Weekly Review — October 23, 2012, 12:25 pm

Weekly Review

A kinkajou.

A car bomb in a residential neighborhood of Beirut injured dozens and killed eight, including Wissam al-Hassan, the intelligence chief of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, who earlier this year produced evidence of a plot by neighboring Syria to sow conflict in Lebanon through bombings and targeted murders. Following al-Hassan’s funeral, hundreds of protesters descended on the offices of prime minister Najib Mikati, a supporter of Syria’s governing regime, leading to clashes with security forces that left at least seven dead. “After this assassination, I feel like my whole country is at risk,” said Michel Matta, who attended the funeral. “Every person who calls for Lebanon’s independence ends up in the grave.”[1][2][3][4] In Damascus, where a car bomb injured 29 and killed 13 during a visit by U.N. peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad ordered repairs to a twelfth-century mosque that was damaged during a recent battle with opposition forces. “He burns down the country and its heritage, and then says he will rebuild it,” said activist Mohammad al-Hassan. “Why do you destroy it to begin with?”[5][6] During a pretrial hearing at Guantánamo Bay, whose mildewed and rodent-infested legal offices the U.S. Navy agreed to give a “comprehensive” cleaning, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused orchestrator of the 9/11 attacks, was granted the opportunity to address the court. “Many [governments] can kill people under the name of national security,” said Mohammed, “and torture people under the name of national security, and detain children under the name of national security.”[7][8] Police in Britain apologized for tasering a blind middle-aged man after mistaking his walking stick for a samurai sword.[9]

In a debate with President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney said that he took action, as governor of Massachusetts, to seek out female applicants qualified for high-level positions in his administration. “I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks?’ ” said Romney. “And they brought us whole binders full of women.” It was later revealed that a coalition of state women’s groups had initiated the search.[10][11] Representative Todd Akin (R., Mo.) likened his Senate-race opponent, Claire McCaskill, to a dog who goes to Washington to “fetch” tax burdens.[12] Former senator and Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern, whom Obama called “a statesman of great conscience and conviction,” died aged 90.[13] French president François Hollande announced a plan to ban homework, which he said favors the wealthy, and Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn admitted to employing workers as young as fourteen at a plant in northeastern China.[14][15] Software developer Michael Brutsch, who lost his job and received death threats after he was revealed to be the architect of such subforums as “Jailbait” and “Pics of Dead Kids” on the website Reddit, explained his creative methodology in an interview. “I’d find porn of different types,” said Brutsch. “Like if it was a picture of an African-American woman, I created a Reddit called ‘Women of Color.’ If it was, you know, a woman with large breasts, I created a Reddit called ‘Boobies.’ ”[16] An Orlando man who started having sex with his date on a restaurant table in view of young children, and who then refused to pay the bill, was arrested on a charge of defrauding an innkeeper, and Serbian widower Milan Marinkovic honored his wife’s dying wish by having a likeness of her vagina engraved on her headstone. “This way,” said Marinkovic, “a part of her will always be with me.”[17][18]

A Wisconsin man whose wife had taken out a restraining order against him shot seven women, killing three, at the spa where his wife worked, then killed himself.[19] The Justice Department disclosed that the rate of violent crime in the United States increased last year for the first time since 1993, and Scotland Yard banned police officers from getting tattoos on their faces and hands.[20][21] Ulaanbaatar took down its last remaining statue of Vladimir Lenin, which it will auction at a starting bid of $280, and a Florida man was arrested for smuggling a Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton out of Mongolia.[22][23] A paleoanthropologist determined that prehistoric man ate pandas, researchers disproved the Five-Second Rule, and a cat discovered 2,000-year-old catacombs in Rome.[24][25][26] A Danish pornography website announced a contest that would award an iPhone to the entrant with the smallest penis. “It’s a competition which is at the core of manhood,” said site owner Morten Fabricius.[27] A Seattle man was arrested for the 1976 murder of an elderly woman after an undercover policeman obtained DNA from him by pretending to conduct a chewing-gum survey, and a former McDonald’s proprietor from North Dakota sold a 20-year-old jug of McJordan barbecue sauce, developed for the limited-production McJordan hamburger in the early 1990s, for $9,995. “I had this barbecue sauce on the shelf for 20 years,” said seller Mort Bank. “It’s probably edible.”[28][29]

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is a former assistant editor of <em>Harper's Magazine.</em>

More from Justin Stone:

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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.

Chance that a Silicon Valley technology company started since 1995 was founded by Indian or Chinese immigrants:

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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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