Weekly Review — January 27, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Babylonian lion, 1875]

Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the forty-fourth president of the United States.NY TimesIn his inaugural remarks, President Obama attributed many of the nation’s problems to a “collective failure to make hard choices.” “Starting today,” he said, “we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” NY TimesFormer vice president Dick Cheney attended the inauguration in a wheelchair,NY TimesSenator Edward Kennedy had a seizure,CNNAretha Franklin’s voice cracked,CNNand Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero, and Anthony McGill performed with the aid of a backing track.MSNBC.comBoxing promoter Don King said that of all biblical figures, Barack Obama reminded him most of Joshua. “I would say that he would be Joshua going across to the Promised Land,” said King. “Martin Luther King Jr. went to the mountaintop like Moses, and he said, ‘I might not get there with you, but I can see the Promised Land.’ …Joshua carried them across. Martin Luther King, Jr. was prevented from going into the Promised Land.”CNS News via DrudgeIranian newspaper Jam-e-Jam said that the American people had shown “their true feelings” by electing Barack Obama,LA Timesand in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez said Obama smelled like George W. Bush, who, according to his press secretary, Dana Perino, began the day of the inauguration in a good mood. “He gave me a big kiss on the forehead,” she said. Washington PostNY TimesBush Administration loyalists were struggling to find jobs. Washington Post

Upon taking office, Obama ordered all secret U.S. prisons closed immediately, and the detention center at Guantanamo Bay closed within a year; he stopped the torture of American prisoners; granted access to all U.S. detainees to the International Red Cross; ended the practice by which detainees could be sent to countries where they might be tortured; froze the salaries of all White House officials making more than $100,000; ordered all government agencies to “adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure” regarding Freedom of Information Act requests; ordered all administration appointees to take an ethics pledge; ended a government ban on funding for groups that provide abortion services or counseling abroad; and revoked Executive Order 13233, which placed limits on public access to the records of former presidents.Whitehouse.gov and NY TimesHamas declared victory in its war with Israel,BBC Newsand Israel reserved the right to blow up Palestinian smuggling tunnels.Hurriyet Daily NewsIn Algeria, the Black Death swept through a suspected Al Qaeda training camp, killing at least forty people,The Suncholera spread to the Zimbabwean countryside,BBC Newsand Vietnam’s news, television, and film industries were suffering from “brain drain.”Vietnam NewsTwo men were sentenced to death in Shijiazhuang, China, for their role in the production of tainted milk that killed six babies,International Herald Tribuneand five Americans died from eating salmonella-tainted peanut butter,WSJ via google newsthough sales remained strong. “Had it this morning,” said a Minneapolis man.Miinneapolis Star-TribuneMexican billionaire Carlos Slim bought seventeen percent of the New York Times,Yahoo News via Drudgea former KGB agent bought Britain’sEvening Standard,Reuters via Google Newsand Courtney Love accused “a handful of Jew loan officers” and “Jew private banks” of stealing from Kurt Cobain.The Superficial via NerveIn Thailand, more than 100 Burmese asylum seekers were missing and presumed dead after being put to sea by the Thai military in boats with no motors and with little food and water.BBC NewsThe year of the Water Buffalo began.Amcham Vietnam

Highly aggressive supersquirrels were menacing gray squirrels in England,Daily Mailresearchers in Rome demonstrated that bearded capuchin monkeys are efficient nut crackers,NY Timesand biologists in Michigan were testing a “chemical sex smell” to determine if it could be used to lure parasitic vampire fish to their deaths.BBC NewsPortland mayor Sam Adams refuted accusations that he had sex with a 17-year-old boy named Beau Breedlove,CNNand researchers in Scotland were testing sperm quality.BBC NewsBrazilian Miss World contestant Mariana Bridi da Costa had her hands and feet amputated and then died after contracting a urinary infection, The Sun via DrudgeThe Australianand Kelli McCarty, Miss USA 1991, starred in the pornographic film “Faithless: From Beauty Queen to Porn Queen.” “I enjoy acting, and I really like sex,” Ms. McCarty said. “So this was the perfect opportunity to combine two of my passions.”TMZ via NerveThe Supreme Court concluded that American children had a right to view pornography on the Internet.NY Times

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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.

Photograph from Puerto Rico by Christopher Gregory
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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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$25,000

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