Weekly Review — July 6, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Tempest, December 1878]

The Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings for Elena Kagan, the nominee to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. G.O.P senators attacked Kagan by comparing her with former justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom she clerked in the 1980s. According to Republicans, Marshall, the nation’s first African-American Supreme Court judge and prior to that the civil-rights lawyer who successfully argued against segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, was a “well-known activist” and the “epitome of a results-oriented judge.” Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) asked where Kagan had been last Christmas Day, when a Nigerian terrorist attempted to blow up a plane arriving in Detroit. “Like all Jews,” Kagan answered, “I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.” By the final hearing, Republicans admitted that Kagan’s wit had charmed them: “You kind of light up a room,” Senator Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) told her.CBSWash PostWash PostTPMnytThe Supreme Court announced a 5â??4 decision guaranteeing individuals’ rights to own guns and declaring unconstitutional any comprehensive attempt by state and local governments to restrict that right. NYTWyoming opted to stop collecting sales taxes at gun shows after several of the state’s Department of Revenue employees “experienced some animosity.”Billings GazetteStray bullets fired in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, crashed through the windows of City Hall in El Paso, Texas, and Sergio “El Shaka” Vega, a singer of “narcocorridos”â??odes to Mexican drug traffickersâ??was gunned down in his red Cadillac hours after he told an entertainment website that rumors of his murder were false.El Past TimesBBCScientists in Australia said they had bred the perfect prawn. Science Daily

The BP oil spill became the worst in Gulf of Mexico history, surpassing the record set in 1980 when the Ixtoc I oil well leaked 140 million gallons of oil into the sea.USA TodayJoey Chestnut successfully defended his title at Nathan’s International July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest. Former record-holder Takeru Kobayashi was barred from this year’s competition because of a contract dispute with Major League Eating, the “body that oversees all professional eating contests.” After Chestnut’s victory, Kobayashi, wearing a “Free Kobi” shirt, was arrested for trying to rush the stage; spectators chanted, “Let him eat” and “U.S.A.” NYTCNNAt an Independence Day parade in Iowa, a 60-year-old woman was killed and 23 people (including several children) were injured when startled horses trampled the crowd; a Long Island man blew off his left arm while igniting illegal fireworks; and 100 people suffered yellow-jacket stings when a fireworks demonstration at a California county fair disturbed the wasps’ nests.NYTTelegraphMercury NewsPaleontologists discovered the skull of a new species of sperm whale that once hunted smaller whales with its 14-inch teeth. The whale has been named Leviathan melvillei, after “Moby Dick” author Herman Melville. AP“The Ghost Downstairs” author Molly Ringle won the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest prize for writing the worst sentence: “For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kissâ??a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil.”Seattle Times

Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was sworn in as president of the Philippines. More than 500,000 people attended his inauguration, at which he announced that there will be “no more wang wang” in the country, a reference to the sirens and flashing lights used by business and government elites to run red lights while the masses remain in gridlock. On the third day of his presidency, Aquino arrived late to a military ceremony after his convoy got stuck in traffic.Philippine Daily InquirerNYTPhilippine Daily Inquirer“Obama Anak Menteng,” or “Little Obama,” an Indonesian film based on Barack Obama‘s childhood in the Southeast Asian nation, premiered in Jakarta. The film shows how Obama was able to adapt to life in a new country with the help of his Indonesian stepfather, who taught him to fight, and of Turdi, his transgender nanny. “Thanks should go to Turdi,” said one viewer. “He’s the only character who spices up this film.”Christian Science MonitorJakarta PostAt least 230 people died in the Congolese town of Sange when gasoline from an overturned tanker truck was ignited by the cigarette of a resident who had rushed to collect the leaking fuel. A search for “more charred bodies” was ongoing.GuardianA US Airways flight in Atlanta was delayed when maggots fell out of an overhead storage bin and onto passengers’ heads. “As they’re telling us to stay calm and seated, I see a maggot looking back at me and I’m thinking, ‘These are anaerobic, flesh-eating larvae,'” said passenger Donna Adamo. “It only takes one maggot to upset your world.”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.

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?

Illustration (detail) by Lincoln Agnew
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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.

Minimum number of shooting incidents in the United States in the past year in which the shooter was a dog:

2

40,800,000,000 pounds of total adult human biomass is due to excessive fatness.

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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