Weekly Review — November 10, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Christian martyr, 1855]

A Christian martyr.

The House of Representatives passed, by a vote of 220 to 215, a $1.1 trillion health-care bill that requires employers to provide insurance coverage or face a tax penalty, expands Medicaid coverage, establishes a government-run insurance plan, and blocks the use of federal insurance subsidies for abortions. “A lot of Blue Dogs in this country,” said Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, “are going to have a lot of ‘splaining to do.” Protesters outside the Capitol chanted “Kill the bill,” and fat activists voiced concerns about the bill’s “weight-loss agenda.”New York TimesCNNNew York TimesFox NewsRepublicans were voted in as governors in Virginia and New Jersey but lost one House seat in New York. “The Republican renaissance has begun!” said Steele. “If you don’t think last night was sweet, you need to go see a doctor!”New York TimesWashington PostVoters in Maine blocked same-sex marriage. “We all know we were the little guy going up against the big guy,” said Marc Mutty of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, “but we prevailed.”Bangor Daily NewsAfter forcing legislation to end term limits and spending $90 million of his personal fortune–fourteen times the budget of his Democratic opponent–Michael Bloomberg won a third term as mayor of New York.New York TimesWithout term limits, said former president Bill Clinton, “I would have stayed until I was carried away in a coffin. Or defeated in an election.”ReutersA woman in South Korea passed her driving test on the 950th try.BBC

The Department of Labor announced that more than one in ten Americans are now officially unemployed, with the figure rising to one in six if the underemployed are included.New York TimesThe FBI searched for a serial “granddad bandit” who has robbed nine banks since April; police recovered over 1,000 pieces of luggage stolen from a Phoenix airport; and Los Angeles customs agents recovered a 1965 VW bus stolen from a dealership in Spokane, Washington, in 1975.CNNCNNCNNFannie Mae asked for another $15 billion in aid from the federal government, and AIG posted a quarterly profit of $92 million.MarketwatchBBCThe value of the virtual goods market (such as “gifts” on Facebook and costumes for avatars) was estimated at $5 billion. “The marginal cost for every one you sell is zero,” said one Silicon Valley venture capitalist. “So you have 100 percent margins.” New York TimesA laser-beam-powered robot ascended a half-mile cable dangling from a helicopter to win $2 million.Washington PostA Japanese firm designed spectacles that can project translations onto the wearer’s retinas,BBCand a graduate student in California unveiled a hat that pokes you in the head if you don’t smile.NY Daily NewsA study found that children who receive tough love are more likely to be successful, and an 11-year-old Bulgarian girl gave birth on her wedding day. “I’m not going to play with toys any more,” she said. “I have a new toy now.”BBC NewsDaily Telegraph

An army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, upset that he was about to be deployed to Iraq, killed 12 people and wounded 31 at the Fort Hood, Texas, military base before he was shot and subdued by police.ABC newsJason Rodriguez, an unemployed man in Florida, entered the engineering firm where he used to work and shot six people, killing one, then drove to his mother’s house, where he was arrested. “I’m just going through a tough time right now,” he told a police officer. “I’m sorry.”Washington PostA bear in Kashmir killed two militant separatists who were hiding in his den, and Dolores, Bianca, and Lolita, three bears at a German zoo, went bald.BBCBBCA couple in Oklahoma City, driving home from church, narrowly missed hitting an elephant that had escaped from the circus. “At the very last second,” related the driver, “I said, ‘Elephant!'”Boston GlobeA man in Wales was jailed for using cameras hidden in smoke detectors to spy on the people who rented his cottage, and a shop assistant at a Christian bookstore in California was arrested for placing a hidden camera in the bookstore bathroom. BBCMetro UKA bricklayer in Brazil, mistaken for the victim of a car crash, attended his own funeral.CNNSeven members of the endangered Amazonian Yanomami tribe died of swine flu,BBCand British archeologists said that excessive logging of the Peruvian hurango tree probably caused the collapse of the Nazca society 1,500 years ago. BBCAnthropologist and philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss died at age 100. “The world began without the human race,” he once wrote, “and will certainly end without it.”Bloomberg

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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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