Weekly Review — April 17, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

President George W. Bush asked Congress to impose a moratorium on lawsuits aimed at forcing the federal government to extend endangered-species protection to unlisted plants and animals. Japan’s whaling fleet returned to port with 440 minke whales. Police in Cincinnati, Ohio, shot dead an unarmed black youth who had a number of outstanding traffic tickets; enraged residents ran amok. The League of the South, an organization devoted to Confederate nostalgia, began circulating a petition at gun shows and convenience stores demanding reparations for Southerners whose ancestors’ way of life was destroyed by Yankees in the Civil War. A new poll found that most Mississippians would prefer to keep their current state flag, which contains an image of the Confederate battle flag. The United StatesCivil Rights Commission said that it was time to stop using American Indian names and images for sports teams. Rwanda issued an international arrest warrant for Pierre-Célestin Rwigema, the former prime minister, for his role in the 1994 genocide; Rwigema was said to be living in the United States. Slobodan Milosevic wasn’t feeling well. Israeli troops bulldozed at least 15 homes at a Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza. The Dutch legalized euthanasia; Germany’sRoman Catholic Church denounced the decision and warned against adopting a “culture of death.” China executed 89 people in one day.

Maryland failed to pass a moratorium on executions, but did ban the release of genetically modified fish. The Texas legislature approved a resolution that could lead to a referendum on the death penalty. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that gun deaths dropped by 26 percent during the 1990s. Police near Savannah, Georgia, raided the homes of 11 middle-schoolchildren and discovered firearms, satanic and Nazi posters, and bomb recipes, but no bombs. There was speculation in the press that crime rates may have dropped in recent years as a result of legalized abortion. Alabama’ssenate approved a constitutional amendment allowing the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools and state offices. Sudan flogged 53 Christians, including four women and two children, for rioting. Another Nigerian state decided to adopt Shariah, the Islamic code. A Charlotte, North Carolina, federal judge told a man that if he wanted to be released on bail he would have to stop living in sin, because doing so violates an 1805 anti-fornication law, which reads: “If any man and woman, not being married to each other, shall lewdly and lasciviously associate, bed and cohabit together, they shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.” Israeli officials raided restaurants in search of leavened bread, which is banned during Passover; violators were fined $25. Aum Shinrikyo, the cult that carried out the sarin gas attack in the Tokyosubway in 1995, grew by 10 percent last year. Seven retired Italians were arrested for smuggling ten pounds of cocaine inside bags of sausage and mozzarella.

Fourteen and a half million pounds of ready-to-eat meat were recalled by Bar-S Foods because of possible contamination with listeria monocytogenes. Farmers in the Dutch town Kootwijkerbroek protested the slaughter of their cattle by authorities worried about foot-and-mouth disease; police used water cannons and bulldozers to clear roadblocks set up by the protesters. The United States and Europe finally ended their nine-year banana war. Attorney General John Ashcroft said he would allow the families of Timothy McVeigh’s victims to watch McVeigh die on closed-circuit television. A new report claimed that older fathers are more likely to sire schizophrenic children. Joey Ramone died, as did H. R. Ball, who designed the smiley face. The Big Bang was caused by a parallel universe, a team of physicists speculated. Archaeologists found evidence of ancient dentistry in Baluchistan: tiny holes that were drilled in 8,000-year-old teeth. Researchers, writing in the journal Tissue Engineering, announced that human fat contains stem cells, which can be used to grow replacement tissue, perhaps even organs. Doctors in Singapore successfully separated a pair of Siamese twins who were joined at the head; the operation, which took five days, was particularly difficult because the girls’ brains were partially fused. An Arizona woman was recovering from an operation to remove a parasitic worm from her brain. She got the parasite from a pork taco in Mexico. Two Utah men were sentenced to three years’ probation for drilling a hole in a woman’s head in an attempt to restore her “childhood buoyancy.” The Rio Grande once again failed to reach the Gulf of Mexico.

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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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