Weekly Review — October 7, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: All In My Eye, December 1853]

An American cattleman.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. The legislation, which originated as a three-page proposal by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and grew to 451 pages after House and Senate negotiations, established the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to grant the Secretary of the Treasury up to $700 billion to buy troubled assets owned by financial institutions, to allow the Treasury to limit executive compensation and “golden parachutes” at those institutions, and to establish an oversight board to monitor the Treasury. The act also provides wooden arrow manufacturers an exemption from excise tax. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rushed the legislation to President George W. Bush, who signed it and promised that the United States would maintain “a leading role in the global economy.” “If I were dictator,” said Senator John McCain, who voted for the act, “which I always aspire to be, I would write it a little bit differently.” McCain also suggested the act be vetoed because it included so much pork. “No matter what the stakes are,” he said, “you’ve got to stop this.”New York TimesABC NewsNew York TimesThink ProgressThink ProgressCalifornia Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger emailed Paulson to say that he may need a $7 billion loan for the state,Los Angeles Timesand in Akron, Ohio, a 90-year-old woman named Adele Polk shot herself in the chest as police tried to evict her from her foreclosed home. “I saw that blood,” said a neighbor, “and I said, ‘Oh, no. Miss Polk musta done shot herself.'” Responding to public outcry, Fannie Mae forgave Polk’s mortgage, which will allow her to return home if she recovers from her wounds.CNNAfter the bailout was signed into law, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell below 10,000 for the first time in five years. “Today,” said an income strategist, “is watching the sky fall.”New York Times

Employment decreased for the ninth consecutive month, with the U.S. economy losing 159,000 jobs in September;New York Timesbetween April and July, nearly one million people enrolled in the federal food-stamp program.Washington PostNewt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, suggested the United States solve its economic crisis by creating a website where people could post their ideas,Politicoand vice-presidential candidates Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin debated in St. Louis. Commentators noted that during the debate Palin was successful in repeating Republican talking points, despite having appeared incoherent and ignorant of the basic principles of American government during interviews earlier in the week. “Oh, man,” said Palin, “it’s so obvious I’m a Washington outsider, and someone just not used to the way you guys operate.”New York TimesNASA discovered that snow falls on Mars.Washington PostRussian billionaire Alexander Lebedev and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev teamed up to form a new political party that will promote democracy,Washington Postand in Brazil, where politicians often adopt new names for elections, six candidates had taken the name Barack Obama. Other candidates called themselves Cattle Ana, Jeep Johnny, Big Charlie Knives, Jorge Bushi, Chico Bin Laden, DJ Saddam, King of the Cuckolds, and Kung Fu Fatty.Telegraph

One hundred sixty-eight people were killed in a stampede when someone screamed “There’s a bomb!” at a crowded religious celebration in Jodhpur, India,Washington Postand a Baghdadsuicide bomber killed 14 people who had been celebrating the end of Ramadan. “Nobody expects anything like this,” said Jamal Tawfiq, a 28-year-old Iraqi who gathered body parts in a plastic bag.New York TimesMr. Clean died.Yahoo NewsThe U.S. State Department issued a security alert warning Americans to avoid visiting Bulgarian strip clubs;New York Timesgeneticists determined that the AIDS virus is about a century old;Washington Postand Mexican police recovered the stolen “condom mobile,” a truck used to promote the government’s HIV-AIDS awareness program. Thieves made off with the vehicle’s sound system, 5,000 condoms, and a motor used to inflate a 23-foot-long condom balloon. New York TimesArchaeologists unearthed a ceramic cup that may bear the first-ever written reference to Jesus: “Christ the magician.”Discovery NewsParents were taking advantage of Nebraska’s new safe-haven lawâ??enacted in July to prevent “Dumpster babies” but also protecting children as old as eighteenâ??to get rid of unruly teenagers. “The appropriate response is to reach out to family, friends, and community resources,” said Todd Landry, the state director of children and family services. “What is not appropriate is just to say, ‘Iâ??m tired of dealing with this,’ and drop the child off at a hospital.”New York TimesA seven-year-old boy broke into an Australian zoo, used a rock to bludgeon to death several lizards, and fed them and many still-living reptiles to Terry, the zoo’s crocodile. “By all accounts,” said the zoo’s director, “he’s quite a nasty seven-year-old.”USA Today

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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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