Weekly Review — July 31, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: The Cloaca Maxima, 1872]

The Cloaca Maxima, 1872

Iraqis took to the streets after the national soccer team beat Saudi Arabia 1?0 in the Asian Cup championship. At least four people were killed by “happy fire” in the midst of what were reported to be the largest spontaneous celebrations in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. “Sport brings us together while the heads of everything in Baghdad can’t bring us together for five years,” said one reveler. “If the Iraqi football team ruled us, peace would spread in our home.” Each member of the Lions of the Two Rivers will receive $10,000 from the government, but a decision about whether to allot players their own 400-square-meter plots of land has been put off until September.New York TimesNew York TimesReuters via Yahoo! NewsRussian President Vladimir Putin accused Britain of “colonial thinking” for demanding the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, who is suspected of murdering former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko,Telegraphand Bulgarian medics who allegedly infected 426 Libyan children with HIV were pardoned and released by their home government. AP via Yahoo! NewsSerbians awaiting a U.N. Security Council decision on Kosovar independence told reporters they no longer cared whether Serbia retained the disputed province. “Kosovo means absolutely nothing to me; I have never been there and I never will go there,” said 38-year-old anthropologist Jelena Simovic. “I am fed up with Kosovo. I just want to live normally.”AP via International Herald TribuneA spokesman said that special international envoy Tony Blair would spend his first official trip to Israel, dubbed “Mission Impossible,” in “listening mode,”Reuters via Yahoo! Newsand an Israeli study concluding that hummus stimulates serotonin production bolstered sentiment that eating the popular chickpea dip could help Israelis and Palestinians reconcile.Christian Science Monitor

YouTube and CNN co-hosted a debate for the Democratic presidential candidates at The Citadel in South Carolina. After a YouTuber asked the candidates to say something they liked and something they disliked about the candidate to their left, John Edwards said that he approved of Hillary Clinton’s record of national service, but perhaps not her salmon-colored jacket. Additional questions came from a Viking, a five-year-old, a snowman, and a man in a chicken costume.CNNPresidential hopeful Mitt Romney described Hillary Clinton’s economic plan as “out with Adam Smith and in with Karl Marx”Associated Pressand letters written by Senator Clinton during her undergraduate years at Wellesley College were made public. One described her childhood sense of being the only person in the universe. “I’d play out in the patch of sunlight that broke the density of the elms in front of our house,” wrote the 19-year-old Clinton, “and pretend there were heavenly movie cameras watching my every move.”New York TimesA Washington, D.C.,newspaper ranked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi number four on a list of the “50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill.” Other honorees included congressional aides, a Washington Redskins cheerleader, and a police officer.The HillDick Cheney’s biographer revealed that the vice president once considered his future post a “cruddy job.”Reuters via Yahoo! News

President George W. Bush delivered a speech intended as a “surge of facts” to refute claims that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is not connected to Osama bin Laden,New York Timesand Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified that no one in the Bush Administration had voiced objections to the NSA’s wiretapping program. FBI director Robert Mueller testified that the surveillance program was “much discussed” by other officials, and Senate Judiciary chair Patrick Leahy of Vermont sent Mr. Gonzales a transcript of his testimony and asked him to “mark any changes you wish to make to correct, clarify or supplement your answers so that, consistent with your oath, they are the whole truth.”New York TimesThe publisher of Weekly World News announced that the publication would end its 28-year print run next month, Reuters via Yahoo! Newsand a men-versus-machinepoker match showed humans to be the superior bluffers.New York TimesLaw-enforcement agents issued decks of playing cards featuring missing-persons cases to Florida convicts,AP via Yahoo! Newsa prisoner in Ft. Lauderdale was convicted of indecent exposure for masturbating in his cell,The Smoking Gunand Wisconsin inmates brawled over Woody Allen’s marriage to Sun Yi Previn.Milwaukee Journal SentinelIngmar Bergmandied.The New York TimesTwo Wisconsinites who had locked a seven-year-old boy in his room while they watched a Green Bay Packers game were each sentenced to several months in jail. The couple claimed to have left the boy peanut butter and jelly, bread, and a bucket for a toilet. “What do you do?” the defense attorney asked the judge. “Maybe this coming football season,” he continued, “lock them in a room with a bucket and make them watch Bears games.”AP via Yahoo! NewsA blonde woman wearing only stilettos and a gold bracelet bought a pack of cigarettes at a German gas station before climbing back into the passenger seat of a waiting Ferrari.Reuters via Yahoo! NewsA 70-year-old British grandmother was convicted in the honor killing of her son’s estranged wife,Reuters via Yahoo! Newsand a Rhode Island cat was reported to have received a wall plaque for his “compassionate hospice care” in predicting the deaths of two dozen residents of a nursing home. According to staff members, when Oscar curls up next to someone, that patient has less than four hours to live.AP via Yahoo! NewsIndonesian lawmakers discussed implanting microchip tracking devices in HIV patients,Breitbartand scientists said that obesity can spread like a virus among friends.New York TimesFast-growing supermassive black holes fed like piranhas on cosmic gases,Space.com via Yahoo! Newsa panel found that NASA had allowed astronauts to fly drunk,BBC Newsand a crew member at the International Space Station tossed half a ton of garbage into orbit. “Jettison!” cried the astronaut. “Our spaceship earth is a beautiful place.”AP via Yahoo! News

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In the early Eighties, Andy King, the coach of the Seawolves, a swim club in Danville, California, instructed Debra Denithorne, aged twelve, to do doubles — to practice in the morning and the afternoon. King told Denithorne’s parents that he saw in her the potential to receive a college scholarship, and even to compete in the Olympics. Tall swimmers have an advantage in the water, and by the time Denithorne turned thirteen, she was five foot eight. She dropped soccer and a religious group to spend more time at the pool.

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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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"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

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