, and repeating himself. He said eleven times that his job is “hard work,” and referring to Missy Johnson, whose husband was killed in Iraq, the president said that “it’s hard work to try to love her as best I can.”New York TimesSquirrel season opened in Louisiana.New York TimesIn Baghdad, suicide bombs killed dozens of children who were gathering to receive candy from U.S. soldiers.BBCIraqischoolchildren were still waiting to start school, which has remained closed because of the ongoing civil war.New York TimesCondoleezza Rice was still trying to use the discredited story of Iraq’saluminum tubes to justify the invasion of Iraq.New York TimesThe oxygen generator failed on the international space station, and theCBSArmylowered its standards in an attempt to attract more recruits.New York TimesElection officials across the country were reporting record numbers of new registrations, and Republican state officials in Ohio and Florida were doing their best to invalidate them on technicalities.New York TimesA federal judge ordered the government to notify Indian land owners before it sells their property; the ruling was part of a lawsuit in which Indians claim that the U.S. government has cheated them out of $137 billion in royalties from the use of their lands.New York TimesFistfights broke out among Christians from different sects at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which is said to be the site of Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified, and the site of his tomb. “There was a lot of hitting going on,” said a witness. “Police were hit, monks were hit, there were people with bloodied faces.”GuardianThere was more rioting in Haiti.Associated PressA suicide bomber killed 23 people at a Shiite mosque in Sialkot, Pakistan.New York TimesScientists were waiting for Mount St. Helens to blow up.Seattle Times

A federal judge struck down a provision of the USA Patriot Act that permitted the FBI to carry out secret searches of Internet and telephone records but prevented companies from revealing that the searches had taken place. John Ashcroft said that the act is “completely consistent with the United States Constitution.”Associated Press The FBI was having a hard time translating all its intercepted terrorism-related wiretap conversations.New York TimesA new homeland security blimp was seen flying around in Washington, D.C., and the House of Representatives voted to overturn Washington’s 27-year-old ban on handguns.New York TimesResearchers were trying to make buckyballs, the carbon nanoparticles that kill water fleas and damage fish brains, safer.New ScientistChinese researchers unveiled a microscopic swimming robot.New ScientistCases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were on the rise.ReutersSpain’s cabinet approved a measure legalizing gaymarriage.New York TimesRichard Avedon died.New York TimesA new study suggested that vitamin supplements could increase the risk of dying from cancer.GuardianRussia’s cabinet approved the Kyoto Protocol, andNew York TimesRepresentative Tom DeLay was “admonished” by the House ethics committee for trying to bribe a colleague to change his vote on a bill.New York TimesUNICEF warned that sex slavery is booming in south Asia, and aReuterspenis snatcher was beaten to death in Nigeria.iAfrica

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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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