Weekly Review — November 25, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Christian martyr, 1855]

A Christian martyr.

After a trial based predominantly on classified evidence, much of which could not be discussed with the defendants, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ordered the release of five Algerian prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, where they have been held without charge for seven years based on a single, unidentified source. “To allow enemy combatancy to rest on so thin a reed,” said Leon, “would be inconsistent with this court’s obligation.” The judge called upon the Justice Department to accept his ruling, saying that the Algerians deserve to go home and that an appeal would keep the prisoners at Guantanamo for two additional years; more than 100 cases related to the prison camp, which President-elect Barack Obama has promised to close, were under review by federal judges.APAPRetail prices fell to their lowest point since 1989, oil fell below $50 a barrel, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the Consumer Price Index fell by 1 percent in October–the sharpest drop in the 61 years the index has been tracked.Washington PostUPIFederal regulators planned to bail out Citigroup with $20 billion in direct investment as well as over $300 billion in loan and securities guarantees,NYTimesCongress voted to extend unemployment benefits by at least seven weeks, CNNand Focus on the Family announced that it would fire 149 people.UPIAlaska Governor Sarah Palin pardoned a turkey, then gave a televised interview as other turkeys were slaughtered in the background. “It’s nice to get out,” she said as an upended turkey was killed, “and participate in something that isn’t so heavy-handed politics that it invites criticism.”BBCSenator Ted Stevens, a felon, lost his seat to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, for whom he promised to pray,LA Timesand Minnesota continued to examine ballots cast in the Senate race between Al Franken and incumbent Norm Coleman; both parties challenged the legitimacy of some ballots, including one in which a voter chose both Franken and the “Lizard People.”Minnesota Public RadioBarack Obama’s transition team continued to name cabinet members, including former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as the new secretary of health and human services, chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Tim Geithner as the secretary of treasury, and New York Senator Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.Roll CallTelegraphBoston HeraldThe word “meh,” defined as “an expression of indifference or boredom” was added to the Collins English Dictionary.AP

Pirates stole a Saudi oil supertanker off the coast of Somalia and demanded a $25 million ransom,The Guardianand gorillas were dying in the crossfire after Congolese rebel fighters took over a gorilla sanctuary.CNNNew evidence suggested that Adolf Hitler was monorchic, or single-testicled, having lost the other in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.Fox NewsThe senior police officer in Tokyo responsible for catching drunk drivers was caught driving drunk,Reutersand men in Japan were wearing bras.The GuardianGlobal atomic inspectors suggested that Iran has enough nuclear material to make one atomic bomb,International Herald Tribuneand a congressional advisory panel found that China has stolen “vast amounts of sensitive information from U.S. computer networks,” including government networks.CBSA Chinese-born scientist working in Virginia pleaded guilty to selling military secrets to the Chinese for their space program,Information Weekand an astronaut working to clean and lube the International Space Station’s deteriorating exterior lost a $100,000 tool bag. “We’re jacking up the International Space Station, taking the wheels off,” said NASA Commander Christopher Ferguson, “and we’re bound to get a little dirty, a little dusty, and meet a few surprises along the way.”APNYTimes

The U.S. National Intelligence Council released a report to U.S. policymakers intended to prepare them for a future of waning U.S. influence as countries including China, India, and Russia grow in standing. The report suggests the dollar may be replaced as the world’s major currency, and that demand for oil, food, and water “will outstrip easily available supplies” and lead to global conflicts. “Conditions will be ripe for disaffection, growing radicalism… youths into terrorist groups… all current technologies are inadequate. This,” it concluded, “is a story with no clear outcome.” BBCCNNThe Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that Burlington, Vermont, is the healthiest city in America,LiveScienceand scientists at the University of Georgia discovered that, like humans, rats can think about thinking.Shortlist.comRadek Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister, denied saying that Barack Obama’s relatives were cannibals who ate Polish missionaries. “Mr. Sikorski did not tell a racist joke,” said a spokesman. “He was only giving an example of unpalatable and racist jokes.”TelegraphAl Qaeda released an English-subtitled video in which commander Ayman al-Zawahri refers to Barack Obama and Condoleezza Rice as “house Negroes,” APand Muhammad Sven Kalisch, Germany’s first professor of Islamic theology, declared that the Prophet Muhammad likely never existed, and also expressed doubts about the origin of the Koran. “God,” explained Kalisch, “doesn’t write books.”WSJPrince, who wrote and performed the songs “International Lover,” “Cream,” and “Jack U Off,” spoke out against gay marriage. “God came to earth,” said Prince, “and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’ ” The New Yorker

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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 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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