Weekly Review — September 17, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

A(nother) mass shooting in the United States, a deal on Syria’s chemical weapons, and notes on Arkansan squirrel cuisine

ALL IN MY EYE.At the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., 34-year-old Aaron Alexis killed at least 12 people before being killed by a police officer. Alexis was carrying a shotgun and two pistols.[*] “It’s hard,” said a law-enforcement official, “to carry that many guns.” Navy commander Tim Jirus reported hiding in an alley with another man, who was shot in the head while the two conversed. “I was just lucky,” said Jirus. “The other person was shorter than me.”[1][2][3] United Nations weapons inspectors submitted a report confirming that they had found “clear and convincing evidence” that the nerve gas sarin was deployed on August 21 near Damascus, an attack Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called “the worst use of weapons of mass destruction in the twenty-first century.”[4][5][6][7] The Syrian government formally acceded to the international convention banning chemical weapons, and U.S. secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov secured an agreement under which Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons will be inventoried, seized, and removed or destroyed by mid-2014. “In part because of the credible threat of U.S. military force, we now have the opportunity to achieve our objectives through diplomacy,” said President Barack Obama. “We agreed to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international supervision in response to Russia’s request, and not because of American threats,” said Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Kerry insisted he “purposely” made the statement, which was widely reported as a gaffe, that Assad could voluntarily give up his country’s chemical weapons in order to avoid airstrikes. “I did indeed say it wasn’t possible and he won’t do it, even as I hoped it would be possible and wanted him to do it,” Kerry said. “The language of diplomacy sometimes requires that you put things to the test.”[8][9][10][11] News about the singer Miley Cyrus’s performance at the MTV Video Music Awards was found to have been 12 times more widely read in the United States than news about Syria, and the FCC was reported to have received 150 complaints about Cyrus. “Where,” asked one complainant, “has censorship gone?” “I was subjugated,” wrote another, “to four minutes of Miley Cyrus.”[12][13]

[*] An earlier version of the Weekly Review stated that Aaron Alexis was carrying an AR-15 rifle. News reports to this effect turned out to have been incorrect.

On the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, the fire department at Boston’s Logan International Airport held a training exercise that included roaring flames and heavy smoke on the airfield.[14] In Colorado, where severe flooding has killed seven people, left more than a thousand stranded, and damaged nearly 19,000 homes, special-education teacher Brian Shultz said he regretted evacuating his house. “I could have lasted at least a year,” he said, adding that he probably had enough beer to cover the entire time.[15] A feral pig in the Australian town of Port Hedland drank 18 beers and passed out under a tree, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents announced plans to distribute cupboard latches in order to prevent Scottish children from eating laundry-detergent gel capsules, and police in York, Pennsylvania, determined that the crash of a minivan driven by Dimples the Clown was not caused by oversize footwear.[16][17][18] American balloonist Jonathan Trappe, who was trying to cross the Atlantic Ocean borne by hundreds of helium-filled balloons, landed prematurely in Newfoundland. “This doesn’t look like France,” he said.[19] NASA confirmed that its Voyager 1 probe had entered interstellar space, that it would send romaine-lettuce plants to the International Space Station, and that a photograph of a frog being launched alongside its LADEE spacecraft at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia was authentic. “The condition of the frog,” the agency said in a statement, “is uncertain.”[20][21][22] A man suspected of masturbating outside a Glendale, California, Seventh Day Adventist church during services was arrested after being found asleep with his hand in his pants.[23] Eviction proceedings continued in London against God’s Own Junkyard.[24]

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Thousands of fish suffocated following a molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor, and Titan Salvage began righting the shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner in Giglio, Italy, the largest parbuckling attempt in history.[25][26] Israeli police arrested a self-proclaimed sorcerer from the Golan Heights for manipulating a woman into having sex with him as part of “magical treatments” to help her recover from a breakup, and Dayton, Ohio, performer Nathaniel J. Smith, who also goes by Brave Nate, Hustle Simmons, and FlexLuthor, was arrested for failing to appear at a child-support hearing for one of the 27 children he has fathered by 17 women.[27][28] In Milton, West Virginia, two men, dressed as Batman and Captain America, rescued a cat from a house fire, after which Batman administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.[29] The Asahikawa prison in Japan introduced Katakkuri-chan, a six-foot-six-inch humanoid mascot dressed as a prison warden with an enormous purple flower for hair.[30] A 58-year-old Uruguayan man who disappeared four months ago in the remote Andes was found to have survived the winter by eating raisins and rats, and the Wall Street Journal praised the squirrel with cashews and spring rolls and the Caribbean jerk squirrel with fried plantains served at the second annual World Championship Squirrel Cook Off in Bentonville, Arkansas. “We’ve been trying,” said a publicist for the Bentonville Convention and Visitors Bureau, “to polish our image.”[31][32]


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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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