Weekly Review — August 17, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Tempest, December 1878]

President Obama, during a Ramadan dinner at the White House, expressed his support for the First Amendment. “As a citizen, and as president,” Obama said, “I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.” Representative Peter King (R., N.Y.) said that the president had “caved in to political correctness,” and Newt Gingrich accused Obama of “pandering to radical Islam.” Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis for the conservative American Family Association, wrote on the organization’s website that there should be “no more mosques, period” in the United States. “This is for one simple reason,” he wrote. “Each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.”NYTTPMThe Saudi government was funding the construction of a 2,000-foot-tall clock tower in Mecca that would establish the city as the “true center of the earth,”Telegraphand Iranian Vice President Reza Rahimi lashed out at countries that support U.N. sanctions against his country. British people, Rahimi said, are “not human” and are “a bunch of idiots run by a mafia,” while Australians are “a bunch of cattlemen” and Koreans “need to be slapped.”UKPA

General David Petraeus suggested that he would not recommend large-scale withdrawals of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan starting in July 2011. “The president didn’t send me over here to seek a graceful exit,” Petraeus said.NYTThe U.S. military judge presiding over the trial of Omar Khadr, a 23-year-old Canadian who was captured in Afghanistan when he was 15, ruled that Khadr’s confession to killing an American soldier, although made under threat of rape and death, would be allowed as evidence in his trial. BBCAn Army officer on the jury who said he believed that the Guantánamo Bay detention facility should be closed was removed from Khadr’s trial, which was suspended for thirty days after Khadr’s U.S.-appointed lawyer fainted during opening arguments.IndependentBBCPakistan canceled official independence-day celebrations in the aftermath of floods that have killed 1,600 people, and Russian wildfires created a cloud of toxic smog over Moscow, where the summer death rate had more than doubled and doctors were advised to cease listing heatstroke as a cause of death.BBCGuardianBBCMore than 500 people reported being bitten by vampire bats in the Peruvian Amazon, and the Japanese government was trying to track down almost 200 “missing” centenarians.BBCBBCMountain climbers in Sweden were unnerved by Nazi-inspired names that were given to routes up a Stockholm crag. “It felt rather unpleasant to climb through the ‘Crematorium,'” said climber Cordelia Hess, “or say that ‘now I am going to do Kristallnacht.'”The Local

A motorist in upstate New York was arrested during a traffic stop when police discovered a cat locked in his trunk, “marinating” in pepper, salt, and oil. The driver explained that Navarro, the cat, had been “mean” to him, and was “possessive, greedy, and wasteful.”BuffaloNews.comA Texas man drove more than 12,000 miles around the United States, using a satellite device to trace parts of his route that spell the message “READ AYN RAND.” WiredA Pittsburgh man asked an Allegheny County judge to approve his request to change his name to Boomer the Dog. To support his request, he produced a letter addressed to Boomer from his friend, a man who calls himself Hobnose Bordercollie.Pittsburgh Post-GazetteThe U.S. beef industry was testing methods of cloning dead cows from ideal cuts of meat and mating those clones with natural cows to create the ultimate beef-producing livestock. “We identify carcasses that have certain carcass characteristics that we want,” explained Brady Hicks of the agribusiness firm J. R. Simplot. “Through cloning we can resurrect that animal.”BBCReality TV star and singer Tila Tequila was attacked by an angry mob of Juggalos, fans of the rap group Insane Clown Posse who wear clown makeup. “She’s pretty cut up,” said one witness, who asked not to be identified because he feared Juggalo reprisals. “She didn’t understand the dynamic.”CNNLevi Johnston, father of Sarah Palin’s grandson, announced he would run for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, in 2012, and that his campaign would be the basis for a reality show. Johnston’s manager dismissed skepticism about his client’s political career: “People questioned Jesus Christ, so I definitely don’t care about these mere mortals questioning Levi Johnston.”USA Today

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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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"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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