Weekly Review — May 11, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

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

One trillion virtual dollars vanished from the U.S. stock market in fifteen minutes, as a mysterious surge of sales triggered a chain reaction in the high-speed automatic-trading computers that account for more than half of all market activity. It was rumored that a trader had accidentally typed “b” for billion rather than “m” for million, that someone somewhere was gaming the system, and that the “flash crash” was a reaction to unrest in Greece, where 100,000 people protested spending cuts by the socialist government and three bank workers were killed by rioters. “Those riots,” said David Walker of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, testifying before a House finance subcommittee, “could happen in the United States in less than ten years.”NYTThe WeekBusinessweekCNNCNBCDallas NewsAP via GooglePoliticoIn the Democratic push for finance reform, democratic-socialist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont compromised on a proposal for public audits of the Federal Reserve, and Representative Ron Paul (R., Tex.) said that Sanders had “sold out.” BusinessweekThe Labor Department announced that 290,000 jobs were created in April, and unemployment rose 0.2 percent, to 9.9 percent, with 17.1 percent of the labor force underutilized.WSJWaPoOpera workers in Italy launched wildcat strikes to protest pay cuts, and public-health authorities in Iowa reported eight cases of mumps, possibly spread at a “root-beer kegger” in Sioux Center. AP via Boston GlobeDes Moines Register

President Barack Obama nominated solicitor general and former Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. The confirmation of Kagan, a self-described “famously excellent teacher” with an elite liberal pedigree, a scanty scholarly record, and no judicial experience, would make the Court one-third Jewish as well as one-third female. NYTSalonNYTTwo-time Alaska governor and former U.S. secretary of the interior Wally Hickel died. Severely dyslexic, largely self-educated, and a self-made millionaire, Hickel often attributed his wisdom to a “little guy” inside of him. “He’s my buddy,” he said. “He never gets mad. Sometimes he hides. But then he comes out.”NYTHuffington PostAnchorage Daily NewsSenators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Scott Brown of Massachusetts proposed a bill to allow the State Department to strip Americans of their citizenship if there is evidence that they support terrorism. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported the measure, and House speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed with its “spirit.” SenateNYTSomali pirates in the Gulf of Aden captured a Russian tanker carrying $52 million worth of oil; they were quickly dislodged by Russian troops, disarmed, and set free. Asked why the pirates were let go, a spokesman for the Russian defense ministry said, “Why should we feed some pirates?” Guardian NYT

An estimated 210,000 gallons of crude oil were gushing daily into the Gulf of Mexico from a leaking BP oil well. A plan to trap the oil in a massive dome failed. Engineers were considering plugging the leak with trash, and wealthy Manhattanites were donating their hair to mop up the spill. “Would it be possible,” asked Kenny Wilder of Navarre, Florida, at an emergency meeting with BP representatives, “to just go out there and bomb the hell out of it?” AP via BusinessweekNew YorkCNNScientists feared for the oysters of Florida’s Apalachicola Bay. “If you’re an oyster,” explained a marine biologist, “you don’t put on your sneakers and leave.”Miami HeraldFarmers in Mixquiahuala, Mexico, who use runoff from Mexico City sewers to irrigate their crops, protested plans to build a sewage-treatment plant.NYTScientists analyzing Neanderthal DNA concluded that Eurasian Homo sapiens may have mated a little bit with Neanderthals, but African Homo sapiens did not. NYTScienceThe birth-control pill turned 50, Americans celebrated Mother’s Day, and NATO forces marched in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.APBoston GlobeLATCSMTax collectors in rural San Diego County, California, threatened to auction off the property of disabled Marine, Thoreauvian, and Rastafarian Joseph Diliberti, who has refused to pay a bill sent by the local fire department, for clearing allegedly flammable bushes from his property. “A Rasta-man,” said Diliberti, “doesn’t worry about these things.” LAT

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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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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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