Weekly Review — September 10, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The Syria debate continues, the NSA breaks encryption routines, and a Windischeschenbach tubist complains about sex

Babylonian LionThe Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved, by a vote of 10 to 7, a resolution whose passage in both houses of Congress would authorize the Obama Administration to attack Syria for 60 days. The White House released 13 videos that showed men convulsing and dying after an alleged sarin gas attack outside Damascus on August 21, and a deserter from Syrian antigovernment forces leaked a video that showed fighters shooting seven government soldiers in the backs of their heads. Bashar al-Assad denied to American talk-show host Charlie Rose that he was responsible for any use of chemical weapons. Russia said that it had provided a 100-page report to the United Nations in July detailing the use of sarin gas by antigovernment forces in a March attack on a suburb of Aleppo, and deployed four warships to the eastern Mediterranean. “There is no viable path forward,” said the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “Sure, [Assad] could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week,” said secretary of state John Kerry, “but he isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done.” Russia and Syria announced their support for Kerry’s proposal that Syria give up its chemical arms, and the two millionth refugee fled the Syrian civil war. “I dream,” said a five-year-old boy who had been displaced to a refugee camp in Iraq after being separated from his parents, “that Bashar al-Assad is bombing my mother, my brother, and my father.” During a Senate hearing on the proposed U.S. intervention, John McCain (R., Ariz.) was photographed playing a smartphone game called VIP Poker. “I had fun,” he said.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13] Coordinated suicide bombs killed 60 Baghdad residents, and in Egypt, assassins tried and failed to kill the interior minister with a remote-controlled bomb.[14][15]

The New York Times and the Guardian revealed that the National Security Agency had defeated encryption technologies that were previously believed to protect emails, searches, chats, and online phone calls from government surveillance, in part by offering consultation services to manufacturers of encryption software and leveraging those relationships to insert vulnerabilities into Internet security programs. “I think there are legitimate concerns,” said President Barack Obama, “that technology is moving so quick.”[16][17] A remote-controlled-helicopter enthusiast decapitated himself in Brooklyn, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was revealed to have traveled by helicopter to last year’s Burning Man festival in Nevada in order to serve grilled-cheese sandwiches.[18][19] A Croatian ice-cream shop debuted a Facebook flavor, Chobani recalled yogurt manufactured in its Idaho plant because it contained unwanted mold, and a Houston man discovered a chilled dead snake inside an 18-pack of Bud Light.[20][21][22][23] A drunk driver struck and killed a Colorado marijuana activist.[24] A 107-year-old man in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, who had threatened to shoot his granddaughter with a handgun because he didn’t want to move to an apartment, was killed exchanging fire with a SWAT team.[25][26] In New York City, a jury awarded $280,000 to a woman whose boss called her a “nigger” during a lecture on unprofessionalism, and in Casper, Wyoming, NAACP representatives met for the first time with members of the Ku Klux Klan. “I’m not trying to push my issues on anyone,” said Imperial Wizard Bradley Jenkins.[27][28] NAACP president Benjamin Jealous announced that he would step down in December. “We’ve spent five years,” he said, “in the black.”[29]

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A white-magic practitioner on the Maldivan island of Guraidhoo declared an immature coconut that had been inscribed with Koranic verses and left near a polling station to be black-magic-free.[30] Indonesia’s health ministry announced that it would require high school students to self-report the size and shape of their genitals, Spain raised its age of consent to 16 from 13, and an Indian village council ordered a six-year-old girl to marry the eight-year-old son of a 40-year-old man who had raped her.[31][32][33] In Windischeschenbach, Germany, a fire-brigade tubist filed suit against two neighbors who had damaged his Citroën Picasso by having sex on its hood. “The windscreen was so smeared you couldn’t see through it,” he said.[34] In London, where glare from a skyscraper melted a Jaguar, a woman sued her date for stealing her BlackBerry because she couldn’t pay for drinks.[35][36] Officials at men’s prisons in England and Wales were found to be separating same-sex couples, and a Bedfordshire retiree spoke out against a judge who had fined him $117 for shampooing his semi-erect penis on a bus. “I was treated,” the man said, “like a hardened criminal.”[37][38]


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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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