Weekly Review — February 14, 2012, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Saluting the Town, March 1854]

Greeceâ??s parliament approved an austerity bill, cutting 15,000 government jobs and reducing the minimum wage by 22 percent in exchange for $170 billion in bailout funds from the European Union and the I.M.F. “We must show that Greeks, when they are called on to choose between the bad and the worst, choose the bad to avoid the worst,” said finance minister Evangelos Venizelos. More than 80,000 protesters marched in Athens on Sunday, some of them looting and vandalizing local stores. At least 34 buildings burned, including a Starbucks and an underground movie theater once used as a torture chamber by the Gestapo. “This is worse than the Forties,” said an elderly woman. “This time the government is following the Germansâ?? orders.”APAP via USA TodayReutersBloombergNew York TimesWhile striking in Brussels against an increase in their retirement age, hundreds of firefighters broke through barricades outside the prime ministerâ??s office and soaked riot police in water and fire retardant.GuardianRT.comA man was arrested in The Hague after trying to throw a marijuana snowball over a prison wall, and Dutch ice skaters expressed hope that the extreme cold in Europe, which has killed more than 500 people, would allow them to hold the traditional 124-mile Elfstedentocht speed-skating race for the first time in 15 years.APTelegraphReutersRight-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart addressed Occupy D.C. demonstrators outside the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. “Behave yourself! Behave yourself! Learn to behave yourselves!” he screamed as police led him away. “Stop raping people! Stop raping people! Stop raping people! Stop raping the people! You freaks! You filthy freaks! You filthy, filthy, filthy, raping, murdering freaks!”Atlantic Wire

Al Qaeda announced its support of antiregime protesters in Syria, and Anonymous hacked into the servers of the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affairs, gaining access to staffersâ?? email accounts, many of which had the password “12345.” One leaked document detailed plans to bypass international sanctions by trading fertilizer with Iran, while another listed talking points for President Bashar al-Assadâ??s December 2011 interview with Barbara Walters. “American psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are â??mistakesâ?? done and now we are fixing it,â??” the document stated, suggesting that Assad mention Wall Street protests “and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by police men, police dogs and beatings.”ReutersPC MagazineHaaretzHaaretzFollowing complaints from Catholic officials, President Barack Obama amended a recently issued mandate requiring employers to provide free contraception to employees. “Thanks to President Obama,” said Southern Baptist minister and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, “we are all Catholics now.”PoliticoRaw StoryA woman claimed that John F. Kennedy took her virginity when she was a 19-year-old White House intern, and an Oklahoma state senator withdrew from an antiabortion bill her proposed amendment banning ejaculation anywhere but a womanâ??s vagina.Daily BeastJezebelGuardianRepublican presidential candidate Rick Santorum toured a Bemidji, Minnesota, sweater-vest factory, won caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota and a nonbinding primary in Missouri, and said he opposed combat roles for female soldiers because of “the emotions of men… having men not focusing potentially on the mission instead of the natural instinct to protect someone thatâ??s a female.”Raw StoryNew York TimesNew York TimesDallas schoolgirls were excluded from a field trip to see “Red Tails,” a movie about the Tuskegee Airmen. “Girls stayed at school,” said a school-board spokesman, “but principals were given the option to show them â??Akeelah and the Bee.â??”Dallas Morning NewsFlorence Green, the last known veteran of World War I, died at age 110 in England; singer Whitney Houston died at age 48 in Los Angeles; and 1,000 mourners in Illinois attended the funeral of Nello Ferrara, inventor of the Lemonhead and the Atomic Fireball.New York TimesCBS NewsAP via ABC NewsA Wisconsin company was reported to have granted a four-year-oldâ??s Christmas wish for a $380 “Persuade” dual-flush toilet. “â??Mom, wouldnâ??t that be great if I could have this?” the boy said during a visit to the companyâ??s showroom. “Could you imagine all of the things I could do?”Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

New York City hotels announced plans to issue panic buttons to their maids, and British mathematicians used the Rapunzel Number to solve the Ponytail Shape Equation. “We all have likely wondered about the fluffiness of hair,” said Raymond Goldstein, Schlumberger Professor of Complex Physical Systems at the University of Cambridge.AFPDaily MailReuters via Raw StoryUniversity of CambridgeA federal appeals court overturned Californiaâ??s gay-marriage ban, the state legislatures of Washington and New Jersey passed same-sex marriage bills, and Uganda reintroduced an antigay measure, substituting life imprisonment for the original penalty of death.USA TodayAP via USA TodayAP via USA TodayRaw StoryFollowing incidents in four other states, the notorious Piggyback Bandit was spotted in Minnesota, where officials feared he would again rub the necks of high school athletes and jump onto their backs. “Itâ??s the creepiness of the behavior that alarms most people,” said a North Dakota activities director. “Itâ??s a little creepy.”UPIAn official inquiry was ordered in Karnataka, India, after Laxman Savadi, the minister for cooperation, was caught viewing a lewd video clip with the minister for women and children. “Why should I resign?” asked Savadi before resigning. “The video I watched was of a woman being raped by four people. It was not porn.”BBCFilmmakers raised money to release a movie about Osama bin Laden and an “army of zombie terrorists.”Raw StoryIn the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth formally rededicated herself to England, gardeners dug up a bed of blue centaurea growing in the shape of a swastika in Weston-super-Mare, and Swansea University administrators installed restroom posters instructing foreign students on proper toilet postures.Daily MailTelegraphBBCThe Newtown Creek sewage-treatment plant in Brooklyn planned a Valentineâ??s Day tour package including gifts of Hersheyâ??s Kisses and views of its stainless steel “digester eggs,” which process millions of gallons of gas and sludge each day. “Just imagine,” said the plantâ??s superintendent, “going home and saying, â??Where did he take me on Valentineâ??s Day? I went to see the digester eggs in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.â??”GovPro

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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.

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.

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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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A gay penguin couple in China’s Polar Land zoo were ostracized by other penguins and then placed in a separate enclosure after they made repeated attempts to steal the eggs of straight penguin couples and replace them with stones.

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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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