Weekly Review — April 23, 2012, 6:41 pm

Weekly Review

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Twelve U.S. Secret Service agents and 12 U.S. military servicemen involved in President Barack Obama’s security detail at the Summit for the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, were under investigation after a local woman, known as “Dania,” accused an agent of refusing to adequately compensate her for sleeping with him. Six agents vacated or were fired from their posts, and investigators determined that as many as 20 other women may have spent the night with members of the detail, who were also accused of using drugs. Journalists competed for a ride with José Peña, a taxi driver who claimed to know where Dania lived, and Dania said she was unhappy that media reports had identified her as a prostitute rather than as an escort. “An escort is someone a man can take out to dinner,” she said. “She can dress nicely, wear nice makeup, speak and act like a lady. That’s me.”[1][2][3][4][5] At a court hearing in which his bond for the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin was set at $150,000, George Zimmerman told Martin’s parents he was sorry for the death of their son. “I did not know how old he was,” said Zimmerman, who was later released on bail. “I thought he was a little bit younger than I was, and I did not know if he was armed or not.”[6][7] During court proceedings in Oslo, Anders Behring Breivik testified that he killed 77 people in last summer’s attacks on an Utøya Island youth camp and Norwegian government buildings out of “necessity”; that his fight against multiculturalism was akin to Tibet’s struggle for sovereignty; that his aspiration had been to kill everyone on Utøya, bomb several more government buildings, and record himself beheading the prime minister so he could post the footage online; that he is not clinically insane but politically extreme; and that he is typically a nice person.[8][9][10][11][12][13]

The United Nations voted unanimously to deploy an additional 300 unarmed observers to Syria, where the government was taking what a U.N. official called “clearly insufficient” steps toward implementing a declared ceasefire. Activists claimed that Syrian security forces were hiding tanks and weapons in warehouses, and that they had killed dozens of demonstrators in the western city of Hama following a visit by U.N. observers.[14][15][16] Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to protest the military’s ongoing rule; government forces in Bahrain used tear gas to disperse thousands of people demonstrating against the country’s monarchy and Formula One Grand Prix; and Sudanese jets bombed the South Sudanese town of Bentiu, bringing the two countries close to all-out war.[17][18][19][20] The Los Angeles Times published photographs of U.S. soldiers posing with the limbs of dead insurgents in Afghanistan, where 150 students at a girls’ high school in Takhar Province were poisoned after consuming water from a tank thought to have been contaminated by radical Islamists.[21][22] New York middle schoolers were baffled by a state standardized test that included questions based on a story by Daniel Pinkwater in which a talking pineapple challenges a hare to a race in an enchanted forest, then fails to move and is eaten by animals. “The story seems to have been written,” said Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, “during a peyote trip.”[23] Swedish culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth faced criticism after she participated in a Stockholm genital mutilation–awareness performance-art piece by cutting slices of a red sponge cake frosted to look like a naked black woman.[24] A man named Ramadan collapsed on the floor of an Egyptian Internet café after discovering pornographic videos of his wife with another man. “It was the first time I watched a porno film,” he said.[25] A management professor and a sexologist published a paper on the future of sex tourism, in which they imagined an Amsterdam club named Yub-Yum where antiseptic androids of various shapes and colors service patrons. “Robot sex is safer sex,” wrote the professors, “free from the constraints, precautions, and uncertainties of the real deal.”[26]

The Band drummer Levon Helm died, as did American Bandstand host Dick Clark.[27][28] The decommissioned NASA space shuttle Discovery flew for the final time, traveling from the Kennedy Space Center to Washington, D.C., where it will be exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution, and students in California launched a rubber chicken more than 20 miles above the earth.[29][30] Scientists concluded that the songs of the rock hyrax have syntax and that honeybees dance better vertically than horizontally.[31][32] Starbucks announced that it would begin using a vegetable extract, rather than crushed cochineal parasites, to color certain drinks red, and a Russian man won the inaugural black-caviar speed-eating contest in Moscow, consuming $5,000 worth of caviar in 86 seconds for a prize of $326.[33][34] The mayor of Fucking, Austria, campaigned to rename his village. “The only problem,” he said, “is that we need all of the Fucking residents to agree to the name change.”[35] The Canadian province of Ontario decided that a man need not have his penis removed in order to be legally considered female, and a traveler at Portland International Airport was arrested for taking off all of his clothes in the security-screening line, apparently to protest harassment by TSA employees. “He hasn’t been under any stress that I know of,” said the man’s father. “He’s never really under any stress. He works for a computer company in California. He does something with the Internet, which is just kind of mystical to me.”[36][37]

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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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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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