Weekly Review — December 16, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Caught in the Web, 1860]
Caught in the Web, 1860.

Federal agents arrested hedge-fund manager Bernard Madoff and charged him with running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, possibly the largest in Wall Street history. Madoff faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $5 million in fines; he had hoped to distribute his last $200 million to friends, family, and favored employees before his arrest, but was turned in by his sons. SECNYTBloombergWSJNYTRepublicansenators killed a plan to loan $14 billion to American automakers, and the White House said it would consider other options to save the industry and as many as three million auto-related jobs, such as diverting some of the $700 billion reserved for bailing out the finance industry.WSJNYTAP via YahooNPRKalamazoo GazetteAP via YahooSteel and rubber plants across the United States and Canada continued to cut jobs,Cadiz RecordHerald-DispatchMcCook Daily GazetteTimes-Bulletin (Ohio) Victoria AdvocateHartford CourantKalamazoo GazetteIHTand 19 major U.S. companies in other sectors announced plans to lay off more than 80,000 people. Unemployment was increasing faster for college graduates than for non-graduates, as lawyers, architects, tech workers, and National Public Radio hosts were fired. WSJMinnesota Star-TribuneNPRWPNYTDetroit Free PressCNNThe Italian government bought 100,000 wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and donated them to charity, TelegraphWSJand the U.S. Federal Reserve continued to refuse to identify the recipients of $2 trillion in secret emergency loans or to say what collateral it has received. “It would really be a shame,” said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, “if we have to find this out ten years from now after some really nasty class-action suit and our financial system has completely collapsed.” Bloomberg

Illinois Governor Milorad “Rod” Blagojevich was arrested for what U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald called a “political corruption crime spree.” The evidence included wiretap recordings in which Blagojevich, who has the power to name President-elect Barack Obama’s successor in the Senate, talks about trading the Senate seat for “something real good” and refers to Obama as “that motherfucker.” “Our Milorad was framed,” said Dragan Blagojevic, reportedly a cousin, who invited the governor back to his ancestral native village of Veliki Krcmari, in Serbia. “He can have a cow,” he added, “or a pig or two.” Chicago TribuneChicago TribuneTPMNYTPoliticoNYTChicago TribuneChicago TribuneWPChicago TribuneNYTChicago TribuneBlic via JavnoRadio Free EuropeChicago TribuneSouthtown StarAP via GoogleThe Serbian Pink Panthers, the cross-dressing gang who stole more than $100 million in jewels from a store in Paris last week, were still on the loose, NYTand Bettie Page died. “Charming” photographs of Page “trussed up in rope” were recalled with fondness by New York Times movie critic Manohla Dargis. “We are surrounded by visuals that are far more explicit than any Bettie Page pinup,” Dargis wrote, “images of oiled and sculptured flesh that promise the universe and deliver so little.”Chicago TribuneNYTLATNYTAt the site of a former Dirty War detention center near Buenos Aires, ten thousand human bone fragments were found in a mass grave beneath a wall with two hundred bullet marks in it. The bodies had been doused in fuel and burned together with tires to mask the smell.BBC

Envelopes with “suspicious powder” were received by officials in 13 states,Houston ChronicleFort Mill TimesLawrence Journal-WorldAtlanta Journal-Courierand Wasilla Bible Church in Alaska was damaged by a fire, likely arson. Governor Sarah Palin issued a statement affirming her “faith in the scriptural passage that what was intended for evil will in some way be used for good.” Anchorage Daily NewsAP via Denver PostOn the last day of Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, a suicide bomber killed at least 50 people at a restaurant near Kirkuk, Iraq, where local Kurdish and Arab leaders were holding a “meeting of understanding.” Elsewhere, Eid was ruined by the financial crisis. “What does it say about me,” asked Zeinab Mansour, a 32-year-old woman in Cairo buying meat for her Eid meal, “when I have to ask the butcher to give me bones that he used to throw to the dogs?” LATAP via GoogleAt a press conference in Baghdad, President George W. Bush dodged two shoes thrown at him by Iraqi television reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi. “This is a gift from the Iraqis,” shouted al-Zaidi, “This is the farewell kiss, you dog!”NYTNYTNYTNYTIn Greece, where youth unemployment is roughly 25 percent, police killed a fifteen-year-old, upper-middle-class schoolboy in the left-wing Athens neighborhood of Exarchia, triggering a week of riots by local anarchists. Near Athens Polytechnic University, the site of a 1973 anti-fascist rebellion in which police killed 22 students, the rioters vandalized or firebombed an estimated 560 shops, 170 bank branches, and 17 hotels, and torched the city’s large Christmas tree, singing carols as they watched it burn. BBCIHTCSMEkathimeriniBloombergDer SpiegelBBCLATNYTEkathimeriniGuardianWSJTimes UKWSJNYTTimes UKSpurred by pollution, global warming, and overfishing, massive poisonous jellyfish and tiny jellyfish-like creatures were gathering in huge swarms, disrupting fisheries and marine mines, clogging nuclear-plant intake valves, and threatening tourists around the world. Colorado Springs GazetteChristian PostNSFAn atheist group in Springfield, Illinois, posted a sign next to a Nativity scene in the state’s capitol building. “There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell,” read the sign. “There is only our natural world.”Chicago Tribune

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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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