Weekly Review — December 30, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Israel bombed Hamas targets in Gaza for three days, killing at least 300 people, 50 of them civilians, and blowing up a mosque and a television station. Palestinians seeking to flee into Egypt were turned back; a doctor at a Gaza hospital said that after 18 months of Israeli sanctions the lack of medical facilities made it better for a patient “to be brought in dead.” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the bombing, ordered in retaliation for ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas, would be “widened and deepened as is necessary,” and an area around Gaza was declared a “closed military zone,” with access forbidden to civilians, including journalists. “No one,” explained an Israeli government spokeswoman, “is trying to hide anything.” Anti-Israeli protests and demonstrations erupted throughout the Arab world, and UFO-cultists in Tel Aviv canceled a “mega-orgy” for world peace.New York TimesYnet NewsNew York TimesA poll found President-elect Barack Obama, who was photographed shirtless while on vacation in Hawaii, to be the man Americans most admire,USA TodayChicago Tribuneand Manpower Inc., a temporary-staffing agency, lowered its fourth-quarter financial forecast due to a rapid decline in demand.Wall Street JournalEartha Kitt, who sang “Santa Baby,” died,New York Timesand a man dressed as Santa Claus opened fire at his in-laws’ Christmas Eve party in Covina, California, killing at least eight people before setting fire to the house and killing himself.New York TimesPresident Bush signed, then withdrew, a pardon for a real estate developer whose family donated more than $40,000 to the Republican Party,Washington Postand Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters it was too early to judge the Bush Administration a failure. “I mean, for goodness’ sakes,” Rice said, “good historians are still writing books about George Washington.”Associated PressA study found that women find prestige more appealing than dominance in potential mates.Science Daily

A suicide car bomb at a school in Shalbandi, Pakistan, killed more than 30 people, suicide bombs in Afghanistan killed at least 20 people, including 13 schoolchildren, a car bomb in Baghdad killed at least 24 people, and cancer rates were on the rise worldwide.New York TimesNew York TimesNew York TimesNew York TimesSomalian President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, whose government controls only a few city blocks in a country nearly the size of Texas, resigned and was expected to return to the northern stronghold of his clan, leaving the country to be run by insurgents. Islamist militant group Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jama killed ten members of rival Islamist militant group the Shabab and called for its own members to “prepare themselves for jihad against these heretic groups” in order to “restore stability and harmony in Somalia.”New York TimesNew York TimesMilitary officers in Guinea took control of the country in a bloodless coup,New York Timesand protesters in Thailand surrounded the parliament, delaying the new government’s opening legislative session.New York TimesIt was revealed that the CIA has been bribing Afghani tribal leaders with Viagra,CBS Newsand Bjork started a venture-capital fund in Iceland.New York Times

Scientists found that chimpanzees use the same region of the brain as humans to recognize familiar faces.Science DailyAt a movie theater in Philadelphia a man shot another man in the arm for making too much noise during a Christmastime showing of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,Associated Pressand a man in Pittsburgh was arrested for assault after he failed to change his three-year-old’s diaper for several days, causing second-degree burns on the child’s legs and genitals.The Pittsburg Post-GazetteHedge-fund manager and New York Yacht Club member Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, who lost more than a billion dollars in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, stayed late after work at his Manhattan office, slit his wrists with a box cutter, and bled to death at his desk.The IndependentChip Saltsman, a Tennessee Republican seeking the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, defended his decision to include the song “Barack the Magic Negro” on a holiday mix CD he sent to Committee members. “I think most people recognize political satire when they see it,” Saltsman said. “I think RNC members understand that.”CNNDozens of people in Illinois contracted food poisoning from contaminated ham served at the Lawrence County Health Department Christmas party. “It’s not been funny,” said the head of the department, who was among those sickened by the ham. “It’s taken the punch out of my whole Christmas.”MSNBCAn eight-year-old Saudi Arabian girl was denied a divorce from her 58-year-old husband because she was too young to file, Guardiana man in Massachusetts died of carbon monoxide poisoning after a raccoon became stuck in his furnace exhaust, The Boston Channeland an Ontario woman was found buried under three feet of snow three days after she went missing. “Wow,” she told rescue workers. “I’ve been here a long time.”CNN

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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 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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