Weekly Review — December 27, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

An angry-looking, monkey-like creature showing its teeth.

A kinkajou, 1886.

After weeks of infighting, Congress passed a two-month extension of the payroll-tax cut. House Republicans, who had rejected a nearly identical measure days earlier, were left divided over the stopgap measure, which pitted recently elected lawmakers seeking major reforms against party veterans. “When you start making decisions based on elections,” said Representative Mo Brooks (R., Ala.), “then you run the risk of having the mess we just did.” President Barack Obama also signed into law a $1 trillion spending bill, warning that he reserved the right to challenge certain provisions promoted by Republicans, such as a prohibition on using the money to repatriate prisoners from Guantánamo Bay. Reuters via Raw StoryWashington PostUSA TodayUSA TodayObama took a break from campaigning for the passage of the bills to purchase video games for his daughters for Christmas. “The girls beat me every time on these dance games,” said Obama. “I get graded F every time.” “The past four presidents that I served under,” said Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.), “exerted a lot more leadership than going shopping.”LA TimesRaw StorySarah Palin criticized the Obama family’s holiday card for failing to show American Christmas values of “family, faith, and freedom.”Fox News RadioAdultery website Ashley Madison endorsed Newt Gingrich for president, Ron Paul stormed off an interview set after being asked about racist newsletters issued in his name during the 1980s and 1990s, and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.) apologized to Michelle Obama for referring to her “large posterior” and “big butt” while complaining about the First Lady’s healthy-eating initiatives.MSNBCThe AtlanticThe AtlanticPoliticoA Florida woman was arrested after calling 911 to report having eaten too much, and rapper Slim Dunkin was murdered in Atlanta after a fight over stolen candy.The PulpMTV

Flooding in the Philippines killed at least 1,200 people and left another 60,000 homeless. “This is the worst Christmas gift one can receive,” said a Filipino man with eight children who lost his house in the flood. “There is no Christmas,” said the mayor of Cagayan de Oro.USA TodayBBCAFPA bombing by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram killed at least 25 worshippers at a Christmas mass outside Abuja; 68 people were killed in clashes between Boko Haram and Nigerian government forces; and Kenya killed 15 people in two air raids on Islamist-held regions of Somalia.APGuardianBBCA wave of 16 bombings killed 69 people in one day in Baghdad.APTwo suicide bombings killed 44 people in Damascus; Syrian state television claimed that Al Qaeda was responsible for the attacks, while opposition leaders claimed Bashar al-Assad’s regime was responsible.BBCCNNFormer cricket star Imran Khan drew more than 100,000 Pakistanis to a rally in Karachi for democratic reform, and more than 50,000 Russians marched in Moscow, calling for their country’s parliamentary elections to be rerun.APChristian Science MonitorInterpol issued an arrest warrant for Jean-Claude Mas, founder of a French company that sold breast implants filled with below-medical-grade silicone in 65 countries, for drunk-driving in Costa Rica. “He was a butcher, selling ham and sausage, before he started this line of work,” said a former associate of Mas’s. The French government offered to pay for 30,000 women to have the implants removed.AFPCBCReuters via Chicago TribuneAstronomers posited that two newly discovered Earth-sized planets are the “roasted remains” of bodies that were formerly much larger.BBCNatureOne in a hundred Britons was found to be descended from pirates.Telegraph

Following a “very jolly” winter-solstice ceremony, Rollo Maughfling, Archdruid of Stonehenge, augured that 2012 would be a good year, while authorities in Mexico began the year-long countdown to December 21, 2012, which some people believe is predicted by an ancient Mayan stone tablet to be the date of apocalypse. “Regardless whether the threat of December 21 2012 is real or not,” survivalist Yang Muffins wrote recently on survivalguide2012.org, “there is no harm in being prepared.”TelegraphAPSurvival Guide 2012Men with voices judged by women to be sexy were found to be less fertile, fame was found to increase the risk of death among rock stars, and rock stars were found not to be in greatest peril at 27, the age at which Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and numerous other musicians died.PLoSoneAFP via Daily News EgyptHeroin dating to 1928 was discovered in the British National Archives.BBCA South Carolina man died from eating an ounce of cocaine out of his brother’s bum after the two were arrested and thrown in the back of a police car.Click OrlandoResearchers in Nova Scotia found that binge drinking is contagious. “Pick your friends and lovers carefully,” said Dr. Simon Sherry, “because they influence you more than you think.”UPIResidents of Rikuzentakata decorated for Christmas the “miracle pine” that was the only one of a stand of 70,000 pine trees to survive the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan earlier this year, and Georgians refused to fell pine trees for Christmas.Japan TimesBBCDutch and Ethiopian researchers discovered that Boswellia trees, from which frankincense is made, are in steep decline. “Frankincense,” said lead researcher Dr. Frans Bongers, “is doomed.”Christian Science Monitor

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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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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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