Weekly Review — June 28, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: All In My Eye, December 1853]

An American cattleman.

Revelers at New York Cityâ??s gay pride parade waved signs reading “Thank You Governor Cuomo” and “Promise Kept!” after New York became the sixth and largest U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. The state senate vote marked the culmination of an intensive lobbying campaign by gay-rights advocates and Governor Andrew Cuomo, backed by three wealthy Republican businessmen. “We were outgunned,” said Dennis Poust of the New York State Catholic Conference, which opposed the bill. “That is a lot to overcome.” Republican congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said she would support a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples. “After all,” said Bachmann, “the family is the fundamental unit of government.”NY TimesChristian PostNY TimesTwenty Kurdish activists were applauded when they stumbled into Istanbulâ??s gay pride parade after fleeing tear gas fired by police at a nearby political demonstration, thousands of Libyans celebrated on the streets of Misrata after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Muammar Gaddafi, and the Ukrainian activist group Femen demonstrated in Kiev on behalf of Saudi women, who are prohibited by law from driving. Covering their faces and baring their breasts, female protesters drove past the Saudi embassy chanting “cars for women, camels for men.”The GuardianRadio Free EuropeCNN

Walesâ??s Cardiff Royal Infirmary issued an apology for making elderly patients use tambourines to attract nurses’ attention. “Patients should never have to use a tambourine,” said Steve Allen, the hospital’s chief officer. “I also understand anecdotally that maracas were used, which was unacceptable.”BBCThe United Kingdomâ??s Health Protection Agency warned that “too much alcohol, drugs, sex and less than ideal hygiene” at summer music festivals could cause illness, and a man was discovered hiding in the tank of a portable toilet at the Hanuman Yoga Festival in Boulder, Colorado; according to police, festival security “tried to detain the suspect, but he ran away, covered in feces.”Yahoo News/ReutersWales OnlineThe town of Greenwood, Maine, voted not to rename Alcohol Mary Road, while a woman driving down Vroom Street in Jersey City fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a mattress store.nj.comSun JournalDutch airline KLM announced plans to recycle used cooking oil into biofuel for its flights to and from France, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent an open letter to the Vatican asking that a proposed hybrid-fuel “popemobile” be made without leather, which the letter said was “hell for cows.”Huffington PostFox BusinessA man in Hawaii was fined $100 for slapping a monk seal. Maui News

Britain’s National Marine Aquarium announced plans to slather an epileptic loggerhead turtle named Snorkel in petroleum jelly and transport her to an MRI machine to check for a brain tumor. BBCIn New Zealand, a lost emperor penguin was sent from Peka Peka Beach to the Wellington Zoo for veterinary care after it was seen eating sand and driftwood twigs, which it then tried to regurgitate.Associated PressManagers at a German chemical company began storing their cell phones in biscuit tins in order to guard against industrial espionage, researchers from Texas found that ground-dwelling songbirds avoid building nests near sites where they overhear chipmunk trills, chips, and chucks, and researchers from Ohio found that woodchucks pay less attention to chipmunk distress signals than chipmunks pay to woodchuck signals. “Maybe the woodchucks are just desensitized to the chipmunk alarm calls,” said one scientist. “Chipmunks are really chatty.” BBCWiredAFP via GoogleThe Chinese government released dissident artist Ai Weiwei from prison but banned him from using Twitter. Prior to his arrest, Ai had posted 60,162 tweets. “The country will continue to stride forward,” reported the state-run Global Times newspaper, “and it will not pay heed toward this inane chatter.”UK Telegraph

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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?

Illustration (detail) by Lincoln Agnew
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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.

By the time he arrived at the Equitas Health clinic, Chase was eighteen, and had long since come to dread doctors and hospitals. As a child, he’d had asthma, migraines, two surgeries for a tumor that had caused deafness in one ear, and gangrene from an infected bug bite. Doctors had always assumed he was a girl. After puberty, Chase said, he avoided looking in the mirror because his chest and hips “didn’t feel like my body.” He liked it when strangers saw him as male, but his voice was high-pitched, so he rarely spoke in public. Then, when Chase was fourteen, he watched a video on YouTube in which a twentysomething trans man described taking testosterone to lower his voice and appear more masculine. Suddenly, Chase had an explanation for how he felt — and what he wanted.

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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.

Photograph from Puerto Rico by Christopher Gregory
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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.

Illustration by Steve Brodner
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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.

Amount Arizona’s Red Feather Lodge offered to pay to reopen the Grand Canyon during the 2013 government shutdown:

$25,000

A Brazilian cat gave birth to a dog.

Trump’s former chief strategist, whom Trump said had “lost his mind,” issued a statement saying that Trump’s son did not commit treason; the US ambassador to the United Nations announced that “no one questions” Trump’s mental stability; and the director of the CIA said that Trump, who requested “killer graphics” in his intelligence briefings, is able to read.

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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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