Weekly Review — November 8, 2016, 11:49 am

Weekly Review

The Ku Klux Klan endorses Donald Trump, the FBI says Hillary Clinton won’t be prosecuted, and Americans pick their next president

WeeklyAvatar-SM.pngU.S. citizens headed to the polls to decide whether the former secretary of state, New York senator, and first lady Hillary Clinton or the four-times-bankrupt real-estate developer Donald Trump would become the country’s 45th president.[1] Days before the election, FBI director James Comey said he saw no reason to change the conclusion he reached in July that Clinton should not face charges for her use of a private email server while secretary of state.[2] The announcement buoyed European stock markets but drew criticism from both political parties. “Maybe he’s not in the right job,” House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said of Comey, who has more than six years and nine months left in his term.[3][4][5] At a rally in Reno, Nevada, Trump was rushed offstage after a protester held up a “Republicans Against Trump” sign that was mistaken for a gun.[6] Aides took away Trump’s Twitter privileges, the Ku Klux Klan’s official newspaper endorsed him, and his eldest daughter asked that her participation in a campaign commercial targeted toward suburban women be kept out of news releases so that it doesn’t harm her business ventures.[7][8][9] The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces began an offensive to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State, and Iraqi forces entered eastern neighborhoods of Mosul.[10][11] It was reported that state television in Iran was broadcasting the U.S. presidential debates as anti-American propaganda. “We only need to sit back,” said an Iranian analyst.[12]

At New York’s Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, where students have correctly predicted the outcome of every presidential race since 1968, Hillary Clinton won a mock election with 52 percent of the vote.[13] Parents in Spain asked their children’s teachers not to assign homework, and more than 1,800 public primary schools were closed in New Delhi, where exposure to air pollution was said to be equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes a day.[14][15] Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that middle-school students are now just as likely to die from suicide as from traffic accidents.[16] Poor North Koreans were reported to be hanging scrolls that read “Spirit of Self-Destruction” in their elderly parents’ bedrooms, urging them to kill themselves.[17] Samsung issued a recall on exploding washing machines.[18] Protesters in Seoul called for South Korean president Park Geun-hye to resign after it was revealed that she had been receiving secret counsel from the daughter of an alleged cult leader.[19][20] A 31-year-old fishmonger in Morocco was crushed by a garbage truck days before the country hosted global climate-change talks, and a park ranger in Washington, D.C., shot himself in the foot while trying to fend off a raccoon.[21][22][23] Two teenage girls found hugging and kissing on a rooftop in Marrakesh were beaten by their families and charged with “licentious or unnatural acts,” and the Vatican condemned an Italian priest who said recent earthquakes were divine punishment for gay civil unions.[24][25] Police in Shenzhen, China, punished traffic violators by making them sit in front of a car with its high beams on, and a Texas police officer was fired for giving a homeless man a sandwich filled with feces.[26][27]

The Canadian military investigated acoustic anomalies that were said to be distressing bowhead whales and ringed seals in the Fury and Hecla Strait.[28] Researchers in Hawaii reported using a hydrophone and an accelerometer to detect humpback-whale vibrations from more than 650 feet away.[29] In Cheboksary, Russia, a 63-year-old man was arrested for murdering a friend who had insulted his accordion skills.[30] A squirrel injured three people in the activity room of a Florida retirement home, and vampire bats were found to be feeding on pig blood in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil.[31][32] A Mississippi man who had an affair was forced by his wife to chew and swallow his severed genitals, and a Swiss café was reported to be considering hiring sex robots.[33][34] Neiman Marcus was selling four 12-ounce servings of frozen prepared collard greens for $66, plus shipping, and a Tennessee Eagle Scout who was suspended for buying an extra chicken nugget at lunch got his punishment overturned.[35][36] Students at a South Carolina elementary school were suspended for possession of a mixture of Kool-Aid powder and sugar known as happy crack, and, in Buffalo, a 62-year-old recovering heroin addict sued to stop the presidential election. “I was just waiting for an okay,” she said, “from God.”[37][38]

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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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