Weekly Review — April 3, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

The United States withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol on global climate change; Christie Whitman, the administrator of the EPA, announced that “we have no interest in implementing that treaty.” President Bush told German chancellor Gerhard Schröder that “We will not do anything that harms our economy, because first things first are the people who live in America.” North Korea’s dear leader Kim Jong Il sent a large floral wreath to the funeral of Chung Ju Yung, the founder of the Hyundai group, in a further display of goodwill toward the south by the ruler of the Hermit Kingdom. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was angry about a fact-finding mission led by former senator George Mitchell; he said that allowing such an investigation into the causes of the recent Intifada was an “historic mistake” because “no one has the right, no one, to put Israel on trial before the world.” A Palestiniansniper shot and killed a ten-month-old Israeli girl in Hebron as she lay in her stroller; Israeli troops then shelled a nearby Palestinian neighborhood and other targets, including Yasir Arafat’s home. America vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an observer force in Palestine. A U.S. warplane bombed targets in Iraq; a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet but landed safely in China. The other aircraft fell into the sea. Officials in Burundi were excavating mass graves outside Bujumbura. Britain was burying hundreds of thousands of sheep and cattle that have been killed in an attempt to control the spread of foot-and-mouth disease; scientists were trying to figure out whether the disease can be transmitted via the smoke of burning animals. The House of Lords decisively rejected a bill passed by the House of Commons that would ban hunting with hounds. Researchers found that using ecstasy damages one’s ability to remember things to be done in the future. President Bush, apparently worried that all his talk about recession might make people think he had caused it, told 120 high-tech executives, whose net worth has dropped significantly in recent months, that the future was “incredibly bright.” Chinese paleontologists found the largest dinosaur footprints ever, right next to large deposits of dinosaur dung.

The Supreme Court said it would decide whether executing retarded murderers was cruel and unusual. The United Statesjustice department reported that America’s prison population had grown to 1,931,859, of whom 791,600 were black; the ACLU pointed out that America, with only 5 percent of the world’s population, accounts for 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Maryland’s House of Delegates voted to impose a two-year moratorium on executions. Ivan Boroughs, a Jamaican man who spent twenty-nine years in prison for breaking a window, was finally released; Jamaican officials said that Boroughs, who had been deemed mentally unfit to stand trial but was nevertheless kept in prison, had not been forgotten: “We were monitoring his progress yearly, but we had to wait on communication from the court and that did not come until Tuesday.” A man in New Jersey was on trial, facing ten years in prison, for allegedly stealing 58 cents from a parked car. Tennessee’s supreme court granted a reprieve to Philip Ray Workman, just 45 minutes before he was to be executed, in order to consider new ballistic evidence that could exonerate him. Marjorie Knoller, a San Francisco lawyer whose dog Bane killed a young woman who lived next door, was indicted for second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, and failure to control a mischievous animal that causes a death. Her husband was indicted on similar charges; officials were investigating whether the couple, who have adopted an adult convict as their son, had been sexually abusing the dog. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, said he had no sympathy for his victims. California executed Robert Lee Massie, who uttered the following last words: “Forgiveness.Giving up all hope for a better past.”

Anti-abortion activists won the right to publish a hit list of doctors who perform abortions; the list, called the “Nuremberg Files,” appears on a website and gives personal details such as address, license plate numbers, and names of relatives. The German government took over control of Berlin’s Jewish Museum. Holocaust survivors filed suit against the United States because it did not bomb Auschwitz during World War II. Saudi Arabia banned Pokémon because it has “possessed the minds” of children and “promotes Zionism.” Catholics in Santa Fe, New Mexico, were upset about a photographic collage depicting the Blessed Virgin in a two-piece swimsuit made out of roses. Dr. Jack Ng, a physicist, claimed that he would be able to measure “quantum foam,” graininess or ripples in the fabric of space, with a Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory. There were new reports of a room-temperature superconductor. A new study has found that small men are less likely to get married than larger men; they also make less money. Senator Joseph Lieberman proposed a $300 tax rebate for every American worker. The Senate passed a campaign-finance reform bill that banned soft money. Yugoslavian commandos arrested former president Slobodan Milosevic on corruption charges. Milosevic had bragged that he “would not go to prison alive” and was seen waving a gun and threatening to kill himself. He went quietly in the end.

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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.

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