Weekly Review — December 19, 2006, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Tempest, December 1878]

In Baghdad, at a gathering place for poor Shiite laborers, the owner of a truck filled with wheat announced that he was looking for workers. A crowd gathered around the truck and it exploded, killing 70 people and wounding 236.NYTIt was revealed that billions of dollars in Iraqi oil revenues had not been spent, and the head of Iraq’s Commission on Public Integrity was accused of graft.NYTOutgoing Representative Cynthia McKinney (D., Ga.) introduced a bill to impeach President George W. Bush for misleading Congress on the war in Iraq and implementing an illegal domestic spying program.Newsvine.comPresident Bush said that any new strategy for Iraq would have to wait until early next year.NYTDonald Rumsfeld gave a farewell speech in which he warned that the threat of terrorism is not gone. “Not once, in public or in private,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace about Rumsfeld, “did I ever hear this man try to shift responsibility to anyone else but himself.”MonstersandCritics.comThe Taliban established a “mini-state” in Peshawar.NYT

A study found that standard-sized condoms were too large for the men of India.SlateThe National Institutes of Health said that circumcision is an effective method to limit heterosexual transmission of HIV,MSNBCbut Kevin De Cock, HIV/AIDS director of the World Health Organization, warned that circumcision was “not a magic bullet.”BBCAn Oregon fraternity brother shot a homeless man who was collecting cans behind the frat house,local6.coma hunter in Wisconsin shot a seven-legged deer,Yahoo Newsand a Texas lawmaker introduced legislation that would allow the blind to participate in “the fun of hunting.”Reuters via YahooNewsThe Marine Corps ordered a sergeant to call off an online auction that gave the highest bidder the right to rename him; bids included “King Taco” and “Sgt. Finest Freshest Fastest.”NYTThe governor of Alaska announced she would sell a private jet that had been used for state business on eBay,Bloombergand federal investigators announced that airline pilots should follow procedures to make sure their airplanes take off on the right runway.NYTSeattle-Tacoma International Airport removed fourteen Christmas trees after a local rabbi threatened a lawsuit if officials did not add an eight-foot menorah to the arrangement,Seattle Timesand Iran held a conference to examine whether the Holocaust happened.AP via CBSPaul Barnes, a senior pastor at a 2,100-member evangelical megachurch in Colorado, stepped down after admitting to sexual relations with men, Denver Postand Dr. Tony Campolo, a Baptist minister and professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University in Pennsylvania, said that evangelicals had been “very, very mean to the gay and lesbian community.” NYTAn international war crimes court sentenced a Rwandan Roman Catholic priest to 15 years in prison for ordering his church crushed by bulldozers while 2,000 ethnic Tutsi remained inside,NYTand former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, who is said to have strangled Emperor Haile Selassie with his bare hands and buried him under a toilet, was convicted of genocide by an Ethiopian court.NYT

The pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly was found to have downplayed the health risks of Zyprexa, its best-selling medication for schizophrenia.NYTBritishgeneticists investigating the case of a 10-year-old Pakistani boy who could walk on burning coals announced that they had discovered a gene that influences the perception of pain. They could not examine the boy directly because he had died after leaping off a roof to impress his friends.NYTThe NBA decided to replace its new microfiber composite basketball with the previous leather version after players complained about the new ball’s grip and the way it hurt their skin. Ralph Nader, calling himself “an advocate for all workers, no matter their salary,” wrote a letter in support of the old ball.BreitbartLA TimesThe British police concluded that Princess Diana’s death was an accident,NYTand in response to the deaths of three anorexicmodels, the fashion industry held a forum that called for internal regulation. “We would much rather come up with a way of self-policing ourselves,” said one modeling agency chief, “than have regulations rammed down our throats.”NY PostLettuce, rather than green onions, was deemed responsible for the Taco Bell E. coli outbreak; however, suggested a health official, “it would be folly at this point to drop the cheese completely.”reutersMoses Hardy, who at 113 was the second oldest man in the world and the last surviving black U.S. veteran of World War I, died in Mississippi.local6.comPolice and firefighters on Long Island rescued a veteran who had walled himself in with a seven-foot-high pile of fecal matter and other debris,NYPostand Representative Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.) said President Bush was in “deep shit.”TPM CafĂ©The baiji, a species of blind white dolphin extant for 20 million years, was declared extinct,AP via NYTand two dolphins who had swallowed toxic plastic were saved by the world’s tallest man, who used his long arms to retrieve shards from their stomachs.BBC

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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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