Weekly Review — October 17, 2000, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Safeway, the supermarket chain, recalled its house brand of corn taco shells after food critics discovered that the shells contained StarLink, a type of genetically modified corn that was not approved for human consumption. Taco Bell previously recalled its shells.The National Grain and Feed Association demanded the names of some 2,000 farmers who have planted StarLink crops; the manufacturer, Aventis Crop Science, refused to provide the names.Advanced Cell Technology, a company in Worcester, Massachusetts, announced that it had cloned an Asian guar; the embryo was gestating in an Iowan cow. The company plans to clone the extinct bucardo mountain goat (from cells collected before the last surviving goat died) as well as the giant panda (using black bears as surrogate mothers).The United StatesFood and Drug Administration imposed a mandatory salmonella testing program on egg farms.German researchers discovered that shy parents tend to breed shy children.Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the talk-radio host, apologized to gays for saying they were the result of “biological error”; gay rights groups said they would continue to pressure advertisers to boycott her program.Admissions officials at a meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling said they were considering affirmative action for men due to declining male enrollments.Scientists discovered that releasing iron into largely barren parts of the ocean triggered a phytoplankton bloom that might be useful in absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; they dubbed the phenomenon the Geritol effect.It was announced that a meteorite that landed in a frozen lake in Canada last January contained primitive forms of carbon that might reveal something about the generation of early life on earth.Two prison guards in Philadelphia were indicted for helping convicted felons smuggle their frozen sperm out of prison to their wives and girlfriends.

Alaskans were debating whether to legalize the personal use of marijuana.William Hague, the British Tory leader, proposed a “zero tolerance” drug policy, then reversed himself after seven members of his shadow cabinet told reporters that they had smoked pot.Yakama Indians were trying to enforce a ban on the sale of alcohol; non-Indian owners of bars and grocery stores were refusing to comply; the occurrence of fetal alcohol syndrome among the Yakama is 500 percent higher than normal.Burma’s military junta declared that caffeine was a narcotic; under Burmese law, narcotics users can be put to death.There were growing suspicions that professional baseball players were using anabolic steroids.Duke University researchers found that exercise is at least as effective at fighting depression as Zoloft, a popular anti-depressant drug.The stock market went down, then it went up.Harvard scientists succeeded in getting a group of people to have the same dream; twenty-seven subjects played Tetris, a computer game, for seven hours over three days; seventeen dreamed of Tetris, including amnesiacs who could not even remember playing the game.

Seventeen American sailors on board the destroyer Cole were killed when a dinghy loaded with explosives blew a hole in the ship as it prepared to refuel at the Yemeni port of Aden.Israelis killed more Palestinians; Palestinians killed more Israelis.Atrocities were televised.Gangs of young men from the Islamic Defenders Front, wearing white outfits accessorized with green scarves and wooden rods, prowled the Jakarta, Indonesia, airport looking, unsuccessfully, for Israeli Jews to kill.Refugees in West Timor, many of whom believe that United Nations peacekeeping forces will rape and kill them if they return to East Timor, were being held in virtual captivity by pro-Indonesia militias.Three young Bronx men were charged with a hate crime after they threw a bottle of vodka at a synagogue.Four young men in Connecticut were arrested for stealing a 340-pound pumpkin.George W. Bush spoke at a sixth-grade level during his debates with Al Gore.Governor Jeb Bush of Florida restored Charles W. Colson’s civil rights; Colson, who was convicted in the Watergate scandal, is a born-again Christian and the author of several apocalyptic Christian thrillers.The director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press announced that media pundits are less influential than researchers had thought: “There is increasing evidence the American public has an ability to ignore what the pundits say.” Two hundred million gallons of coal sludge escaped from the Martin County Coal Corporation’s coal preparation plant in Inez, Kentucky; the blob of sludge was spreading through the area at a rate of ten miles a day, killingfish and wildlife as it oozed through woods and streams.

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

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