Weekly Review — November 9, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi of Iraq declared martial law after twenty-two policemen were killed in one day; moments later a car bomb blew up in Baghdad near the home of the finance minister. A British contractor was killed in Basra, attacks on American soldiers continued, and three Iraqi translators were found dead in Tikrit.ReutersThe United States invaded Falluja for the second time in six months and conquered the city’s general hospital. Patients and doctors were tied up and an Iraqi soldier shot himself in the leg.New York TimesFour car bombs blew up in Samarra and three police stations were attacked nearby, a roadside bomb went off in Kufa, and a police car was bombed in Ramadi.New York TimesInsurgents disguised as policemen murdered a dozen Iraqi national guardsmen who were traveling to Najaf.New York TimesThree British soldiers were killed in a suicide bombing, and Doctors Without Borders announced that it will cease its operations in Iraq.New York TimesAmerican soldiers admitted to watching Iraqi looters haul off tons of explosives from the Al Qaqaa ammunition depot, andLos Angeles TimesAmerican intelligence agencies revised their estimate of the number of surface-to-air missiles that are at large worldwide; previously the number was thought to be 2,000 but now it seems that about 4,000 Iraqi missiles are missing, bringing the total to 6,000.New York TimesAn Air National Guard warplane fired its 20-millimeter cannon at an elementary school in Little Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey.New York TimesHungary announced that it will pull its forces out of Iraq, muchNew York Timesof Venice was flooded by a high tide, aNew York Timesplague of locusts descended on Cyprus, andReutersSenator John Kerry was narrowly defeated by President George W. Bush in an election that was marred by irregularities and unanswered questions about the integrity of electronic voting machines.Associated Press

Eleven states passed ballot initiatives banning gay marriage.New York TimesVoters in Montana approved the use of medical marijuana; they also approved a “right to hunt” amendment. Florida and Nevada raised the states’ minimum wage.New York TimesLines at Ohio polls were extremely long; one was estimated at 22 hours.New York TimesElection software in Onslow County, North Carolina, miscounted the votes for county commissioners.Jacksonville Daily NewsSome voting machines in Broward County, Florida, started counting backward once they reached 32,000.Palm Beach PostAn electronic voting machine in Ohio added 3,893 votes to President Bush’s tally in a district that had only 800 voters.New York TimesFour thousand five hundred and thirty early electronic votes in Carteret County, North Carolina, were lost.New Bern Sun JournalVotes were also lost in Palm Beach County, Florida, andBradenton Heraldin Tampa.St. Petersburg TimesJournalists were still trying to figure out why exit polls — which projected that John Kerry would win in Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Iowa — turned out to be completely wrong. “Exit polls are almost never wrong,” wrote Dick Morris. “Exit polls cannot be as wrong across the board as they were on election night. I suspect foul play.”The HillIt was noted that anomalous voting patterns in Florida (where a disproportionate number of Democrats apparently voted for George W. Bush) were all confined to counties where optical-scanning machines are used to read paper ballots. Such votes are tabulated by Windows-based PCs that are vulnerable to tampering.TruthoutA poll taken just before the election showed that 75 percent of Bush supporters still believe that Iraq either was a close ally of Al Qaeda or was directly involved in the September 11 attacks.New York TimesVoters in Dallas County, Texas, elected an openly gay Hispanic woman as sheriff.ReutersPresident Bush promised “to serve all Americans”:New York Times“Let me put it to you this way,” he said. “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.”New York Times

The Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, a group linked to Al Qaeda that claimed responsibility for the Madrid bombings in March, released a statement chastising Americans for reelecting President Bush. “The coming days will show you that the one you preferred will lead you to an unbearable hell,” the statement said. “The next days will show you that your support of the criminal will not bring you security and will not prevent the mujahedeen from hurting you where you are. The next days will prove this.”AustralianSenator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania suggested that judicial nominees who do not support Roe v. Wade might have a hard time getting confirmed and immediately came under attack from conservatives seeking to prevent him from becoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.New York TimesElizabeth Edwards, the wife of John Edwards, was diagnosed with breast cancer.New York TimesYasir Arafat was dying, apparently of liver failure, and Israeli politicians said that he would never be buried in Jerusalem; they suggested an overgrown cemetery in Khan Yunis that smells of dead fish.New York TimesAsked whether Arafat was brain dead, the French foreign minister said, “I wouldn’t say that.”Sydney Morning HeraldAbilio Soares, the last Indonesian governor of East Timor, was acquitted on appeal of crimes against humanity.Agence France-PresseSaskatchewan legalized gay marriage.New York TimesA giant Wal-Mart opened up within a mile of the pyramids at Teotihuacán, Mexico.New York TimesThe FDA announced that it will hire a scientific review agency to determine whether the nation’s drug safety system is working.New York TimesA six-year-old Florida girl took $1,000 worth of crack cocaine to school; her mother said she must have got it trick-or-treating.Associated PressPolice in Las Vegas were told to stop using Tasers on handcuffed prisoners.Associated PressTwo Episcopal priests in Pennsylvania were in trouble for also being Druid spiritual leaders; the husband-and-wife priests were known among the Druids as Raven and Oakwyse.Associated PressFarmers in India were reportedly spraying their cotton and chili fields with Coca-Cola because it’s cheaper than pesticides and kills pests just as effectively.AnanovaA Russiannuclear power plant was shut down because of what was called a “minor mishap.”New York TimesOfficials in Lithuania were looking for a radioactive $100 bill.ReutersCoyotes were spotted in Washington, D.C.CNN

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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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