Weekly Review — June 22, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Babylonian lion, 1875]

President Barack Obama premiered a new political narrative of the BP oil spill during a nationally televised address. Instead of portraying government efforts as a cleanup, Obama described a “battle plan”: the oil flowing from the destroyed BP wellhead was not an industrial accident but a “siege” and an “assault [on] our shores.” BP announced that it would cease paying dividends to shareholders and instead hoard money for use in future lawsuits. Americans remained in favor of offshore drilling, members of Congress sold their shares in oil and gas companies as quickly as they could, and Vice President Joe Biden confirmed that he was a politician and proud of it.NY TimesNY TimesNY TimesNY TimesNY TimesWashington PostDrudge ReportAfricans were accused of wasting “obscene” amounts of food, and a “cooker malfunction” in a Campbell’s Soup factory in Paris, Texas, forced the recall of 15 million pounds of SpaghettiOs with meatballs.USA TodayMy Way News via DrudgeAn American man arrested in Pakistan in possession of a pistol, a sword, night-vision equipment, and Christian religious books, who was believed to be trying to find and kill or convert Osama bin Laden, was found to have a history of mental problems.CNNAli Larijani, speaker of the Iranian Parliament, warned “certain adventurous countries” not to inspect his country’s cargo ships at sea.English News via Drudge

The Supreme Court of California heard arguments as to whether only people capable of procreating should be allowed to marry, and Catholics in New York State came out against legislation that would abolish fault-only divorce. “New York State has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country,” said Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference. “While we see that as a cause for state pride, sadly some may see it as a problem to be corrected.”NY TimesNY TimesThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that “female Viagra” makes women depressed, dizzy, and lightheaded but does not increase their sexual satisfaction, and Harvard scientists determined that American doctors will work harder if they are paid less.USA TodayNY TimesA study commissioned by Mayor Michael Bloomberg revealed that New York City’s administrators know far less about rats than previously assumed, and Andrew Cuomo, a gubernatorial candidate in the state, clarified his stance on pasta cookery. “As an independent Democrat,” he said, “I eat everybodyâ??s lasagna. I eat conservatives’ lasagna. I eat liberal lasagna.”NY TimesGothamist via eaterResearch showed that fat women have a much harder time finding sexual partners than do fat men, and childhood educators dismissed the importance of best friends. “Parents sometimes say Johnny needs that one special friend,” said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. “We say he doesnâ??t need a best friend.”USA TodayNY TimesIn Munich, a young man dressed only in his underwear mooned a group of Hells Angels, threw a puppy at them, and then fled on a stolen bulldozer. BBC

Incidences of suspected fraud by American soldiers, mercenaries, and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan were up 18 percent over last year, and a funeral-home director in Findlay, Ohio, was arrested for failing to wear clothes in the presence of a corpse.USA TodayCNNThe U.S. Department of Transportation debated the legality of serving peanuts on commercial airliners, and food scientists at Penn State University found that “supertasters” who “live in a neon taste world” experience salty and bitter flavors more intensely than their “pastel” non-supertaster counterparts.LA TimesCNNIn Chicago, the Honorable Richard M. Daley told local reporters that they hate Walmart because they live in the suburbs.Chicago News CoopA growing “epidemic” of Web pornography prompted the decency group Enough is Enough to lobby Congress in favor of censoring the Internet; as many as 60 severed human heads were discovered on a Southwest Airlines flight to Fort Worth, Texas; and Warren Buffett and Bill Gates established a foundation whose purpose is to shame rich people.Washington Times via DrudgeDFW via DrudgeLA TimesIncarcerated men were spending more time with their children.USA TodayIn Botswana, England’s Prince William agreed to blow a young boy’s vuvuzela. “There you go,” the prince said after playing the three-foot trumpet. “Iâ??ve embarrassed myself again.”Telegraph via Drudge

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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.

Yet we know that people do change their minds. We are constantly molded by our environment and our culture, by the events of the world, by the gossip we hear and the books we read. In the essays that follow, seven writers explore the ways that persuasion operates in our lives, from the intimate to the far-reaching. Some consider the ethics and mechanics of persuasion itself — in religion, politics, and foreign policy — and others turn their attention to the channels through which it acts, such as music, protest, and technology. How, they ask, can we persuade others to join our cause or see things the way we do? And when it comes to our own openness to change, how do we decide when to compromise and when to resist?

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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.

By the time he arrived at the Equitas Health clinic, Chase was eighteen, and had long since come to dread doctors and hospitals. As a child, he’d had asthma, migraines, two surgeries for a tumor that had caused deafness in one ear, and gangrene from an infected bug bite. Doctors had always assumed he was a girl. After puberty, Chase said, he avoided looking in the mirror because his chest and hips “didn’t feel like my body.” He liked it when strangers saw him as male, but his voice was high-pitched, so he rarely spoke in public. Then, when Chase was fourteen, he watched a video on YouTube in which a twentysomething trans man described taking testosterone to lower his voice and appear more masculine. Suddenly, Chase had an explanation for how he felt — and what he wanted.

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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.

Amount Arizona’s Red Feather Lodge offered to pay to reopen the Grand Canyon during the 2013 government shutdown:

$25,000

A Brazilian cat gave birth to a dog.

Trump’s former chief strategist, whom Trump said had “lost his mind,” issued a statement saying that Trump’s son did not commit treason; the US ambassador to the United Nations announced that “no one questions” Trump’s mental stability; and the director of the CIA said that Trump, who requested “killer graphics” in his intelligence briefings, is able to read.

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"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

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