Weekly Review — May 27, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

President George W. Bush gave a radio address for Memorial Day weekend, invoking the sacrifice of 4,071 U.S. soldiers in Iraq and 432 in Afghanistan. Later, for the last time in his capacity as President, he placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.APBloomberg.comTen thousand Iraqi troops met little resistance as they took control of Mahdi Army-controlled Sadr City under the terms of a cease-fire agreement.Oil rose above $130 a barrel,APand Barack Obama won the Democratic primary in Oregon, while Hillary Clinton won in Kentucky.CNNPolitics.comClinton insisted that her candidacy was still viable. “My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right?” she offered. “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”The New York PostObama gave the commencement address at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. “You know that feeling when you’re so excited you have to pee?” asked Lola Pellegrino, ’08. “I’m feeling that. In my heart.” Obama, who spoke in place of Senator Ted Kennedy after Kennedy was diagnosed with a likely fatal malignant brain tumor, called for a “generation of volunteers to work on renewable energy projects.” Twenty-five thousand people attended. “I can’t imagine anyone that the Wesleyan student body would possibly be more excited about,” said Sarah Lonning, ’06. “Maybe Gandhi, if he weren’t dead.”The PrereqBloomberg.comIn Afghanistan, at Chaghcharan Airfield in Ghor, two civilians and a Lithuanian soldier were killed in protests over the shooting of a Koran in Iraq,.CNN.comand Lebanese factions met in Qatar and gave Hezbollah veto power in Lebanon’s new national unity cabinet. It was, said a U.S. State Department representative, “really a welcome development.”BBC News

Aftershocks in the wake of the Great Sichuan Earthquake toppled thousands of buildings. At least 80,000 people were thought to be dead from the quake, up to 11 million people were homeless, and 69 dams were at risk.The New York TimesThe International Herald TribuneCBCNews.caThe Myanmar junta, under U.N. pressure, agreed that all international aid workers could enter the country, where Cyclone Nargis had left an estimated 130,000 people dead or missing.Bloomberg.comIn parts of Chile five months of rain fell in eight hours, displacing 15,000 people and killing five,BBC Newsand a 34-year-old farmer in Kumamoto, Japan, killed himself by ingesting the agricultural chemical chloropicrin. Hospitalized before dying, he injured 54 people by vomiting toxic chlorine gas.Mainichi Daily NewsThe Phoenix spacecraft landed on Mars, where it will search for life.The Washington PostArgentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela formed Unasur, the Union of South American Nations; Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared the American empire Unasur’s “number one enemy.”BBC NewsDick Martin, co-host of Laugh In, died at 86,The New York Timesand Charles Booth, the man who invented the starting block, died at 104.The Daily TelegraphNew Hampshire banned resomation, a process that liquefies bodies,WMUR 9and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, concerned about the risk of terrorist activity at the upcoming Twin Cities Republican National Convention, was recruiting spies to infiltrate vegan potluck dinners.City Pages

A press conference by Garry Kasparov was interrupted by a helicopter-dildo,ninemsn.comand the fourth human foot since August washed ashore in British Columbia. “All we got is,” said a corporal, “it’s a foot in a shoe.”The ProvinceU.S. colleges were unsure of what to do with students who write dark or disturbing fiction, fearing that such fiction could be a sign of impending mass murder. Steven Barber, a Navy veteran of the Iraq war and student at the University of Virginia at Wise, was scrutinized after writing a story about the murder of a man resembling his English instructor, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s son Christopher. A subsequent search of Barber’s car found three guns, two of them loaded; Barber was expelled, then reinstated, offering that he would now write about “butterflies and rainbows.” “How long would Edgar Allan Poe,” wondered a vice chancellor, “who attended the University of Virginia, have lasted?”The Wall Street JournalGough, an island in the South Pacific, was overrun by gangs of gigantic mice that attack and eat baby albatrosses; bird conservation groups planned to airdrop tons of poison onto the island.The TelegraphThe 640 percent increase in the cost of scrap metal since 2001 had led to a nationwide epidemic of manhole-cover thefts,Newsweekand the United Nations, responding to food riots in 30 countries, said that the number of chronically hungry people in the world was expected to rise 100 million to 950 million. Japan released 20,000 tons of its 1.5-million-ton rice stockpile for sale to Africa.The Washington PostThe Daily StarAFPFertilizer-company representatives, flush from last year’s 300 percent increase in the price of potash, gathered in Vienna at the orangery of a Hapsburg palace, where they were heralded by trumpeters in green robes. “For the last 35 years, nobody noticed,” said one fertilizer executive. “I’ve waited my whole career for this.”Financial Post

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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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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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