Weekly Review — December 16, 2003, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Babylonian Lion, March 1875]

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz decreed that Canada, Germany, France, Russia, and other nations that opposed the conquest of Iraq will be ineligible for $18.6 billion in reconstruction contracts. The announcement was greeted with astonishment by the blacklisted countries; Russia said that it would now refuse to consider restructuring Iraq’s $8 billion debt, and Canada said the decision would probably rule out further reconstruction aid.Boston GlobeGerman Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said the blacklist might violate international law. “International law?” the president responded. “I better call my lawyer.”Washington PostA suicide car bomber blew up outside an Iraqi police station, killing at least 17 people; a gas truck exploded in the middle of Baghdad, and an American soldier died while trying to disarm a bomb.Christian Science MonitorA bank in suburban Baghdad was robbed of about $800,000 andNew York TimesSaddam Hussein was found cowering in a pit on a farm near Tikrit.ReutersNew Jersey’s big bear hunt ended with 328 confirmed kills.GuardianVice President Dick Cheney reportedly killed more than 70 farm-raised ringneck pheasants during a “canned hunt” in which 500 of the birds were released for the pleasure of Cheney and nine companions; the men were credited with 417 pheasants and an undisclosed number of ducks.Pittsburgh Post-GazetteU.S. forces killed six children in Afghanistan, along with two adults, just four days after nine children were killed during another air strike. A military spokesman admitted that “such mistakes” might hurt America’s reputation in the area.Washington PostNewly released White House tapes revealed that President Richard Nixon disliked Ronald Reagan. Nixon said that “he’s just an uncomfortable man to be around, strange.”Associated PressOther tapes revealed that Nixon was planning to use the Justice Department and the FBI to take revenge on his enemies once the Watergate scandal blew over. Nixon also thought that New York City “should go through a cycle of destruction.”New York Times

The United States Supreme Court upheld the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, which bans unlimited political contributions to political parties. The majority concluded that “it was not unwarranted for Congress to conclude that the selling of access gives rise to the appearance of corruption.”New York TimesSeveral officials in Las Vegas were in trouble for accepting bribes from a strip-club operator. “There’s a tendency on the part of people to think politicians are inherently corrupt,” said the mayor. “That’s unfair, but it’s a fact.”New York TimesDavid Lynch let it be known that he is helping the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi raise $1 billion to build 100 “peace palaces” around the world. “When you do [transcendental meditation],” Lynch declared, “this level of unity can be enlivening the world consciousness and it can go into the atmosphere.”GuardianCanadian psychologists found that men are unable to think rationally when they see a beautiful woman.New ScientistAl Gore endorsedHoward Dean for president; Joe Lieberman, Gore’s former running mate, was somewhat miffed.Los Angeles TimesGlaxoSmithKline’s head of genetics admitted that “the vast majority of drugs ?? more than 90 percent ?? only work in 30 or 50 percent of the people.”IndependentThe British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency warned doctors not to give antidepressants such as Zoloft, Paxil, and Celexa to children and adolescents, because the drugs have been linked to suicide and self-harm.New York TimesMoody’s Investors Service downgraded California’s credit rating after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger cut the registration fee for automobiles without having a plan to pay for the change, and theAssociated PressPentagon accused Halliburton, which recently removed its name from outside its corporate headquarters in Houston, of overcharging for gasoline in Iraq.ReutersPresident Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan was almost assassinated.New York TimesCanada’s Air Transport Security Authority banned fruitcakes in carry-on luggage.CBC

A new theory was put forth that global warming began 8,000 years ago, when farmers began clearing forests for agriculture and grazing large herds of livestock, which increased carbon dioxide and methane levels; by AD 1700, according to the theory, human activity had increased the global temperature by 0.8 degrees Celsius, an increase roughly equal to that caused by industrial activity since then.Climatic Change, Nature.com, New ScientistIt was reported that the earth’s magnetic field has weakened by about 10 percent over the last 150 years; scientists said that large solar storms could cause “significant but not catastrophic” damage to the ozone layer as a result.Newsday, New York TimesLightning struck a church in Swaziland and killed a priest, five children, and three others.News.com.auMick Jagger accepted a knighthood; Keith Richards was disgusted and said it was a disgrace: “It’s not what the Stones is about, is it?”Associated Press, ReutersStress, it was discovered, can make you live longer.Science DailyElephants in Thailand were said to be hijackingsugarcane shipments, andWashington TimesKeiko the killer whale died of pneumonia in a Norwegian fjord. Local officials said it was “downright sad.”Aftenposten NettutgavenScientists were studying the bombardier beetle, which can fire liquid at its enemies from its rear end at up to 300 squirts per second, in the hope of building a better airplane engine.New ScientistPhysicists at Harvard University succeeded in “freezing” a beam of light.New Scientist

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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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Chances that college students select as “most desirable‚” the same face chosen by the chickens:

49 in 50

Most of the United States’ 36,000 yearly bunk-bed injuries involve male victims.

In Italy, a legislator called for parents who feed their children vegan diets to be sentenced to up to six years in prison, and in Sweden, a woman attempted to vindicate her theft of six pairs of underwear by claiming she had severe diarrhea.

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