Weekly Review — June 30, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Babylonian lion, 1875]

Iraq held its first National Sovereignty Day in honor of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities. A celebration was held with poets and singers in Baghdad’s al-Zawraa park and former Vice President Dick Cheney said that he was worried that the withdrawal would “waste all the tremendous sacrifice that has gotten us to this point.” Two hundred Iraqis were killed or wounded in the last ten days of June.CNNThe Washington TimesA federal court judge in New York City sentenced Bernard Madoff to 150 years in prison, calling Madoff “extraordinarily evil” and noting that none of the financier’s family members, friends, or associates had pleaded for leniency on his behalf. NY TimesHonduran President Manuel Zelaya was exiled to Costa Rica by the military as part of a coup d’etat under the direction of the Honduran Supreme Court; he was replaced by Roberto Michelletti, who took power in what he called “an absolutely legal transition process.”BBC NewsSteve Jobs returned to Apple with a new liver.NY TimesGoogle CEO Eric Schmidt said that attempts by governments to censor the Internet were futile, and that governments censored “at their own peril.”TelegraphThe New York Times revealed that, for seven months, it had sought to keep news of the kidnapping of one of its reporters by the Taliban out of the media, and had worked closely with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to suppress news of the kidnapping.The New York TimesSpanish fertility researchers advised professional cyclists to freeze their sperm,BBC Newsand the sheriff of Los Angeles County was considering whether to distribute condoms to all L.A. jail inmates, rather than just the gay ones. LA Times

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, after going missing for a week, returned home and announced that, instead of hiking the Appalachian Trail, he had actually been in Buenos Aires, where he had a girlfriend, to whom he once wrote in an email: “Sleep soundly knowing that despite the best efforts of my head my heart cries out for you, your voice, your body, the touch of your lips.” Sanford justified his continuing role as the state’s executive by noting that Biblical philanderer King David didn’t resign.TPM MuckrakerThe StatePapal archaeologists in Rome authenticated the bones of Saint Paul the Apostle,NY Timesand a new cell-phone ring tone that features Philip Roth’s “Jewish shouting” was growing popular among the literary-minded.Guardian via GawkerBorn-again Christians, dispensing Bibles, were arrested at a Gay Pride festival in Minneapolis;WCCO via Scannera parishioner at Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church in Carle Place, New York, was arrested for stealing cash from another worshipper during a Sunday service;NBC New York via Drudgeand an Australian ewe gave birth to a five-legged, six-footed baby lamb. The Inquistr via ScannerThe U.S. government was working to protect ugly animals from extinction.Washintgon PostColorado officials legalized rainwater.NY TimesToyota unveiled a wheelchair steering system that can be directly controlled by a human brain.Yahoo via Drudge

The Guardian Council of Iran announced that its partial recount of the recent presidential election showed “no major irregularities.” A spokesman for the Council stated that the “results were positive.”Al-JazeeraTasmanian wallabies were eating opium poppies, getting high, and running around, causing crop circles.Guardian via GawkerScientists at Stanford University succeeded in “infecting” mice with a virus that made them highly sensitive to light,Walll Street Journaland actress Farrah Fawcett died, as did entertainer Michael Jackson and noted TV pitchman Billy Mays, spokesman for OxiClean and Kaboom, a cleaner that “put the power back in your shower.”Farrah FawcettTMZThe New York TimesRussia refused to cooperate in a lawsuit brought by Hasidic Jews claiming rights over sacred documents that were seized by the Nazis and are currently held in the Russian State Library.AP via GoogleA new “Indiana Jones” movie was in development.E! OnlineThe U.S. Supreme Court determined “reverse discrimination” to be unconstitutional, thereby permitting the fire department of the city of New Haven, Connecticut, to promote more white men to positions of authority.NY TimesA Tennessee man was charged with sexual exploitation for Photoshopping the faces of little girls (two local girls, and Miley Cyrus) onto the bodies of nude adult women,CNNand a child porn stash was found in the sewer drain of a public bathroom in Saginaw, Michigan, but the images were too damaged by fecal matter for authorities to use in an investigation.WNEM.comCosmetic nipple surgery was on the rise in England,Daily Mailseagulls off Argentina were attacking whales and eating their skin,BBC Newsand Latvians, asked to provide collateral for loans of up to 500 lats, were offering their eternal souls (must be previously unmortgaged).Mosnews

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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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After losing their savings in the stock market crash of 2008, seniors Barb and Chuck find seasonal employment at Amazon fulfillment centers.

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2

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