Weekly Review — June 5, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Crown Prince Dipendra of Nepal reportedly shot and killed most of the royal family, including his mother, Queen Aiswarya, and his father, King Birendra Bir Birkram Shah Dev (who as king was thought to be an incarnation of Vishnu, the Hindu god). Prince Dipendra then shot himself through the temple; he was crowned king as he lay unconscious in a hospital, and promptly died. Prince Gyanendra, his uncle, ascended to the throne and claimed that the royal deaths were the result of the “accidental firing of an automatic weapon.” Riots ensued. Indonesia continued to disintegrate; parliament voted 365-4 to begin hearings to impeach President Abdurrahman Wadid a few days after the attorney general absolved him of corruption charges; great mobs of his supporters ran amok. President Ange-Félix Patasse of the Central African Republic put down a coup attempt. Idriss Déby was reelected president of Chad and promptly arrested the other six candidates. President George W. Bush frowned and shook hands with Al Gore at a funeral. Alejandro Toledo was elected president of Peru; 13 percent of the voters cast blank ballots, possibly to protest rumors that Toledo once used cocaine in an orgy with five hookers. Senator John McCain, a Republican, spent the weekend with Senator Tom Daschle, a Democrat; rumors of McCain’s imminent defection were denied. Chen Shui-bian, president of Taiwan, visited Texas and received a nice gift from Rep. Tom DeLay: a new pair of eel-skin boots, embossed with the president’s initials as well as the Texas and American flags, intertwined. China’s official news agency reported that 3 million Chinese drink their own urine every day. Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban decreed that foreign women may no longer drive cars because such driving is “against Afghan traditions” and has a “negative impact” on Afghan society. Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people in the Oklahoma City bombing, decided to ask for a stay of execution; his lawyer said that “the most important thing in his life is to help bring integrity to the criminal justice system.” In Israel, a Palestiniansuicide bomber blew himself up on a crowded sidewalk outside a beachside nightclub frequented by teenagers, killing at least 20 and wounding almost 100. Arms, legs, bits of flesh and bone, were scattered all over the sidewalk.

France’sparliament passed a law that permits the government to ban religious groups that it considers “sects,” but backed away from plans to outlaw “mental manipulation.” Colombian police arrested three young women who were accused of smearing a narcotic on their breasts and standing seductively by the roadside until men were induced to stop and lick their breasts, whereupon the men lost their wits and surrendered their wallets and car keys. A beaver attacked a Finnish hiker and sunk its long yellow teeth into the man’s neck. In Austria, a flasher was caught by police after he caught his penis in his zipper and was unable to flee. An Indian man, diagnosed with a hernia after suffering unexplained pains for years, turned out to have a fully developed female reproductive system: fallopian tubes, ovaries, and a uterus. The warden of the Washington, D.C., city jail and three other officers were fired after some children who were touring the jail were strip-searched by prison guards. Billy Barnes, an eight-year-old Canadian boy who was suspended from school for pointing a chicken finger at another child and saying “Bang,” was declared innocent by his local school board.

Nkosi Johnson, a twelve-year-old South African boy, died of AIDS; Nkosi once managed to shame President Thabo Mbeki into walking out of an AIDS conference after he pleaded with the government to give AZT to pregnant mothers, a course of treatment that might have prevented his own infection. Two French scientists said they had detected 35 times the normal amount of arsenic in some of Napoleon’s hair. President Bush’s twin daughters were in trouble with the law after they tried to order drinks at Chuy’s, a restaurant in Austin, Texas; Jenna, the bad twin, even tried to use a fake I.D. A nominee to be an agriculture bureaucrat was in trouble for making an ill-considered remark linking economic success to race. The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service said it would expedite visa applications for a mere $1,000 rush fee. Race riots broke out in Oldham, England; firebombs were thrown, cars were burned. Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, said that he was still considering declaring a state of emergency, which would allow him to rule by decree, in order to fight poverty. New Yorkpolice, acting on a tip, entered an apartment and found a bathtub filled with bloody water and a severed head under the sink; two men were arrested for killing and cutting up the victim with a hacksaw so they could get his apartment. The suspects threw the victim’s hands out the window when police knocked on the door. Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Masak developed a process that quickly recycles a human corpse into roughly 65 pounds of fertilizer. Some brown bears started a wildfire in Alaska. In Canada, a black bear killed a man. The Vatican wheeled out the body of Pope John XXIII, dead since 1963, in a fancy new coffin; he was wearing a lace tunic, a red velvet cape, and an ermine-trimmed hat.

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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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