Weekly Review — September 8, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: All In My Eye, December 1853]

An American cattleman.

Polls showed that the level of public support for health-care reform was plummeting, a result of both Democratic capitulation–as when Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D., Mont.), after a year of preparation, released a proposal that lacked a public option–and a Republican campaign of lies regarding “death panels,” the cost of medical care, cuts in Medicare benefits, and “rationing.” President Barack Obama indicated that the White House may give up on Congress and draft its own bill; he also telephoned representatives who support the public option, including Raul Grijalva (D., Ariz.), to talk about the bill. “I didn’t come away from this discussion feeling that we were dead,” said Grijalva. The president scheduled a health-care speech before a joint session of Congress, and FOX News announced that it would not air it. A fight at a pro-health-care rally near Los Angeles ended when a pro-reform protester bit off the finger of an anti-reform protester.Who Runs Gov.PoliticoWashington PostNew York TimesKTLABlack Star NewsCNNFOX News host Glenn Beck wrote that he had deciphered the secret code of the Obama Administration: “OLIGARHY,” he wrote on a chalkboard, pronouncing it “oligarchy.”Political HumorEncouraged by Beck and fearful of socialist indoctrination, conservative parents planned to keep their children at home on Tuesday, when President Obama will encourage the nation’s students to do their homework.PoliticoThe U.S. unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent,New York Timesand David Wahl, a 52-year-old employee at the New Flyer bus factory in St. Cloud, Minnesota, who sat behind Vice President Joe Biden when Biden insisted during a town-hall meeting that the company would benefit from the stimulus plan, was let go.New York TimesDozens of alpine cows threw themselves off a Swiss cliff.Daily Mail

More than 90 Afghans, including 40 civilians, were killed when NATO launched an air strike on two fuel tankers that had been hijacked by the Taliban.TelegraphOfficials in Afghanistan found that hundreds of thousands of votes were cast for Afghan President Hamid Karzai at 800 fake polling sites. “If Karzai is re-elected,” said one tribal elder, “people will leave the country or join the Taliban.”New York TimesA new species of giant rat was discovered in a Papua New Guinea volcano,BBCand scientists were working on making single-cell slime molds into robots.New ScientistColombian President Alvaro Uribe returned from Argentina, where he met with other South American presidents and caught swine flu, and the United States, facing a swine-flu-vaccine shortage, released videos that feature Elmo from Sesame Street encouraging people to wash their hands.Washington PostWashington PostPolice in Australia were investigating an adolescent girl and two boys for child pornography because one of the boys used his mobile phone to film the girl losing her virginity because she wanted to have sex before the Large Hadron Collider was turned on and the world ended.Courier MailThe Catholic church recommended that before sex married couples recite the Prayer Before Making Love, which asks God to “clothe us in true dignity”;Daily Mailand, to celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage in Vermont, Ben and Jerry’s changed the name of Chubby Hubby to Hubby Hubby. TelegraphArt conservators restoring a seventeenth-century painting by Poussin uncovered an erect penis,Carnal Nationand at a Dutch museum a moon rock from the first manned lunar landing was discovered to be petrified wood.BBC

Argentina legalized the personal possession of marijuana,Yahoo Newsand Zambian President Rupiah Banda evicted two hundred primates from the State House after a monkey peed on him during a press conference.BBCThe wife of Japan’s next prime minister said that her soul once rode to Venus on a triangular UFO.MSNBCAfter sixty years Ikea switched its typeface to Verdana from a customized version of Futura, provoking global outrage. “Look, I know this isn’t world hunger,” said a Romanian design consultant. “But if a company like Ikea can make this mistake, you have to wonder who is going to lead when it comes to design.”TimeA Detroit man admitted to chopping up the body of a homeless man and stuffing the parts in his freezer, saying that he had stumbled upon the corpse and didn’t know what to do with it;Click on Detroittwo Florida men were convicted of gang raping a woman and forcing her to perform oral sex on her 12-year-old son;APand a court hearing in Cincinnati was halted when the defendant, a 66-year-old man charged with robbery and kidnapping, squeezed out his colostomy bag onto a table and ate the contents.Cincinnati EnquirerThe Andromeda galaxy was expanding by cannibalizing other galaxies.BBC

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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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