Weekly Review — July 27, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Wikileaks released thousands of military field reports from six years of the war in Afghanistan, including several asserting that representatives of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence met with Taliban leaders to coordinate attacks against American troops and plan assassinations of Afghan leaders, and that the Taliban has been using heat-seeking missiles provided to the mujahideen by the United States during Afghanistan’s Soviet occupation. The reports also describe widespread corruption among Afghanistan’s military and police. “I asked the seven patrolmen we detained to sit and relax while we sorted through a problem without ever mentioning why they were being detained,” one report reads. “Three of the patrolmen responded by saying that they had only taken money from the truck drivers to buy fuel for their generator.” Another report describes what happened after an Afghan civilian protested the rape by a police commander of a 16-year-old girl. “The district commander ordered his bodyguard to open fire on the AC [Afghan civilian],” it says. “The bodyguard refused, at which time the district commander shot [the bodyguard] in front of the AC.” “The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information,” said National Security Adviser General James Jones. “Look,” said a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the reports, “this is nothing new.”New York TimesNew York TimesNew York TimesAt least 45 Afghan civilians were killed in Helmand province when a NATO rocket hit a mud house in which they had taken shelter from fighting between NATO and Taliban forces.New York TimesA stampede during the Love Parade, an electronic music festival in Germany, killed eighteen people, and an Arab Israeli was sentenced to 18 months for rape after he slept with a woman under the pretense that he was an eligible Jewish bachelor. New York TimesHaaretz Daily

President Barack Obama signed into law the Restoring American Financial Stability Act, which expands federal regulation to derivatives markets and other previously unregulated areas of the financial system and creates a panel to monitor risks to the financial system. “These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history,” Obama said. Analysts estimated that three quarters of the bill’s substance would be determined later, and congressional Democrats and labor leaders pushed for Elizabeth Warren, the architect of the consumer financial protection bureau created by the bill, to be named its first head. “Symbolically, it does seem incredibly important to pick somebody who not only invented the idea,” said Stephen Lerner of the Service Employees International Union, “but someone who doesn??t claim to be a neutral.”New York TimesNew York TimesForbesNew York TimesThe Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13 to 6 to approve Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, sending her candidacy to the full Senate for confirmation. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham was the lone Republican to vote in favor of Kagan. “No one spent more time trying to beat President Obama than I did,” said Graham, who was also the only Republican committee member to vote for Sonia Sotomayor. “But President Obama won.”Washington PostWashington PostBP’s board met to decide the future of CEO Tony Hayward, and the rock band Kings of Leon abandoned the stage three songs into a concert in St. Louis after a pigeon shat in their bass player’s mouth.MSNBCBBC

Forensic scientists in Romania dug up the official graves of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu to determine whether the bodies of the former dictator and his wife are really buried there.New York TimesAmazon.com announced that it was selling more ebooks than hardcovers for the first time, and the Library of Congress, which oversees the U.S. Copyright Office, ruled that iPhone owners can legally “jailbreak” their phones to download software that is not approved by Apple.GuardianNew York TimesOfficials revealed that prisoners in a northern Mexican prison had been allowed out at night to moonlight as hitmen using vehicles and weapons provided by prison guards.New York TimesA British hedge-fund manager spent roughly $1 billion on 240,000 tons of cocoa beans in an effort to corner the world cocoa market, and scientists in England were developing Ecobot III, a self-sustaining robot that feeds on biomass, digesting it in an artificial gut and excreting waste into a litter tray. “Diarrhea-bot would be more appropriate,” said the director of the lab working on the project. “It’s not exactly knocking out rabbit pellets.” BBCMSNBC

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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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