Weekly Review — August 19, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: All In My Eye, December 1853]

After more than a week of fighting and one failed cease-fire, Russia and Georgia signed a revised cease-fire agreement, but Russian troops remained within 25 miles of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev promised French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who negotiated the agreement, that Russian forces would soon withdraw from Georgia. He also insisted that troops would remain in the breakaway Georgian territory South Ossetia. “The superpower showed that she was able to defend her people,” said Marina Katayeva, a 30-year-old Russian doctor. “Now we will be more respected.” Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Russians were “twenty-first-century barbarians” who had essentially raped his country; “Can you say that, you know the victim of a rape is to be blamed for the rape because she wore a short skirt?”New York TimesBBCWhile reporting live from Gori, Tamara Urushadze, a 32-year-old Georgian TV reporter, was shot in the arm by a sniper. Urushadze looked down at the bloody scratch, then collapsed onto the ground, then, moments later, resumed her broadcast.New York TimesNew York TimesCanada Free PressDaily MailIn response to the crisis, President George W. Bush postponed a vacation trip to his Texas ranch by one day.Swamp PoliticsVesti FM, a Russian state-run radio station, reported that the South Ossetia conflict was part of a plot by Vice President Dick Cheney to prevent Barack Obama from being elected president of the United States,.The Timeswhile in the United States it was suggested that John McCain’s speech on Georgia was partly cribbed from Wikipedia. Aides to McCain said there are only so many ways to state historical facts. Politico

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf resigned.ReutersThe United States and Poland finalized a deal that would allow the United States to build a missile-interceptor base on Polish territory, and Ukraine offered the U.S. use of its missile-warning system. Poland, said Russian general Anatoly Nogovitsyn, “is exposing itself to a strike–100 percent.”BreitbartTelegraphThe musical designer for the BeijingOlympics admitted that Lin Miaoke, the nine-year-old Chinese schoolgirl who, suspended on wires, performed “Hymn to the Motherland” at the games’ opening ceremony, lip-synched the song after Chinese officials decided that the actual singer, seven-year-old Yang Peiyi, was too ugly and buck-toothed to perform before billions.TelegraphMichael Phelps, the American swimmer who won eight gold medals in Beijing, revealed that he consumes more than 12,000 calories a day by eating three egg sandwiches with fried onions, a five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast, three chocolate-chip pancakes, two ham-and-cheese sandwiches, two pounds of pasta, and an entire pizza. New York PostIt was reported that few of the 9 million overweight or obese children in the U.S. could afford weight-loss summer camp.New York TimesIn a joint statement, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announced that her name would be included in a state-by-state roll-call vote at the Democratic Convention,International Herald Tribuneand economists at the University of Maryland found that more than one million votes for Obama in the Democratic primaries could be attributed to Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement.Political WireAt a forum for the presidential candidates hosted by Reverend Rick Warren, Barack Obama and John McCain were asked to define “rich.” Anyone making $250,000 or more, said Obama. “If you’re just talking about income,” said McCain, “how about 5 million?”The Carpetbagger ReportBritish scientists unveiled Gordon, the world’s first robot controlled by living brain tissue.Bretibart

Trustees for a north Texas school district approved a policy change that will allow teachers to carry concealed handguns to class,Houston Chronicleand data released by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that minorities will become the majority by 2042. “It’s important to recognize that this is a choice we’re making,” said Steven Camarota, a researcher at the Center for Immigration Studies. “This is not weather that we have no control over.” Washington PostGerman researchers raised a giant reflective screen in the middle of the Swiss Alps in an effort to slow the melting of the Rhône glacier,Breitbartand Australianscientist George Wilson called on people to eat kangaroo instead of beef to reduce global warming. BBCPenguin Nils Olav, the Norwegian King’s Guard mascot since 1972, was knighted in front of a crowd of several hundred people and 130 guardsmen. Nils, who shat himself during the ceremony, was, read the proclamation from King Harald the Fifth, “in every way qualified to receive the honour and dignity of knighthood.”BBCTwo Bigfoot hunters said they had killed one such animal and were storing its carcass in a freezer; analysts found that of the two DNA samples that the hunters provided to prove Bigfoot’s existence, one was from a human and the other was 96 percent opossum.New York TimesNew York TimesResearchers at the University of California, Berkeley, developed a material for use in invisibility cloaks,BBCand a community of Welsh Cistercian monks who had been relying on a dial-up Internet connection opted to get a broadband connection. “Patience is one of the characteristics of monastic life,” said Father Daniel van Santvoort, “but even the patience of the Brothers was tested by our slow Internet.”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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