Weekly Review — April 16, 2012, 9:29 pm

Weekly Review

saluting_the_town_350x278 North Korea commemorated the hundredth anniversary of Great Leader Kim Il Sung’s birth by unveiling a new portrait of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, formally naming new leader Kim Jong Un as head of the National Defense Commission, and launching a long-range rocket bearing a satellite called Bright Shining Star. The rocket, which was estimated to have cost the equivalent of six years’ worth of food for North Korea’s 24 million citizens, flew for one minute before disintegrating over the Yellow Sea. “This stuff is really hard to do,” said a theoretical physicist not involved with the launch. Hours after the rocket’s failure, Kim Jong Un laughed with commanders at his first public speech, where he unveiled another, possibly fake, missile and called the strengthening of the military his “first, second, and third” priorities. A tour guide inadvertently drove a busload of foreign reporters, invited for the centenary celebrations, into a Pyongyang slum. “I hope that the journalists present here report only the absolute truth,” said one chaperone.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8] It was reported that more than 150,000 North Koreans were being held in secret government labor camps; that Ukraine had refused to permit the release of a movie depicting Ukrainians as Nazi collaborators; and that a Gori, Georgia, museum honoring Joseph Stalin was being remodeled to focus on his atrocities. “Stalin was a great man,” said one Gori resident. “As to the purges, they did take place, but there were significantly fewer victims than the number we hear today.”[9][10][11] Cuban “Harlistas” participated in hot-dog-catching and no-feet motorcycle-riding competitions at the country’s first nationwide Harley-Davidson rally, and Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins suspended manager Ozzie Guillen after he was quoted saying “I love Fidel Castro” in an interview. “I was thinking in Spanish and said it wrong in English,” said Guillen. “It was misinterpreted. I said I cannot believe someone who has hurt so many people is still alive.”[12][13]

George Zimmerman, whose lawyers quit after he stopped responding to their calls and text messages, emerged from hiding in Florida to plead not guilty to the murder of Trayvon Martin.[14][15][16] The executive director of the NRA expressed his support for Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, arguing that it could “literally save your life,” while Ben Crump, the Martin family’s lawyer, said he would call for its repeal. “We’re not the wild, wild West,” he said.[17] Rick Santorum suspended his presidential candidacy, while Newt Gingrich vowed to stay in the race.[18] Former Republican candidate Herman Cain released an anti-tax video in which a farmer is eaten alive by chickens.[19] Politicians in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu offered a reward of $2,000 for the capture of vampires accused by townspeople of sucking blood from cattle, and police in Brazil arrested a three-person sect for luring women with offers of lucrative babysitting jobs, then turning them into human empanadas and selling them to neighbors.[20][21] Crematoria in Germany were found to be melting under the strain of increasingly obese corpses; ten protesters deposited on the doorstep of the German embassy in Athens a pile of fake human feces covered in gold paper and topped with a photo of a busty Angela Merkel–headed eagle; and in Los Angeles, a man stood up and shouted “Heil Hitler!” in the middle of a city-council meeting. “This city’s going to hell in a handbasket,” he said. “So I guess I’ll just salute you.”[22][23][24]

Eleven U.S. Secret Service agents had their security clearances revoked following allegations they’d entertained prostitutes at a hotel in Cartagena. A ten-year-old Colombian gave birth to a baby girl.[25][26][27] El Salvador celebrated its first murder-free day in nearly three years.[28] Charles Manson, who recently bragged to a prison psychologist that he was “a very dangerous man,” was denied parole for the twelfth time, at a hearing he refused to attend.[29] One of a group of marauding black bears charged Vermont governor Peter Shumlin after he ran naked from his house to save his birdfeeders from them. “You almost lost the governor,” he said. “I was within three feet of getting ‘Arrrh.’”[30][31] Newark mayor Cory Booker suffered smoke inhalation and burns after he rushed into a neighbor’s burning apartment building and “whipped her out of bed.”[32] A San Francisco man fashioned a replica of the Titanic from a single toothpick, French police seized 13 tons of tiny contraband Eiffel Towers from a Paris souvenir shop, and 2 World Financial Center in New York was evacuated after UPS delivered a novelty grenade ordered by a Japanese investment-bank employee.[33][34][35] A British army bomb squad exploded a World War II–era hand grenade that a Somerset woman had mistaken for an egg after she found her son standing on it during an Easter egg hunt. “Everyone keeps saying how stupid I was to try to pick it up,” she said. “But it was such a natural reaction.”[36]?

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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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