Weekly Review — February 21, 2012, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

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

A prison fire in Honduras killed 359 people, making it the deadliest such fire on record. An inmate was reported to have started the fire after phoning the state governor’s office and saying he was going to burn down the prison, then lighting his bedding on fire. The facility officially housed 857 prisoners, more than double its intended capacity, and was being supervised by 12 guards, who prevented firefighters from entering while the fire spread. “The guards first thought they had a prison break,” said the director of Honduras’s prison system, “so they followed the law saying no one could enter to prevent unnecessary deaths.” The U.S. military’s Joint Task Force Bravo, which was stationed near the prison, sent masks, flashlights, and glow sticks.Boston.comUSA TodayWikipediaAPAPForty-four people died in a prison riot in Mexico, Islamist gunmen freed 119 people from a jail in Nigeria, and three people were killed in Manila during a failed attempt by Islamist guerrillas to free an imprisoned comrade.NY TimesAFP via Yahoo! NewsAP via NPRIsrael’s ambassador to Thailand accused Iran of involvement in bombing attempts against Israeli diplomats in Bangkok, New Delhi, and Tbilisi.NY TimesChristian Science MonitorSean Stone, son of filmmaker Oliver Stone, converted to Islam in Tehran, and in Buenos Aires actor Sean Penn criticized the United Kingdom for its “colonialist” rule over the Falkland Islands.Tehran TimesGuardianResidents of Nogent-sur-Marne, France, challenged their town’s decision to depict the face of Italian-born first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy on a bronze statue of a worker rather than that of a male mason, and Icelandic musicians protested the State Alcohol and Tobacco Company of Iceland’s ban on Motörhead-brand shiraz, named after the English heavy metal band. “It is a violation of human rights,” said SĂłlstafir lead singer AĂ°albjörn Tryggvason, “to not be able to buy yourself red wine.”AFP via TelegraphAPReykjavĂ­k GrapevineReykjavĂ­k Grapevine

 

Dave Mustaine, lead singer of the heavy metal band Megadeth, announced, then denied, his endorsement of G.O.P. presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and Santorum’s main financial backer, billionaire investor Foster Friess, apologized for comments he made about contraception. “Back in my days they used Bayer aspirin,” said Friess. “The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”Music RadarCNN via Raw StoryReutersThree House Democrats walked out of a committee hearing on contraception, in protest of a witness panel consisting entirely of male religious leaders.Atlantic WireThe Virginia House of Delegates passed a “personhood” bill conferring the rights of a human being upon an embryo at the moment of fertilization, the Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, and New Jersey governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.AP via CBS NewsWashington PostAFP via Raw StoryTwo F-16s intercepted a Cessna carrying 40 pounds of marijuana over Los Angeles after it entered the airspace of Marine One, which was transporting President Barack Obama on a fundraising trip.AFP via Raw StorySix weeks after signing the Shark Conservation Act into law, Obama ate lunch at one of the few California restaurants still serving shark-fin soup. The president “ordered a lot of dim sum takeout,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. “No soup.”San Francisco ChronicleAFPAn ESPN employee was fired after posting the headline “Chink in the Armor” for an article about the end of a New York Knicks winning streak led by Taiwanese-American point guard Jeremy Lin.ESPNDeadspinGame theorists in Switzerland determined that prejudice is a sound, if error-prone, strategy for short-term interactions in high-migration populations, and Canadian doctors found that the babies of South and East Asian immigrants are often incorrectly deemed underweight.PLoSoneCBC.caThe Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University declared the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, which burned through the latex gloves of the researchers assigned to pick it, to be the hottest pepper on earth. “There will be a run on seeds and plants,” predicted grower Jim Duffy. “Like Cabbage Patch dolls right before Christmas.”AP via NOLA.com

Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter died at 57 of brain cancer, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anthony Shadid died at 43 following an asthma attack while reporting in Syria, and adventurer John Fairfax, who lived as a trapper in the Argentine jungle as a teenager and as a pirate-ship captain in his twenties, and who crossed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in a rowboat, died at 74.NY TimesNY TimesNY TimesA man reportedly suffered a heart attack while eating a Triple Bypass burger at the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas.Fox 5 VegasLas Vegas Review-JournalA Scottish musician was bitten in the testicle by a venomous tiger snake while urinating in a Tasmanian garden.Sun (U.K.)Calcutta prepared to be painted blue.BBCGerman academics voted “shitstorm” the most useful English loanword in the German language, a BBC weatherman forecasted “bucket loads of cunt” for central and eastern England, and a British Airways flight attendant was arrested for writing “The bomb on board will explode at 16.00 GMT unless our demands are met” on a bathroom door during a flight from Tokyo to London.Global PostDaily MailTelegraphJournalists documented the rise of rabbit-petting cafĂ©s in Tokyo and the spread of decaf “babyccino” coffees from Australia to Brooklyn. “My child has been going to cafĂ©s since he was a newborn,” said one Brooklyn mother. Babyccinos, said the Australian inventor of the instant babyccino, “interrupt workflow, create milk wastage, and can be served at a dangerous temperature to a vulnerable consumer.”Japan TimesBrooklyn Paper

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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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"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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