Weekly Review — July 29, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The quixotic quest for a Gaza ceasefire; West African doctors face mortal peril; and Russian gecko porn, restored

An American Mastiff.

An American Mastiff.

More than 459 Palestinian civilians and militants and 76 Israeli soldiers were killed as Israel continued Operation Protective Edge, its assault on Gaza. Israel shelled three United Nations schools being used as refugee shelters; Hamas and Israel blamed one another for an explosion at a Gaza city park that killed nine children; Delta, U.S. Airways, and United canceled flights to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv following reports that a rocket had landed nearby; and U.S. secretary of state John Kerry failed to negotiate a proposed seven-day humanitarian ceasefire. “There is no option for a political solution,” said the director of an Israeli policy institute. “With Hamas there, there is no option but ‘mowing the grass.’ ”[1][2][3][4][5][6] In eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists handed over black-box recorders from the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to a Malaysian delegation and sent 282 bodies and 87 body parts to the Netherlands via the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv for examination. Thirty Dutch policemen sent to examine the crash site reportedly turned back because the Ukrainian government was failing to respect the unilateral ceasefire it had imposed on its conflict with the separatists, and two Ukrainian fighter-bombers were shot down by shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles within 25 miles of the Flight 17 site.[7][8][9][10][11] Arizona inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood gasped and snorted for nearly two hours before dying from a state-administered lethal injection. Wood’s attorneys filed an emergency appeal to stop the execution once it became clear the injection wasn’t working properly, and Arizona governor Jan Brewer (R.) ordered a review of the state’s execution process. “This man conducted a horrifying murder and you guys are going, ‘Let’s worry about the drugs,’ ” said the brother-in-law of the woman Wood was convicted of killing in 1989. “Why didn’t we give him Drano?”[12] The chief judge on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals suggested that states return to using firing squads.[13] Indian parliamentarians condemned Rajan Baburao Vichare, an MP from the Hindu-nationalist Shiv Sena Party, after a video surfaced of him force-feeding a Muslim cook who was fasting for Ramadan. “This was only,” said Vichare, “a protest against the quality of food.”[14]

Militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) blew up the reputed tomb of the prophet Jonah in Mosul, Iraq, and beheaded as many as 50 Syrian government soldiers in Raqqa. “The Islamic State has a clear vision to establish a state in the real meaning of the word,” said a Raqqa resident.[15][16][17] A doctor treating Ebola patients in Liberia died of the disease, the doctor in charge of Ebola treatment in Sierra Leone contracted the disease, and thousands of people in Kenema, Sierra Leone, threatened to burn down an isolation center after a former nurse told the crowd that the disease was a hoax. “Ebola was unreal,” she said, “and a gimmick aimed at carrying out cannibalistic rituals.”[18][19][20] Doctors quarantined 30,000 people in the Chinese city of Yumen after a man died of pneumonic plague.[21] A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., struck down the U.S. government’s right under the Affordable Care Act to provide subsidies for health insurance purchased on the national marketplace, and a federal appeals court in Virginia upheld the same provision of the act in a separate case decided hours later.[22] President Barack Obama signed an executive order that bars all federal contractors, including religious organizations, from discriminating against employees on the basis of their gender identities or sexual orientations.[23] The White House announced that the United States would start assessing the refugee status of potential immigrant children from Honduras while they were still in their home country, and Texas governor Rick Perry (R.) announced that he would activate 1,000 National Guard troops to monitor the Mexican border.[24][25] The incoming operator of a Mexican railway network known as the Beast announced that it would triple the speed of the network’s trains in order to discourage migrants en route to the United States from jumping on board.[26]

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In Setauket, New York, a 21-year-old woman who refused a ride from a friend she suspected of being drunk was struck and killed by his car as she walked home.[27] In Gainesville, Florida, a drunk man who jumped out of his pickup truck to yell at the driver in front of him was run over by his own vehicle.[28] A Pennsylvania couple was placed on probation for locking their five-year-old son in the trunk of their car in order to cure his fear of the dark.[29] It was reported that surgeons in India had removed 232 teeth from a growth inside a 17-year-old boy’s mouth, and that surgeons in Scotland had removed a sex toy that had been lodged inside a woman’s vagina for 10 years.[30][31] The musician Kid Rock was subpoenaed to produce a glass dildo as evidence in a sexual-harassment case against the band Insane Clown Posse.[32] Two New York City infants were diagnosed with herpes contracted when they were circumcised using the direct oral-suction technique practiced by some Orthodox Jews, the fifteenth and sixteenth such cases since 2000, and an Alabama man sued the hospital where he’d awoken from circumcision surgery to find that his penis had been amputated.[33][34] Russia lost, then regained, contact with a satellite carrying five geckos sent to copulate in zero gravity.[35] Queen Elizabeth II’s racehorse Estimate failed a drug test.[36] In Los Angeles, a memorial pine tree dedicated to George Harrison was killed by an infestation of beetles.[37]


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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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Illustration (detail) by Lincoln Agnew
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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.

Illustration by Steve Brodner
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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.

Minimum number of shooting incidents in the United States in the past year in which the shooter was a dog:

2

40,800,000,000 pounds of total adult human biomass is due to excessive fatness.

Trump’s former chief strategist, whom Trump said had “lost his mind,” issued a statement saying that Trump’s son did not commit treason; the US ambassador to the United Nations announced that “no one questions” Trump’s mental stability; and the director of the CIA said that Trump, who requested “killer graphics” in his intelligence briefings, is able to read.

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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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