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Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey withdrew from the November election after new evidence emerged that he had accepted “improper gifts” from a contributor; Torricelli said that he did not want to jeopardize Democratic control of the Senate. A new poll found that most Americans are opposed to invading Iraq if it means significant Iraqi civilian casualties; a majority of those polled also said that they were more concerned about the economy than about Saddam Hussein’s putative weapons of mass destruction and that Congress should be more critical of President Bush’s war plans. Senate majority leader Tom Daschle said that he probably would support a Senate resolution authorizing President Bush to attack Iraq. Hans Blix, the head of the United Nations‘ inspection commission, negotiated a deal with Iraq to allow the return of weapons inspectors within two weeks. After receiving pressure from America and Britain, Blix agreed to delay inspections until the Security Council adopts a new resolution on the issue. President Bush said that “all of us recognize the military option is not the first choice,” and he threatened to invade Iraq anyway if the Security Council doesn’t do as it’s told. Croatian president Stjepan Mesic testified against Slobodan Milosevic at the Hague and accused Milosevic of creating “rivers of blood” in his quest for a Greater Serbia: “He subordinated everything to his war goals; he was always working for the war option.” Biljana Plavsic, the former president of the Bosnian Serb republic, pleaded guilty to crimes against humanity at the Hague. The European Union agreed to exempt U.S. soldiers from prosecution for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. “There is no concession,” explained Denmark’s foreign minister. “There is no undermining of the International Criminal Court.” Enron’s former chief financial officer was charged with fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. Barbra Streisand declared that we need a “regime change” in Washington, D.C., and La Cicciolina, a former porn star who was once a member of the Italian parliament, offered to give herself to Saddam Hussein in exchange for world peace.
Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia denounced the rush to war with Iraq as “blind and improvident,” a perversion of the congressional power to declare war, which was reserved to Congress to forestall “the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions,” that of “involving and impoverishing their people in wars pretending generally if not always that the good of the people was the object.” The Department of Labor reported that payrolls shrank last month, and the stock market closed at 1997 levels. The federal government’s fiscal year began without Congress having passed a single one of the 13 required appropriations bills for the year. John Walker Lindh cried as he was sentenced to 20 years in prison and said that he joined the Taliban to help his fellow Muslims, not to fight against the United States. “I am a member of Al Qaeda,” said Richard Reid as he pled guilty to trying to blow up a plane with a bomb he had hidden in his shoe. “I am an enemy of your country.” Attorney General John Ashcroft claimed to have “neutralized a suspected terrorist cell within our borders” with the arrest of four people in Portland, Oregon, who were accused of taking part in “physical training” and attempting to visit Afghanistan. Britain ordered warplanes into the London skies to escort a flight from Baltimore after an eavesdropping passenger overheard the words “planning for six months” but not the words “family reunion.” A mob of children in Milwaukee beat a man to death.
Archaeologists announced the discovery of a mass human sacrifice of 200 fishermen on a beach in Peru; the men appear to have been stabbed through the heart in about 1350 as an offering to Ni, the sea god of the Chimu people. The World Health Organization reported that war, murder, and suicide account for 1.6 million deaths each year. An American soldier was killed by a bomb in the Philippines. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer denounced the Senate’s “homeland security” bill and said that “under what the Senate is proposing, the President will have more authority to help protect the homeland if potatoes attacked America in the Department of Agriculture than he would if terrorists did.” Judges of the cake competition in the Perth, Australia, Royal Show forced a man to withdraw his fruitcake depicting the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center because some people were offended by it. The fruitcake author, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that he was “hoping to stimulate some debate about what the image of September 11 means to us while people are thinking about going to war with Iraq.” Emmpak Foods Inc. said it was recalling 2.8 million pounds of ground beef because of E. coli contamination. Marigold Foods recalled its chocolate-chip ice cream because it contains “undeclared nuts.” Jerry Falwell called the prophet Muhammad a terrorist. Researchers in New Jersey revealed that they have discovered a nasal spray that makes women want to have sex, and it was reported that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has been working to “dispell the notion that she is humorless.” A four-year-old boy in Austria called the police to complain about his grandmother’s cooking. The Cow Plachard Company was painting advertisements on the sides of cows in Switzerland.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Average portion of its yearly household expenditures that a South African family will spend on a funeral:
Neuroscientists were hoping to use rat brain waves to find people buried by earthquakes.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature