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The pharmaceutical industry dropped its suit against the South African government over a law that will permit the importation of inexpensive anti-AIDSdrugs; the drug companies agreed to pay the government’s legal costs and admitted that the law in question does in fact abide by international trade agreements. Dr. Tshabalala-Msimang, South Africa’s health minister, was asked what the government planned to do next, having won this important victory; she replied that actually there was no real need to use such drugs in a country with the highest rate of AIDS infection on earth. Scientists sequenced the genomes of two strains of drug-resistant staphylococcus bacteria; they discovered that the bacteria are capable of stealing genes from other organisms, which enables them very quickly to develop immunity to new drugs. Other scientists discovered that feeding antibiotics to animals, already known to contribute to resistant strains of salmonella and other gut bacteria, has led to the development of resistant strains of soil- and water-borne bacteria beneath farms that use such feed. United States officials admitted that a domestic outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease was very likely. An oil pipe broke on Alaska’s North Slope spilling 92,400 gallons of “produced water,” a mixture of salt water and oil, onto the tundra, making it the largest tundra spill on the North Slope to date. President Bush had no comment. Twenty thousand hippies stormed the site of the Summit of the Americas in Quebec, throwing rocks and bottles and tearing down a chainlink fence as they protested plans for a hemispheric free trade area. Apparently worried that his own stock was falling faster than the Dow, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan again cut interest rates and was duly rewarded with a market surge. Residents of Mississippivoted 2 to 1 to keep their rebel flag. The Mississippi River was flooding the Midwest. The New York Times noticed that the blues was dying off down in the Delta.
The Environmental Protection Agency decided to honor new Clinton Administration rules strengthening the protection of wetlands. The United StatesCommerce Department proposed extending endangered species protection to the smalltooth sawfish, whose population in American waters has dropped 99 percent. Some experts were worried about tourists who pay to swim with sharks, which are lured by fish heads and such; others welcomed the chance to studynatural selection at work. One hundred and sixty-four people died in 628 accidents during Thailand’s annual water festival. A Thai senator claimed to have found evidence of a cache of gold hidden by Japanese soldiers during World War II; troops were called in to look for the loot. Taro Aso, a candidate for prime minister in Japan, said that his country should try to attract “rich Jews” to help solve Japan’s problems. “I think the best country is one in which rich Jews feel like living.” Aso later said he had been misunderstood: “If the phrase ‘rich Jewish people’ causes misunderstanding, I will correct it and stop it.” Pat Robertson told a reporter that China was “doing what they have to do” when officials force women to have abortions, because otherwise “the population would be unsustainable”; Robertson later clarified his statement and said that he hadn’t meant to condone forced abortion at all. Singapore was paying cash to couples who have second and third children as part of its “Baby Bonus Scheme” to reverse its falling birthrate; a local newspaper printed instructions for having sex in the back seat of a car.
Britain banned human cloning. The parents of the Colombine High School killers settled a lawsuit for $2.5 million with the families of victims. The family of Dave Sanders, a teacher killed at Colombine, filed a $5 billion class-action lawsuit against 25 media companies for turning Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold into killers with the violent imagery of movies and video games. A man named Luther V. Casteel was told to leave JB’s Pub in Elgin, Illinois, so he went and got his guns and shot up the bar, killing two and injuring 21. St. John’s wort does not prevent depression, a study found. People in Oklahoma City were gearing up for Timothy McVeigh’s execution. The Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for a murderer who was represented by a lawyer who also represented the victim. French people were telling pollsters that they, too, wanted to kill their old and feeble, just like the Dutch. A barber in Amsterdam who stabbed a violent customer to death with a pair of scissors was released after it was found that he acted in self-defense. A new survey discovered that some English drivers believe that a road sign warning of a toad crossing signifies the presence of a French restaurant. Miss Israel, an eighteen-year-old soldier from Haifa named Ilanit Levy, announced that she will wear a bulletproof dress at the Miss Universe pageant next month. The British Flying Saucer Bureau closed its doors. Researchers in Chicago made a functional cyborg using the brain of an immature lamprey eel.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”