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President George W. Bush signed a $400 billion Medicare bill that will provide a prescription-drug benefit to elderly Americans; the bill permits private insurance companies to compete with Medicare, which many think will destroy the program, but bans policies that would cover gaps in the drug benefit on the theory that people with good prescription coverage take too many pills and drive up medical costs.Associated Press, New York TimesThomas Scully, the federal official who runs Medicare, was preparing to take a job in the private sector, probably with a company that will directly benefit from the new bill, which he helped draft.New York TimesA postcard-size dinner menu from the Titanic sold for $49,500; the menu listed salmon, consommĂ© mirrette, sweetbreads, roast chicken, spring lamb, golden plover on toast, and peaches.Scotsman.com, ReutersPresident Bush was thinking about sending a man to the moon, and conservativesGuardian were beginning to complain about his spending habits. One conservative economist said that “the budgetary situation is getting so off track that you simply can’t propose any more tax cuts without looking like an idiot.”Washington PostThe largest known prime number was discovered; the number is 6,320,430 digits long.New ScientistPresident Bush explained in a written statement that he repealed his tariffs on foreign steel, which were ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization, not because Europe and Japan planned to retaliate with damaging tariffs (carefully aimed at states Bush needs to capture in the upcoming election) but because the economic outlook for the steel industry has improved and they are no longer necessary.New York TimesA Kremlin official announced that Russia will not ratify the Kyoto Protocol; the next day another official contradicted that pronouncement, which was followed on the third day by a negation of the denial that President Putin had in fact decided against the global-warming treaty.New York TimesThe National Rifle Association was looking to buy a TV or radio station so that it can say what it likes about political candidates without having to abide by campaign-finance laws.USA TodayThere was a movement afoot to put Ronald Reagan’s face on the dime.Associated PressA Colorado woman was jailed for falsely claiming that her son is a genius.New York TimesPresident Bush signed a law that will make it easier to clear brush.Associated Press
Australia resolved to join the American missile-defense program, a decision that pleased the Pentagon and President Bush but puzzled many Australians who wondered from whose missiles the expensive system was supposed to protect them.Sydney Morning HeraldThe Pentagon decided to permit Yaser Hamdi, an American citizen who has been held as an enemy combatant for two years, to have access to his lawyer, though officials continued to insist that Hamdi has no constitutional right to an attorney.Ft. Worth Star TelegramU.S. forces were using Israeli-style tactics against troublesome Iraqis, surrounding some villages with razor wire and forcing residents to carry identification cards, demolishing homes and buildings associated with attacks on Americans, and imprisoning the relatives of suspected guerrillas.New York TimesL. Paul Bremer, the American proconsul of Iraq, warned that attacks against occupying forces will probably increase.Associated PressIraqis were wondering why their gas lines were so long.New York TimesSecretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went to Afghanistan to reassure its people that America has not forgotten them, and aBBCUnited States airstrike near Kabul failed to kill its Taliban target (“a known terrorist“) but did kill nine young children who were playing ball inside the wall of their family compound. Their hats and shoes were scattered all over a bloody field.Los Angeles TimesWesley Clark claimed to have a plan to get America out of Iraq but then refused to say what it was.New York TimesThe First Lady was thinking of taking a trip to Afghanistan â?? “I hope I’ll have a chance in the spring,” she said â?? and itNew York Timeswas revealed that George W. Bush’s famous Iraqiturkey was a mere prop.Daily MailPrime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, currently serving as president of the European Union, declared that Europeans have a duty to support the American war in Iraq, even if it means “a change in international law, which previously held that the sovereignty of a single state was inviolable.” Berlusconi also denied that he is short; “I’m as tall as Aznar,” he said, referring to Prime Minister JosĂ© MarĂa Aznar of Spain. “I’m the average Italian,” he continued. “Right?”New York Times
Eighteen Rwandan Hutus were given prison sentences for orchestrating the slaughter of 20,000 Tutsis who were hiding in a church complex during the 1994 genocide, and threeAllAfrica.comRwandan journalists were convicted by an international court in Tanzania for inciting the genocide on the radio and in print.New York TimesA priest was on the run in Congo after killing 64 members of his congregation with a potion he said would give them salvation.ReutersThe United Nations war-crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia sentenced a Bosnian Serb commander to 27 years in prison for his role in the Srebrenica massacre.New York TimesAnother Bosnian Serb, a general, was given 20 years for the siege of Sarajevo.Washington TimesChina warned Taiwan that it was nearing an “abyss of war.”New York TimesIsraeli soldiers killed a young boy and three Hamas members in Ramallah.New York TimesZimbabwe’s government proposed making it easier to seize farms from white people.New York TimesThere was rioting in Freetown, Sierra Leone, after two dwarf comedians were substituted for a pair of Nigerian midgets called Aki and Paw Paw, who didn’t show up for a performance.Associated PressA 200-line fragment by Menander was discovered in the Vatican Library.Agence France-PresseFourteen people were arrested in Brazil and South Africa for selling human organs on the black market.New York TimesIn Albany, Georgia, a hair stylist’s hair burst into flame while she was standing next to a gas pump.Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionSudden oak death was confirmed in four trees in England, andNew ScientistCalifornia banned the sale of the genetically altered “GloFish,” a zebra fish that glows in the dark.Associated PressPhysicists speculated that tiny exploding black holes are raining down on the earth.New Scientist
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Number of free condoms handed out by the Brazilian government in advance of Carnival this year:
The best way to measure happiness is simply to ask people how happy they are.
Following three weeks of clashes between protesters and government forces that killed at least 17 people, Venezuelan president NicolĂˇs Maduro announced a two-day extension of Carnival. â€śHappiness will conquer the embittered,â€ť he said during an appearance at a recreation center.
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â€śAmerican politics has often been an arena for angry minds.â€ť