Weekly Review — August 27, 2012, 5:28 pm

Weekly Review

astonisheddispproval350 As Tropical Storm Isaac accelerated northward through the Gulf of Mexico, officials at the Republican National Convention in Tampa postponed the formal nomination of Mitt Romney as the party’s presidential candidate from Monday to Tuesday, and Florida governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency. “Preparation is a key to success,” said Scott. “Cigarettes,” said one resident. “I’m stocking up on those.” The storm, which killed several people as it passed over Haiti and temporarily halted ferry service to the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, was expected to become a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane by the time it makes landfall along the Florida panhandle and Louisiana coast.[1][2][3][4][5] Supporters of Ron Paul, who was denied a speaking slot at the Republican convention after refusing to fully endorse Romney or allow Romney’s team to vet his speech, held a rally on Sunday near the site of the Republican convention. “Isaac is a distraction,” said the master of ceremonies. “This is liberty.”[6][7] Senate candidate Todd Akin (R., Mo.), who recently said that women’s bodies are capable of preventing pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape,” affirmed that he would not bow out of the race despite calls for him to do so by prominent Republicans.[8] Romney told supporters during a campaign rally in Michigan that “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate,” in reference to President Barack Obama. “Humor,” Romney later explained. “We’ve got to have a little humor.”[9] The United Nations denied that it would invade Texas in the event that Obama was elected and a second U.S. civil war broke out, following speculation by a Lubbock County judge that it would. “Not even the United Nations,” said a spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “would ever mess with Texas.”[10] In Nepal, a man bit to death a cobra that had bitten him, and in Delaware, three employees of the Hands of Our Future Daycare were arrested after police obtained video showing the workers encouraging two toddlers to fight one another. “He’s pinching me!” complains one child in the video. “No pinching,” responds a worker. “Only punching.”[11][12]

A Norwegian court declared Anders Behring Breivik sane and sentenced him to indefinite “preventative detention” for the massacre of 77 people last summer. “I wish to apologize to all militant nationalists,” Breivik told the court, “that I wasn’t able to execute more.”[13] Activists reported that hundreds of Syrians had been killed during a government assault on a suburb of Damascus.[14] Nineteen people were shot in seven incidents during a single night in Chicago, and in New York City, police inadvertently wounded nine bystanders in the course of shooting down a suspected murderer outside the Empire State Building.[15][16] Ethiopian president Meles Zenawi died at 57.[17] Police in Nicaragua caught 18 people smuggling $7 million while disguised as a crew from Mexico’s Televisa television network.[18] Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa announced that the United Kingdom had withdrawn a purported threat to enter his country’s London embassy and arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been sheltered there for two months while facing extradition to Sweden.[19] The website TMZ published photos of a nearly nude Prince Harry carousing in Las Vegas. “The real scandal,” said London mayor Boris Johnson, “would be if you went all the way to Las Vegas and you didn’t misbehave.”[20][21] A young male mountain lion tried to enter a casino in Reno, but was foiled by a revolving door.[22]

A California jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple $1 billion for infringing on six of Apple’s patents for mobile devices, a Massachusetts judge upheld an order requiring a former Boston University student to pay $675,000 in damages to the Recording Industry Association of America for pirating 31 songs in the mid-2000s, and the United States Anti-Doping Agency banned seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong for life and stripped him of all titles he won after August 1, 1998, citing evidence that the cyclist had used performance-enhancing drugs.[23][24][25] A Los Angeles comedian confessed to having been drunk and on magic mushrooms when he appeared as a contestant on The Price Is Right in May. “We go to local high schools,” he told host Drew Carey after claiming he worked as a skateboard rabbi, “and try to turn religious extremism into religious X-TREMEism!”[26][27] Researchers discovered that hermaphroditic Siphopteron quadrispinosumsea slugs engage in self-harming nonreproductive sex.[29] A study of Icelandic nuclear families showed that men pass on nearly four times as many new genetic mutations to their offspring as do mothers, and that older fathers pass on more such mutations than do younger ones.[30] White-handed gibbons who were observed calling out after inhaling helium were found to display operatic vocal technique.[31] Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the surface of the moon, died at age 82. “May his vision for our human destiny in space,” said Apollo 11 crewmate Buzz Aldrin, “be his legacy.”[32][33] On Mars, the rover Curiosity lifted its robotic arm for the first time and went for a test drive across the planet’s surface.[34][35]

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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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"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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