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The Enron scandal continued to unfold. Arthur Andersen and Company, the big accounting firm that served simultaneously as consultant and auditor for the Texas energy company, admitted that it had destroyed thousands of Enron-related documents. President Bush told some lies about his relationship with Kenneth Lay, the chairman of Enron, and it was revealed that the company, which had more than 900 subsidiaries in tax-haven countries and is slated to receive a $254 million corporate tax refund under President Bush’s economic stimulus plan, paid no income tax at all in four of the last five years. Vice President Dick Cheney, citing executive privilege, was still refusing to release the records of his five meetings with Enron executives to discuss energy policy. People were beginning to use the word “cover-up.” The Bush Administration was said to be actively planning a covert assault on Iraq. President Bush’s suspicious pretzel episode was diagnosed as vasovagal syncope, which results from too little blood flowing to the brain. A federal appeals court ruled that Idaho state law does not prohibit driving under the influence of marijuana. Police in Dallas discovered that about half the cocaine and one fourth of the methamphetamine they confiscated last year was fake, which led to the dismissal of 24 criminal cases, all of which involve a single informer who was paid $200,000 by the police department for his efforts. The Environmental Protection Agency decided to make it easier for coal-burning power plants to pollute the atmosphere. San Francisco was thinking about outlawing beggars. Biotechnologists were still trying to perfect a goat-spider hybrid.
Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that John Walker will face terrorism charges in a federal court, not a military tribunal, for joining the Taliban. The case against the young man appeared to be based on statements he made to his American captors, who refused for many weeks to allow Walker’s lawyer to have access to his client, raising the possibility that the confessions could be ruled inadmissible in court. Governments and human rights organizations were criticizing the United States for its mistreatment of prisoners from the Afghan war, and for its refusal to abide by the Geneva Conventions. Iran’s supreme ayatollah pardoned a liberal member of parliament who was convicted of “insulting the judiciary.” A Nigerian woman who was sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery will have to wait two months for her appeal to be heard while the judges make their annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Germany’s highest court ruled that Muslims could slaughter animals by letting them bleed to death. The usual carnage continued in the Holy Land after Israel apparently assassinated a Palestinian militia leader. A plaque that was meant to honor the actor James Earl Jones at a Martin Luther King celebration in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was instead engraved: “Thank you James Earl Ray for keeping the dream alive.” James Earl Ray murdered Martin Luther King in 1968. Rosa Parks’s home in Montgomery, Alabama, was put on the National Register of Historic Places. The Vatican issued a statement saying that “The Jewish wait for the Messiah is not in vain.”
Talk magazine finally went under; “Any great, long career has at least one flameout in it,” said its editor, Tina Brown. Somebody burned a cross in the yard of the black mayor of Newport, Tennessee, three days before a scheduled Ku Klux Klan rally; the Klan denounced the incident. “It was a stupid thing,” said the grand dragon of the Tennessee White Knights of Yahweh. “We do not burn crosses in people’s yards.” President Bush’s spokesman said that schoolchildren would again be permitted to tour the White House. The ex-wife of Kirk Kerkorian, the billionaire, asked a court in Los Angeles for $320,000 a month in child support, which includes $144,000 for travel, $14,000 for parties and play dates, $7,000 for charity, $1,000 for toys, and $436 for the care of the 3-year-old’s pet bunny rabbit. In Helsinki, Finland, a Nokia executive was fined $103,600 for driving his Harley 47 mph in a 31 mph zone. A judge in Georgia ruled that the state’s ban on video poker was unconstitutional because it was a threat to personal liberty. Europe’s first brothel for women went out of business. An elderly lady was robbing banks in Germany. Fishermen caught a giant squid off the coast of England. Seventeen percent of British schoolchildren are unable to identify common fruits and vegetables, a poll found. Joey Allen Long of Paris, Texas, was arrested for stealing $4,600 worth of bull sperm. Thousands of people stood in line for 14 hours in Las Vegas for a special thirtieth anniversary taping of The Price Is Right.
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.”