Weekly Review — July 8, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Storks, 1864]

Colombian military commandos infiltrated a settlement operated by the guerilla group FARC and freed 15 hostages, among them three U.S. contractors and the Colombian-French politician Ingrid Betancourt. President George W. Bush called Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to congratulate him. “What a joyous occasion it must be to know that the plan had worked,” said Bush. “That people who were unjustly held were now free to be with their families.”WhiteHouse.govA federal appeals court ruled that evidence against Hozaifa Parhat, a ChineseMuslim held at Guantanamo Bay for six years, consisted of nothing more than the reassertion of his guilt in three top-secret documents. “Lewis Carroll notwithstanding,” wrote one judge, quoting “The Hunting of the Snark,” “the fact the government has ‘said it thrice’ does not make the allegation true.”CNN.comFormer inmates of Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison were suing contractors in four American states for subjecting them to electrical shocks, mock executions, and forced nudity, and the Iraqi government announced that the United States had agreed to strip private security contractors of their legal immunity, though the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad refused to confirm the statement.BreitbartBBCnews.comA survey found that Americans feared terrorist attacks less than at any point since September 11, 2001,CNN.comand President Bush removed Nelson Mandela from the terrorism watchlist.BBCnews.comA poll revealed that a third of Welsh college students believe that a flirtatious or drunk woman is to blame for being raped, and a survey of the National Assembly for Wales found that 3 of the 8 legislators who responded had been raped but had not reported the crime.BBCnews.comIn Australia, where inflation is at a 16-year-high, Treasury Secretary Ken Henry left his post to look after 115 endangered hairy-nosed wombats for five weeks. “I think,” said an opposition politician, “we all love the hairy-nosed wombat.” BBCnews.com

Bozo the Clown and Jesse Helms died, and the new waxwork Hitler at the Berlin Madame Tussauds museum was beheaded.CNN.comBBCNews.comBBCnews.comFifteen boys were killed and 90 hospitalized in Eastern Cape, South Africa, due to botched circumcisions,BBCnews.comOttawa firefighters sprayed children with E. coli-contaminated water to celebrate Canada Day,CBCNews.caand a Dublin, Ohio, man was arrested again for using Saran Wrap to collect and drink little boys’ urine.10TV NewsGoogle co-founder Sergey Brin explained that he had decided to raise his company’s on-site daycare fee to $57,000 a year because he was tired of employees who felt entitled to free “bottled water and M&Ms” (although a spokesman denied that he had said this),NYTimes.comand a judge ruled that Google subsidiary YouTube must provide Viacom, which is suing over copyright claims, with details of the viewing habits of everyone who has logged in and watched a video.BBCNews.comPsychologist Himanshu Tyagi claimed that children raised to use online social networking sites will “put less value on their real world identities” and may be in danger of “impulsive behaviour or even suicide.”BBCnews.comBritishstudies warned that eating junk food during pregnancy might cause lasting damage to the child, and that eating too much tofu could lead to dementia.BBCnews.comBBCnews.comResearchers at Texas A&M’s Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center found that watermelons have a “Viagra-like effect,” but a researcher in Oklahama pointed out that this benefit may be offset by the melon’s diuretic properties.Associated Press

The Dow Jones Industrial Average officially entered a bear market. The cost of oil surged, and shares of General Motors fell to their lowest price since 1954.Bloomberg.comSpeeding drivers in Holly Springs, Georgia, were paying police a fuel surcharge to cover the price of their pursuit,BBCnews.coma Kentucky woman was arrested after trading sex for a $100 Speedway gas card,Smoking Gunand Nevada brothels were offering customers “double your stimulus” incentives that included $100 gas cards.CNN.comThe United Nations brought female excrement carriers from India to New York City to appear on the catwalk alongside top models at a fashion show, crowning one woman the princess of sanitation workers. “This is the dream coming true of Indian independence hero Gandhi-ji,” said an organizer.BBCnews.comAn unemployed former trucking company owner posing as a federal agent was under investigation after he worked with local police to search homes and make methamphetamine arrests in a Missouri town,NY Timesand a fake priest was caught trying to take confessions in St. Peter’s Basilica.CNN.comIt was reported that a stone tablet inscribed decades before the birth of Jesus described a messiah who would come back to life after three days. “What happens in the New Testament,” said Bible scholar Israel Knohl, “was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story.”NY TimesThe George Washington Foundation unearthed the founding father’s childhood home in Fredericksburg, Virginia, uncovering slave quarters and a Civil War trench but no cherry tree. “I don’t think we’ll ever find the cherry tree,” an archaeologist said.CNN.comMercury was shrinking,BBCnews.comand Earth, said scientists who study radio waves, is shrieking.Yahoo News

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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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After losing their savings in the stock market crash of 2008, seniors Barb and Chuck find seasonal employment at Amazon fulfillment centers.

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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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