Weekly Review — March 17, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

The Senate passed a $410 billion omnibus spending bill that included more than 8,000 congressional earmarks, among them provisions for improving blueberry products in Georgia and controlling the spread of Mormon crickets in Utah. President Barack Obama, whose inaugural address included the promise that “those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits,” signed the bill into law. “This piece of legislation,” said Obama, “must mark an end to the old way of doing business.”Washington PostBernard Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 counts, ranging from securities fraud to perjury, connected to his decades-long $65 billion Ponzi scheme. The 70-year-old Madoff, who said he was “deeply sorry and ashamed” but insisted he acted alone, will likely spend the rest of his life in jail. “I’d stone him to death,” said one Madoff victim who attended the hearing.The New York TimesYahoo NewsInsurance giant AIG, which has received $170 billion in government loans in the past six months and which recorded the largest corporate losses in history last quarter, said it would pay out $165 million in executive bonuses this week, part of a larger executive payout expected to exceed $400 million. “There are a lot of terrible things that have happened in the last 18 months,” said Obama’s chief economic advisor, Larry Summers, “but what’s happened at AIG is the most outrageous.” The Obama Administration announced that it would attempt to block the bonuses.Yahoo NewsEmployees of a state-run home for the mentally disabled in Texas were suspended for holding “fight clubs” among residents,ABC NewsNew York TimesAssociated Pressand People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals hoped to sell tofu flavored with George Clooney’s sweat. “I thought, ‘What would make tofu more attractive to people?’” said PETA president Ingrid Newkirk. “I can see people having parties to try CloFu.”Washington Post

In Iraq at least 33 people were killed in a suicide attack at a national reconciliation conference; at a soccer game near Baghdad a player was shot dead attempting to score what would have been the tying goal in the final minute of an amateur game.BBC NewsMauricio Funes, a member of the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, was elected president of El Salvador, ending twenty years of rule by the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance, with whom the FMNL fought a 12-year guerrilla war.ESPNNew York TimesA German teenager went on a shooting spree at a school near Stuttgart, killing 15 people, most of them female students, before killing himself.The New York TimesCourt papers filed by the Justice Department indicated that the Obama Administration will no longer define detainees at Guantanamo Bay as “enemy combatants” and will rely on federal and international law to justify detainee policy. “It is essential that we operate in a manner that strengthens our national security, is consistent with our values, and is governed by law,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “The government may have eliminated the term enemy combatant,” said one human rights advocate, “but it is still claiming the authority to detain people far beyond the traditional norms of humanitarian law.”ReutersScientists in Japan released a five-foot-two, 95 pound fashion-model robot;Breitbarta Siberian woman was charged with killing her friend after a drunken argument, then eating her;Breitbartand a German food manufacturer released a line of fried chicken strips called “Obama Fingers.” “The American way of eating [is] trendy at the moment,” said a sales manager at the company. “Americans are more relaxed. Not like us stiff Germans.”Der Spiegel

President Obama lifted Bush Administration limits on human embryonic-stem-cell research and directed the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to “develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making.”New York TimesChinese premier Wen Jiabao expressed concern about the safety of his country’s massive investment in U.S. Treasury bonds.New York TimesIt was announced that the U.S. industrial output declined in February for the fourth consecutive month,New York Timesand stocks rallied after Citigroup reported that it was once again profitable. “At this point we’ll take whatever we can get,” said one investment researcher. “It ain’t much, but it’s better than a poke in the eye.”New York TimesA Massachusetts woman was arrested for attempting to nonconsensually impregnate her wife. The victim, Jennifer A. Lighten, told police that her wife, Stephanie, came home “all liquored up” with a “turkey baster and her brother’s semen in a sealed container.” CurrentBerkshire EagleAustrian retiree Josef Fritzl pleaded “partially” guilty to rape charges after admitting in court that he fathered seven children by the daughter he kept confined in a cellar for 24 years; he denied having killed one of their infant children.New York TimesA health advocacy group found that more than half of baby shampoos contain carcinogens,Washington Postand six women were injured and three people arrested after a riot broke out at a casting call for “America’s Next Top Model” in midtown Manhattan. “The girls,” said one would-be model, “were running like it was 9/11 part two.”Daily NewsEddie Doyle, the Boston bartender who inspired the television show “Cheers,” was laid off.Boston Globe

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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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