Weekly Review — April 20, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

After weeks of gentle rumbling, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted, covering Northern Europe with black ash and shutting down airports as far away as Ukraine. The disruption in international travel was the greatest since immediately after the September 11 attacks and cost airlines roughly $200 million a day. Some volcanologists predicted that eruptions might continue for as long as two years, creating “volcano weather” throughout the region.New York TimesNew York TimesThe ash kept many world leaders, including President Barack Obama, from joining the 150,000 mourners at the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, who were interred in a crypt in the Wawel Cathedral, which houses the remains of Polish kings, saints, and other national heroes. “This decision has political sense, to use this catastrophe to create, in an artificial way, a new myth or hero,” said Kaczynski’s longtime political rival Aleksander Kwasniewski. “But the Polish people are too clever not to see this intention. Putting him at Wawel is a step too far.” New York TimesJohn Stone, an Iraq veteran and Army medic wearing a Don Mattingly jersey, saved a woman from choking on a hot dog in the stands at Yankees Stadium. “Suddenly this kind of Elijah figure appeared from nowhere,” said the woman’s husband, Rabbi Avi Weiss. Daily News

The SEC filed suit against Goldman Sachs, claiming they defrauded investors by packaging and selling collateralized debt obligations that were designed to fail. According to the complaint, the investment bank created the CDOs at the request of hedge-fund manager John Paulson, so that he could bet against them by way of credit-default swaps. When the housing market collapsed, Paulson made, and investors in the CDOs lost, roughly $1 billion on the deals. “More and more leverage in the system, the whole building is about to collapse anytime now,” wrote Goldman vice president Fabrice Tourre in an email obtained by the SEC. “Only potential survivor, the fabulous Fab.”New York TimesA New Jersey man was arrested for intentionally vomiting on an 11-year-old girl at a Philadelphia Phillies game.NBCA memo by Defense Secretary Robert Gates claimed that the U.S. does not have a plan to counter Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear bomb. New York TimesPope Benedict XVI met with eight victims of sexual abuse by Maltese priests, a priest was arrested in a prostitution sting at a New Hampshire hotel, and several spectators were removed from the Museum of Modern Art for handling performers in an installation that involved naked men and women. “He proceeded to slide his hand onto my ribs and back and then touched my butt,” said dancer Will Rawls of one culprit. “As he was passing me he looked me in the eyes and said, ??You feel good, man.?? “Washington PostABC NewsNew York Times

State legislators in Oklahoma were working with “tea party” members toward the introduction of a bill creating a volunteer state militia to defend against the federal government. “[The Founding Fathers] were not referring to a turkey shoot or a quail hunt,” said State Senator Randy Brogdon. “The Second Amendment deals directly with the right of an individual to keep and bear arms to protect themselves from an overreaching federal government.” Talking Points MemoA “Restore the Constitution” rally was held in a National Park area near the U.S. Capitol, with speakers including Mike Vanderboegh, a former militiaman who encouraged readers of his blog to throw bricks through the windows of Democrats who voted for the health-care bill, and former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, who refused to enforce the Brady handgun-control law.Washington PostFired “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien signed a late-night contract with TBS,New York Timesand radio stations in Somalia stopped broadcasting music in response to an ultimatum by Islamic insurgents. “We have replaced the music of the early morning program with the sound of the rooster,” said the director of Radio Shabelle in Mogadishu, “replaced the news music with the sound of the firing bullet and the music of the night program with the sound of running horses.”New York Times

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In the early Eighties, Andy King, the coach of the Seawolves, a swim club in Danville, California, instructed Debra Denithorne, aged twelve, to do doubles — to practice in the morning and the afternoon. King told Denithorne’s parents that he saw in her the potential to receive a college scholarship, and even to compete in the Olympics. Tall swimmers have an advantage in the water, and by the time Denithorne turned thirteen, she was five foot eight. She dropped soccer and a religious group to spend more time at the pool.

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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.

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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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