Weekly Review — June 21, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Humbug, December 1853]

Workers at Japanâ??s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, where 110,000 tons of radioactive water have collected since an earthquake and tsunami in March, were forced to suspend a new filtration scheme after a cesium absorber that was expected to last a month wore out in five hours. Addressing fears that Japanâ??s seasonal rains could cause some of the contaminated water to spill into the Pacific, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Company said the utility would “probably be able to solve the problem” before the holding facility was overwhelmed. Kyodo via Japan TimesBBCIn China, where the worst floods in half a century displaced millions of people in the south and east of the country, and the worst droughts in half a century continued to plague some northern regions, officials in charge of the controversial Three Gorges Dam released a report calling the structure “hugely beneficial” in controlling floods and preventing droughts. XinhuaBBCXinhuaXinhua via China DailyBlack smoke hung over Vancouver after riots following the Canucksâ?? loss to the Boston Bruins in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals. “This isnâ??t what the Canucks are about,” said a dejected Vancouverite. “Iâ??m seriously disappointed in the city of Vancouver and the country of Canada,” said another, “because it makes me feel the insecurity I read about in other parts of the world.”AP via Seattle TimesCBC

Federal goose counters descended on New York in preparation for the cityâ??s second annual Canada goose cull. Unlike last year, when the geese were gassed and carted to the dump, officials plan to round up the fowl and ship them alive to Pennsylvania, where they will be slaughtered and distributed to hungry residents.NYTA couple in Rexburg, Idaho, filed for bankruptcy after discovering their dream home was infested with garter snakes. “It felt like we were living in Satanâ??s lair,” said former owner Amber Sessions. “Weâ??re not going to pay for a house full of snakes,” said her husband, Ben. AP via YahooSeveral weeks after publicly tweeting a lewd photo of his crotch, Representative Anthony Weiner (D., N.Y.) announced he would resign, “so that I can continue to heal from the damage that I have caused.” Though he was roundly heckled during his speech, Weiner had some sympathizers. “I know the computer is dangerous to everyone,” said one of his constituents. “It brings the devil in the house.” NYTIn Iran, authorities deployed 70,000 morality police to crack down on shorts-wearing and scientists announced plans to launch a monkey into space. GuardianForeign PolicyA rabbinical court in Jerusalem was erroneously reported to have sentenced a local dog to death by stoning because it was believed to contain the spirit of a cursed secular lawyer, and researchers in New Zealand induced several genetically modified goys â?? female goats trapped in the bodies of sterile males â?? to lactate.YnetNZPA via Hawkeâ??s Bay Today

A Spaniard refused to have his house painted Smurf blue, Afghans blamed an Iranian pimp for tainting the number 39, and an eight-century-old relic of Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost objects, went missing.Der SpiegelReuters via Hartford CourantNYTCustoms agents along the U.S.-Mexico border seized 159 pounds of iguana meat, while their Russian counterparts in the town of Blagoveshchensk apprehended a China-bound cache of 1,041 bear paws, five woolly mammoth tusks, and 143 pounds of elk lips. ReutersNYTBeneath the ice of Russiaâ??s White Sea, a diver tamed a pair of beluga whales. Since belugas are thought to dislike artificial materials such as wetsuits and breathing apparatus, the diver entered the freezing water naked, using yoga to stay alive. Daily MailIn Portland, Oregon, 7.8 million gallons of drinking water were discarded after a man relieved himself in a reservoir in the early hours of the morning. Asked what difference a small amount of urine made, given that city officials routinely find dead animals in the reservoir, Water Bureau administrator David Shaff replied, “This is different. Do you want to drink pee?”The Oregonian

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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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