Weekly Review — September 3, 2002, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that President Bush had not yet decided whether to invade Iraq and that it was important for Americans to “engage in a somewhat elevated, thoughtful discussion about what free people ought to do given the circumstances of the 21st century.” Secretary Rumsfeld compared President Bush to Winston Churchill and said that Saddam Hussein was acting like Adolf Hitler. British historians begged to differ. “Churchill is the only Englishman any of them has ever heard of, with the possible exception of Shakespeare if they were hard-working at school,” said Ben Pimlott, warden of Goldsmiths College, London. “In fact, there is no comparison between Hitler and Saddam Hussein, who is not an expansionist within the region. Americans admire Churchill’s brilliance, his language and oratory, his feline style. But Bush is a Neanderthal with no knowledge of the world. Churchill had a great deal of knowledge.” CBS was reportedly looking for a poor white rural family to star in a reality-TV version of the Beverly Hillbillies. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand suggested that his government manufacture fake methamphetamine pills that will make people throw up. Russia’s defense ministry offered lollipops to officers who agreed to quit smoking. A Swiss neurobiologist discovered that human sperm apparently possess some kind of memory. Target, the department store chain, said it was removing clothing with the phrase “EIGHT EIGHT,” white-power code for “Heil Hitler,” from its stores. Umbro, a British shoe company, said that its Zyklon running shoe had nothing to do with the poison gas Zyklon B, which the Nazis used in their death camps; the company explained that the similarity was an “unfortunate coincidence.”

President Bush had lunch with Prince Bandar bin Sultan down at the ranch in Crawford and tried unsuccessfully to convince the Saudi ambassador that America must make war on Iraq; the President also telephoned Crown Prince Abdullah and pledged “eternal friendship” with the House of Saud. The Saudi royal family was said to be spending millions on a PR campaign to counteract its poor image in the United States. Some members of the family were thinking of donating War Emblem, the horse that won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes this year, to the families of September 11 victims. Israeli tanks fired at a village in the Gaza Strip and killed four members of a family that was sleeping outdoors; the government expressed regret for the killings, which it said were inappropriate. Human rights groups denounced the army for using flechettes, tiny metal darts that spray out of tank shells, in the attack. Israel also apologized for killing a 10-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl during an attempt to assassinate a Palestinian militant, who escaped. The little girl had just bought a ruler after her first day at school. Some Israelis were wondering whether their soldiers were taking sufficient precautions to avoid killing civilians. Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, the army chief of staff, explained that in fact civilian casualties were expected when the army bombed a crowded apartment building in July, and Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz, the commander of the air force, said the following in an interview: “Is there a situation in which it is legitimate to hit a terrorist when you know that it will carry the price of harming civilians? The answer is affirmative.” He continued: “I’m very sorry about innocent children who are killed, but whoever goes out to kill children in Israel has to take into account that children may be killed around him.”

It was reported that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret federal tribunal used primarily to process wiretap requests, rejected such an application for the first time since it was created in 1978, after approving more than 10,000 requests. The court said that the Justice Department was exceeding its authority under the law and cited more than 75 cases in which the F.B.I. had filed misleading applications. A federal appeals court ruled that the Bush Administration’s policy of holding secret deportation hearings was illegal. “Democracies,” the court wrote, “die behind closed doors.” South Carolina’s ten federal judges agreed to ban secret legal settlements because such deals often hide the truth about hazardous products, incompetent doctors, pedophile priests, and other public evils. A new study found that there are almost 200,000 more black American men in prison than in college. Kentucky banned prison inmates from holding formal Satanic worship services, which previously had been listed on the official prison religious-services calendar. Forty-nine percent of Americans, a new poll found, think that the First Amendment “goes too far.” The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate banned news photographers from taking pictures of children carrying weapons. A California man was arrested for torturing and dissecting his daughter’s guinea pig because he thought it was a robot with a camera in its head sent to spy on him by government agents. A new tanning drug called Melanotan could be the next Viagra, researchers said, because it causes erections. Australia’s National Library announced that it would begin adding a small sample of Internet pornography to its collection. New Zealand celebrated National Penis Day. NASA decided to let pop singer Lance Bass train at the Johnson Space Center in preparation for his $20 million adventure with the Russian space program. People were starving in Zambia. Japanese researchers used computer implants to make the lame walk. A new survey found that most Britons would rather live in another country. Robert Plant, the former singer of Led Zeppelin, was asked whether he would accept a knighthood. “I’m already the Golden God,” he replied. “How can I step down that far?” An 81-year-old man wearing nothing but a T-shirt, sneakers, and sunglasses was filmed by Virginia police fornicating with one cow after another.

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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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