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A newspaper review of the ballots cast in Florida’s presidential election found that Al Gore probably received more votes than George W. Bush, who this week signed an executive order that will permit the government to use military courts to try foreigners accused of terrorism. Bush’s action was widely denounced as dictatorial and un-American, and law professors speculated that the administration was afraid that the evidence against Osama bin Laden was too weak to hold up in court. Vice President Dick Cheney said that suspected terrorists “don’t deserve to be treated as a prisoner of war. They don’t deserve the same guarantees and safeguards that would be used for an American citizen going through the normal judicial process.” Forty-five percent of Americans, according to a new poll, would not object to the use of torture to obtain information about terrorism. Three human rights groups charged that Israel has resumed the systematic torture of Palestinian detainees in violation of an order by the Israeli supreme court. American Special Forces were roaming the hills of Afghanistan on horseback searching for Osama bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar, who were on the run after the Taliban lost most of its territory. Oil prices were dropping. Foreign Taliban fighters in Kunduz executed more than 400 of their Afghan comrades to keep them from defecting. Refugees reported that they were killing civilians as well. In areas that have fallen to the Northern Alliance, Red Cross workers found bodies of Taliban soldiers, mostly foreigners, with bullet holes between their eyes. Northern Alliance forces entering Kabul were photographed beating and summarily executing a wounded Taliban soldier as he begged for his life. Reports of other such war crimes were unconfirmed. Presidents Bush and Putin had a fine time kidding around down on the ranch in Crawford, Texas, and they agreed to cut American and Russian nuclear arms by two thirds.President Bush announced that “the United States and Russia are in the midst of a transformationed relationship.”
A grave digger in Nigeria was arrested trying to sell two fresh human heads, which he was carrying in a bag; many Nigerians believe that human genitals, tongues, eyes, and skulls are good for casting spells. Members of the Liguria parliament in Genoa, Italy, banned the use of the word “member” to describe one another because it also means “penis,” which “is likely to cause a certain uneasiness among women”; henceforth, members will be known as “components” of parliament. A man stole 21 ceramic penises from an art exhibit in Boulder, Colorado, and left an American flag in their place. Schoolchildren in Indiavoted overwhelmingly to name a white tiger cub in the Lucknow Zoo Osama bin Laden; Hitler was another popular choice. Thousands of dead fish killed by industrial waste in a lake in Bangladesh were being collected and eaten by poor people. Pentagon officials were still trying to decide on a new color for food-aid packages; the current yellow color matches the one used for cluster bombs. Buildings were evacuated in Toronto when a cleaning woman mistook a vibrator that was hidden in a bathroom for a bomb. Iraq fired a mortar shell at Kuwait. Seven thousand virgins in Tanzania got together and promised not to have sex until marriage. Two hundred members of the Italian Association of Cuckolds gathered in Ruviano. In Singapore, hundreds of delegates were gathering for an international summit on the future of the toilet. China held its first conference on AIDS; an anonymous patient gave a brief speech from a dark stage lit only by green glow sticks.
Congress finally passed a bill to nationalize airport security; 28,000 federal passenger and baggage screeners will be deployed within a year. House Republicans insisted that some airports be given the option to hire private security companies after three years. Postal Service investigators found another anthrax letter. BioPort, the sole company approved by the government to make the anthrax vaccine, admitted that it still wasn’t able to pass inspection and begin producing the vaccine. Philip Morris announced that it will change its name to Altria and promptly registered derogatory Internet domain names such as altriakills.com. Retreating Al Qaedaterrorists in Afghanistan left behind nuclear designs written in Arabic, German, Urdu, and English; foul-smelling liquids; and a recipe for building a nuclear bomb that included detailed descriptions of how TNT can cause plutonium to begin its deadly chain reaction. Lists of Florida flight schools, a flight-simulator program, and a map showing power plants in Europe were also found. It later emerged that the atomic-bomb recipe was a parody that has been circulating on the Internet for years. A deranged homeless man pushed a woman in front of a No. 6 subway train in New York. Six men in South Africa were arrested for gang-raping a 10-month-old baby girl. A deranged woman in New York drowned her daughter Signifagance while trying to perform an exorcism on her. Prozac causes mice to become extremely aggressive, especially when they drink alcohol, researchers found, and brain scans can now reveal whether someone is lying. John C. Danforth, the American special envoy for Sudan, jumped over a dead cow. There were floods in Texas and Algeria, and wildfires were burning in southern Appalachia. Archaeologists in Syria found a 3,800-year-old recipe for beer.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.
Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.
Average amount of time a child spends in Santa Claus’s lap at Macy’s (in seconds):
Beer does not cause beer bellies.
Following the arrest of at least 10 clowns in Kentucky and Alabama, Tennesseans were warned that clowns could be “predators” and Pennsylvanians were advised not to interact with what one police chief described as “knuckleheads with clown-like clothes on.”
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”