Weekly Review — July 9, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Sexual assault amid Egyptian upheaval, adult breast-feeding in China, and the empathy of taxidermist George Dante

A Humbug (Weekly)In a televised address from Cairo, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi announced the temporary suspension of Egypt’s constitution and the interim appointment of judge Adli Mansour to replace Mohamed Morsi, who was elected last summer with 52 percent of the popular vote, as president. “We understand it as a military coup,” said a Morsi adviser. “The conviction and culture of the Egyptian armed forces doesn’t allow following the policy of ‘military coups,’” said the country’s senior officers in a statement. The regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, which was conducting a ten-day offensive on the city of Homs, urged Morsi to recognize that “the overwhelming majority of the Egyptian people reject him.” At least 51 protesters were shot while holding a vigil for Morsi outside the officers’ club in Nasr City where he was reputedly being held, and demonstrators in Tahrir Square reported as many as 169 cases of mob sexual violence. “We call it the circle of hell,” said one woman.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] [8][9][10] A fire lasting nearly 36 hours broke out when a parked train carrying 73 cars filled with crude oil derailed and rolled into downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Forty buildings were destroyed, a third of the town’s population was evacuated, and at least 13 people died. “It’s terrible,” said one man. “The Metro store, Dollarama — everything that was there is gone.”[11][12] The British discount retailer Poundland stopped selling Chinese lanterns after cameras showed one floating into a Smethwick recycling plant and starting a fire that eventually burned through 100,000 tons of plastic. “They are spectacular things,” said a local member of parliament. “I am loath to ban them.”[13][14][15]

Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is thought to be living in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, released information on Tempora, a system devised by Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters for recording Internet traffic. “It snarfs everything in a rolling buffer,” said Snowden, “without missing a single bit.”[16][17] Bolivian president Evo Morales, arriving home from an oil summit in Moscow, admonished France and Portugal for denying his plane permission to fly through their airspace on suspicion that Snowden might be aboard. “This young man isn’t a suitcase,” said Morales.[18][19] Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport, injuring 182 passengers and killing two Chinese students.[20][21] Conservative lawmakers in Costa Rica appealed to President Laura Chinchilla to veto a bill they’d accidentally voted for that modified the Law of Young People to allow gay marriage, and male anti-abortion activists gathered at the Texas State Capitol with signs reading “I regret my abortion.”[22][23] Ohio governor John Kasich approved legislation requiring that women seeking an abortion be made aware of their fetus’s heartbeat and declined to loosen controls on the ownership of spider monkeys.[24] A technician carrying out maintenance on a rooftop LED billboard in China’s northeastern Jilin province accidentally broadcast ten minutes of The Forbidden Legend: Sex and Chopsticks, and a nanny agency in Shenzhen reported that wealthy adults were paying to be breast-fed. “People become perverts,” wrote a user of the microblogging service Sina Weibo, “when they are too rich.”[25][26] Nestlé announced plans to lower infant-formula prices across China by 20 percent.[27]

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Police in Seattle gave water to a pig in sweatpants, and Florida banned chicks of color.[28][29] The president of a Venetian gondoliers’ association proposed that canalmen be breathalyzed.[30] Biologists determined that jerboas outjump jirds and that male hawk moths ward off predators through the ultrasonic jiggling of their genitals.[31][32] Llama owners extolled the benefits of camelid husbandry. “You can tell them all your secrets and your problems,” said one woman. “They’re like potato chips,” said another.[33] An apiarist in Tintinara, Australia, designed a beekeeping suit for his Labrador; officials on the French Riviera mounted a search for two black panthers; two Britons holidaying in Iceland rode a bus to Reykjavík with a spew-covered gyrfalcon; and a Goffin’s cockatoo named Pipin picked five locks to retrieve a cashew.[34][35][36][37] At a Wells Fargo in Montebello, California, a man with cancer was mistaken for the Surgical Mask Bandit.[38] Students primed with unconscious thoughts of death were found to write funnier New Yorker cartoon captions.[39] Tens of thousands of carp and sea bream died following a molasses spill near Acatlán de Juárez, and eruptions from Popocatépetl coated Mexico City in ash.[40][41] A moon of Pluto was renamed Styx, a truckload of dish soap spilled into Virginia’s Purgatory Creek, and New Jersey taxidermist George Dante prepared the body of Lonesome George, the last of a subspecies of Galápagos tortoise, for exhibition. “You feel for him,” said Dante. “You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t.”[42][43][44]


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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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How to Make Your Own AR-15

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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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