Weekly Review — August 31, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Two thousand seven hundred twenty-two days after U.S. troops crossed the Kuwaiti border into Iraq, U.S. combat operations there officially ended. Vice President Joseph Biden arrived to usher in ”Operation New Dawn,” during which the nearly 50,000 American troops remaining in the country will still be available for combat missions when requested by Iraqi forces. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks in 13 towns and cities that killed at least 56 people, many of them members of the Iraqi police and security forces, calling the assaults “the wings of victory sweeping again over a new day.”New York TimesSeattle TimesNew York TimesGeneral Ray Odierno, the outgoing U.S. commander in Iraq, said that the formation of a new government there could still be months away. “If we get the government formed, I think weâ??re okay,” Odierno said. “If we donâ??t, I donâ??t know.” New York TimesA gunman killed six people and wounded 14 in the Slovak capital of Bratislava.New York TimesFive soldiers in Afghanistan were charged with forming a “kill team” to summarily execute random Afghan civilians, a college student recently returned from a month spent filming Marines in Afghanistan slashed a Muslim cab driver in New York, and General David Petraeus revealed that he is “an Enya guy.”Raw StoryNew York Daily NewsFox News

Glenn Beck led a “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech there. The rally, Beck said, had “nothing to do with politics” but “everything to do with God.” “Something that is beyond man is happening,” he told a crowd estimated by him at 500,000 and by news sources at 87,000. “America today begins to turn back to God.” Other speakers included St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and first baseman Albert Pujols and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. “It is so humbling to get to be here with you today, patriots,” said Palin. “You who are motivated and engaged and knowing never to retreat.” A competing rally organized by Reverend Al Sharpton at nearby Dunbar High School drew several thousand people. “They may have the mall,” Sharpton said, “but we have the message.”New York TimesWashington ExaminerDemocratic congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, admitted to steering 15 CBC scholarships to her own relatives and the children of aides. Johnson said she “unknowingly” broke the CBC’s anti-nepotism rules and was working to “rectify the financial situation.” PoliticoA public middle school in Nettelton, Mississippi, ended race-based quotas that prevented black students from being elected class president.MSNBC

The victim of 13 years of repeated rape by a Belgian bishop released recordings of a meeting in which Cardinal Godfried Danneels, then the leader of the Church in Belgium, asked him to wait until the retirement of the bishopâ??who was also the victim’s uncleâ??before going public. “The bishop will resign next year, so actually it would be better for you to wait,” the cardinal says on the tapes. “I donâ??t think youâ??d do yourself or him a favor by shouting this from the rooftops.”New York TimesA North Carolina “ghost hunter” searching for a ghost train at the site of an 1891 wreck was struck and killed on the tracks, a Cincinnati woman was arrested for using a sex toy while driving, and a two-week traffic jam ended in China. At its peak, traffic stretched 60 miles and moved about a mile a day. WISTVWCPOThe Economist“Crocodile Dundee” actor Paul Hogan was detained in Australia for failure to pay taxes on $37.6 million of undeclared income, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin shot a whale with a crossbow. “I hit it at the fourth try!” said Putin.Yahoo NewsGuardian

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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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