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The Taliban surrendered Kandahar, the last Afghan city under its control, to a loose confederation of warlords, who immediately began fighting among themselves and looting stores. Afghan refugees, particularly children, were dying in great numbers; Uzbekistan finally agreed to allow humanitarian aid to cross its border at the “Friendship Bridge.” The CIA asked Pakistan for help in finding Osama bin Laden, whose mother told a Saudi newspaper that she was disappointed in her son. Mullah Omar was still at large. The White House issued a holiday terror-strike warning. Attorney General John Ashcroft testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which had summoned him to explain his dubious anti-terrorism tactics. “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty,” he said, “my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists.” He also accused his critics of giving “ammunition to America’s enemies.” The attorney general went on to defend his refusal to compromise the right of potential terrorists to keep and bear arms. Mary Robinson, the United Nations commissioner for human rights, criticized the Bush Administration for its plan to hold secret military trials of foreigners accused of terrorism. Immigration courts were already holding secret trials; court officials have been forbidden even to confirm that the cases exist. Clayton Lee Waagner, who was arrested for mailing hundreds of anthrax hoax letters to abortion clinics, said he had nothing against John Ashcroft: “I understand he’s anti-abortion also. He’s a good man.”
Bandits in Afghanistan stopped a bus and cut off the ears and noses of six men who had shaved their beards. Believing that his penis was a “cobra” driving him to sin, a Filipino farmer lopped it off with his machete and cast it away. “He wanted to be nailed to a coconut tree,” his mother reported. Doctors reconstructed the penis, though at considerably shorter length, and said the man would still be able to have children. Chinese zoos were planning to give Viagra to some endangered impotent tigers; “cage life” was blamed for their condition. Angry women in Kenya were attacking bars, claiming that cheap alcohol was making their husbands impotent. Vigilante women in Pune, India, who called themselves the Bangle Army, were attacking bootleg alcohol vendors with rolling pins. Senator Strom Thurmond turned 99; he told his colleagues that he loved them. “I appreciate every one of you, especially you ladies. You are good-looking.” The Senate refused to consider a moratorium on human cloning. Two 17-year-old lesbians in Dover, New Hampshire, were named class sweethearts in their high school yearbook after the superintendent overruled a principal who had disqualified the couple. New Jersey was putting striking teachers in jail. In Sweden, four teenagers were convicted of treason for hitting the king in the face with strawberry cream cake.
The Pentagon performed another rigged test of its antimissile system; this time the “kill vehicle” actually struck its target, which was emitting a homing beacon. Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal Specialist Hospital filed suit in the Grand Islamic court seeking $2.9 billion from tobacco companies to cover 25 years of treating smoking-related illnesses. Half the smokers in Britain believe smoking is safe because the government continues to permit the habit. In Missouri, a pharmacist admitted to diluting cancerdrugs; he did it because he needed to raise money to pay $1,000,000 in taxes and a pledge to his church. American students are still mediocre, a new study found. George Harrison’s ashes were sprinkled on the Ganges River in India. Moscowpolicearrested seven men trying to sell more than two pounds of weapons-grade enriched uranium. A maximum-security prison in Waupun, Wisconsin, appointed a witch to serve as a volunteer chaplain. Enron, the energy trading company with very close ties to President Bush, collapsed and filed the largest corporate bankruptcy in American history. Hookers in Romania were letting their customers buy sex on credit. Pat Robertson resigned from the Christian Coalition. New data suggested that Mars was undergoing global warming.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
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 naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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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.”