Weekly Review — May 26, 2017, 3:14 pm

Weekly Review

Donald Trump goes abroad 

U.S. president Donald Trump, who was once implicated alongside a Saudi arms dealer in a scheme to avoid paying sales taxes at a Manhattan jewelry store, visited Saudi Arabia, where he ate steak with ketchup, participated in a sword dance, and announced plans to sell the country more than $110 billion in U.S. arms.[1][2][3][4][5] Trump then visited Israel, where he said in a meeting in Jerusalem that he had “just got back from the Middle East,” canceled a speech before Israel’s parliament because he didn’t want to be heckled, and visited and signed the guestbook of the country’s Holocaust museum. “SO AMAZING + WILL NEVER FORGET!” wrote Trump, whose administration once omitted mention of Jewish people in a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day.[6][7][8][9] Trump visited Belgium, where he reportedly ate “lots of” chocolates and then complained that he did not have a positive impression of the European Union because it took him two and a half years to get a license to open up a golf course in Ireland; a poll found that 54 percent of Americans believe Trump is “abusing the powers of his office”; and Trump shoved the prime minister of Montenegro.[10][11][12] It was reported that the FBI warned GOP congressman Dana Rohrabacher that the Russian government was attempting to recruit him as a spy; a recording was released of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying he believed Russian president Vladimir Putin “pays” Trump and Rohrabacher; Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that Congress “really actually isn’t” in “chaos”; and a congressional GOP candidate body slammed, punched, and broke the glasses of a journalist in Montana, was charged with assault, and then won the election. [13][14][15][16] The Congressional Budget Office concluded that the House GOP’s American Health Care Act would cost 23 million Americans their health insurance by 2026, and a federal budget proposal submitted by the Trump Administration was found to have contained a $2 trillion math error.[17][18] A leaked transcript of a recent call between Trump and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte revealed that Trump told Duterte, who once said he would “be happy to slaughter” as many drug addicts as Adolf Hitler did Jewish people, was doing an “amazing job,” and that the United States had clandestinely stationed two nuclear submarines near North Korea and that he’ll “see what happens” with regard to their usage.[19][20] Israel changed its intelligence-sharing protocols with the United States after Trump divulged secret Israeli intelligence about the Islamic State to Russian officials, and a team of hackers reported that it would take only five minutes to infiltrate the Wi-Fi network of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Florida, where he has spent about one fifth of his presidency.[21][22][23] U.S. officials named Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a “person of interest” in the FBI’s investigation into whether the president’s campaign colluded with the Russian government; it was revealed that Trump told Russian officials that the “great pressure” he faced over his campaign’s ties to Russia had disappeared after he fired the FBI director overseeing the bureau’s investigation into those ties; and it was reported that Marc Kasowitz, an attorney who has represented Trump’s companies in bankruptcy and fraud litigation, would serve during the Russia probe as private counsel to Trump, who once acquired a race horse named Alibi from a known mob associate, changed Alibi’s name to D.J. Trump, and then refused to pay for it.[24][25][26][27]

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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.

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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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