Weekly Review — September 28, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Caught in the Web, 1860]

Caught in the Web, 1860.

Republican senators blocked a $726 billion defense bill containing provisions to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and provide U.S. citizenship to some foreign-born children of undocumented immigrants.WSJLady Gaga lobbied senators to support the legistlation, arguing that it made more sense to ban U.S. soldiers who do not believe in equality; the new ban, she suggested, could be called “If You Don’t Like It, Go Home.” ABCStephen Colbert testified before Congress in support of migrant workers. “I like talking about people who don??t have any power,” he said. NYTCuba detailed plans to license private entrepreneurs in 178 professions, including music and clowning. NYTIn the Gulf of Mexico, scientists speculated that an underwater “blizzard” of gooey organic matter (commonly known as marine snow or sea snot) was an effect of the BP oil spill. “I suspect,” said sea-snot expert Alice Alldredge, “the bottom-dwelling organisms might not be so happy.” National GeographicHBO released a previously unaired 1998 television clip of Christine O’Donnell, now a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Delaware, in which she said evolution is a myth. “Why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?” she demanded to know. HBO via ThinkprogressScientists announced the discovery of two new dinosaur species in Utah. One had fifteen horns on its large head and has been named Kosmoceratops; the other, with no remarkable features, has been named Utahceratops. CSM

Computer worm Stuxnet was reportedly targeting Iranian nuclear facilities. Exploiting security flaws in Microsoft Windows, it is the first known worm designed to infect industrial-control systems. Computer-security experts said the complexity of the worm suggested it was probably made by a government agency. SymantecPC MagNYTCSMCSMGuardianJames Heselden, owner of the Segway company, died in a mysterious Segway accident; his body was found in a river along with his Segway. CNNThe Justice Department “reluctantly” invoked “state secrets” in asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit on behalf of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Aulaqi, a cleric now living in Yemen who was targeted for assassination by the CIA,WPWPand it was revealed that the CIA was maintaining an elite paramilitary force of 3,000 soldiers known as “Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams” for use in the war in Afghanistan and the “secret” war in Pakistan.WPThe Justice Department reported that “a significant number” of FBI employees had conspired with supervisors to cheat on a skills-assessment exam, TPMand the University of Illinois denied emeritus status to retired professor and former Weatherman William Ayers, after university trustee Christopher Kennedy complained that Ayers had once dedicated a book to Sirhan Sirhan.Chicago Tribune

Eight thousand laptops sent by the United States to the children of Babil, Iraq, were missing; at least half had been auctioned off by Iraqis for about $10 each. NYTThe United Nations was $180 million short of funds needed to feed 6 million Pakistani flood victims through the end of this year.AFP via GoogleNewly released documents itemized the more than $1 billion that Canada spent to host the G-8 for three days in June, including $60 million for lodging and food, $4 million for a steel fence, and $42,000 for a harpoon system to disable speedboat attackers. NYTIt was estimated that the costs of dementia worldwide would reach $604 billion this year, or one percent of global GDP,Reutersand scientists confirmed that four-year-olds can understand irony.TelegraphVideo-rental chain Blockbuster declared bankruptcy,Newsweekand Brooklyn beekeepers fought in vain to save a bee colony after its hive was wrecked by a tornado, but all its honey had already been stolen by “robber bees” from other colonies . NYTFrench chocolatier Georges Larnicol launched a boat made out of chocolate in the port of Concarneau. BBCA poorly designed luxury hotel in Las Vegas, covered in reflective glass, condensed the rays of the sun and beamed them down on the resort’s swimming pool, causing plastic in the vicinity to melt. One hotel guest said that his hair had been scorched, and that hotel employees laughed at him, saying “Yes, we call it the death ray.” Las Vegas Review-Journal

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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.

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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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After losing their savings in the stock market crash of 2008, seniors Barb and Chuck find seasonal employment at Amazon fulfillment centers.

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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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