Weekly Review — July 9, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Sexual assault amid Egyptian upheaval, adult breast-feeding in China, and the empathy of taxidermist George Dante

A Humbug (Weekly)In a televised address from Cairo, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi announced the temporary suspension of Egypt’s constitution and the interim appointment of judge Adli Mansour to replace Mohamed Morsi, who was elected last summer with 52 percent of the popular vote, as president. “We understand it as a military coup,” said a Morsi adviser. “The conviction and culture of the Egyptian armed forces doesn’t allow following the policy of ‘military coups,’” said the country’s senior officers in a statement. The regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, which was conducting a ten-day offensive on the city of Homs, urged Morsi to recognize that “the overwhelming majority of the Egyptian people reject him.” At least 51 protesters were shot while holding a vigil for Morsi outside the officers’ club in Nasr City where he was reputedly being held, and demonstrators in Tahrir Square reported as many as 169 cases of mob sexual violence. “We call it the circle of hell,” said one woman.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] [8][9][10] A fire lasting nearly 36 hours broke out when a parked train carrying 73 cars filled with crude oil derailed and rolled into downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Forty buildings were destroyed, a third of the town’s population was evacuated, and at least 13 people died. “It’s terrible,” said one man. “The Metro store, Dollarama — everything that was there is gone.”[11][12] The British discount retailer Poundland stopped selling Chinese lanterns after cameras showed one floating into a Smethwick recycling plant and starting a fire that eventually burned through 100,000 tons of plastic. “They are spectacular things,” said a local member of parliament. “I am loath to ban them.”[13][14][15]

Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is thought to be living in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, released information on Tempora, a system devised by Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters for recording Internet traffic. “It snarfs everything in a rolling buffer,” said Snowden, “without missing a single bit.”[16][17] Bolivian president Evo Morales, arriving home from an oil summit in Moscow, admonished France and Portugal for denying his plane permission to fly through their airspace on suspicion that Snowden might be aboard. “This young man isn’t a suitcase,” said Morales.[18][19] Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport, injuring 182 passengers and killing two Chinese students.[20][21] Conservative lawmakers in Costa Rica appealed to President Laura Chinchilla to veto a bill they’d accidentally voted for that modified the Law of Young People to allow gay marriage, and male anti-abortion activists gathered at the Texas State Capitol with signs reading “I regret my abortion.”[22][23] Ohio governor John Kasich approved legislation requiring that women seeking an abortion be made aware of their fetus’s heartbeat and declined to loosen controls on the ownership of spider monkeys.[24] A technician carrying out maintenance on a rooftop LED billboard in China’s northeastern Jilin province accidentally broadcast ten minutes of The Forbidden Legend: Sex and Chopsticks, and a nanny agency in Shenzhen reported that wealthy adults were paying to be breast-fed. “People become perverts,” wrote a user of the microblogging service Sina Weibo, “when they are too rich.”[25][26] Nestlé announced plans to lower infant-formula prices across China by 20 percent.[27]

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Police in Seattle gave water to a pig in sweatpants, and Florida banned chicks of color.[28][29] The president of a Venetian gondoliers’ association proposed that canalmen be breathalyzed.[30] Biologists determined that jerboas outjump jirds and that male hawk moths ward off predators through the ultrasonic jiggling of their genitals.[31][32] Llama owners extolled the benefits of camelid husbandry. “You can tell them all your secrets and your problems,” said one woman. “They’re like potato chips,” said another.[33] An apiarist in Tintinara, Australia, designed a beekeeping suit for his Labrador; officials on the French Riviera mounted a search for two black panthers; two Britons holidaying in Iceland rode a bus to Reykjavík with a spew-covered gyrfalcon; and a Goffin’s cockatoo named Pipin picked five locks to retrieve a cashew.[34][35][36][37] At a Wells Fargo in Montebello, California, a man with cancer was mistaken for the Surgical Mask Bandit.[38] Students primed with unconscious thoughts of death were found to write funnier New Yorker cartoon captions.[39] Tens of thousands of carp and sea bream died following a molasses spill near Acatlán de Juárez, and eruptions from Popocatépetl coated Mexico City in ash.[40][41] A moon of Pluto was renamed Styx, a truckload of dish soap spilled into Virginia’s Purgatory Creek, and New Jersey taxidermist George Dante prepared the body of Lonesome George, the last of a subspecies of Galápagos tortoise, for exhibition. “You feel for him,” said Dante. “You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t.”[42][43][44]


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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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