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David Kay, the outgoing head of the Iraq Survey Group, said that Iraq got rid of its illegal weapons programs years before the United States invaded. New York TimesKay made it clear that the United Nations weapons-inspection process had succeeded in disarming Iraq and said the Iraqis had been reduced to experimenting with ricin, a primitive but deadly poison easily made from fermented castor beans; Kay also said that the CIA had completely misread the situation in Iraq, largely because the agency had no on-the-ground spies after the U.N. inspectors were removed.New York TimesMore than 100,000 Iraqis filled the streets of Baghdad in a march supporting the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in his demand for direct elections;Seattle Timesthousands also marched in Basra, Najaf, and Kerbala demanding that Saddam Hussein be turned over to the Iraqi people to stand trial.ReutersSkepticism was growing that the United States will succeed in handing power over to an Iraqi client regime before the presidential election, and the head of the occupying authority’s Tribal Affairs Bureau admitted that he had been relying on a 1918British report in his attempts to make sense of local politics.New York TimesPresident George W. Bush made his State of the Union address just one day after the Iowa caucuses and appealed to voters to reelect him so that he could continue to wage war on terror.Associated PressArchbishop Desmond Tutu called on the United States and its allies to confess that the conquest of Iraq was wrong.TelegraphVice President Dick Cheney defended Halliburton, which continues to pay him a salary, from what he said were “desperate attacks” by opponents of the Bush Administration. “They’re rendering great service,” he said. “They do it because they’re good at it, because they won the contract to do it. And frankly the company takes a certain amount of pride in rendering this kind of service to U.S. military forces.”CNNHalliburton, which received most of its Iraq contracts by administrative fiat rather than through a competitive bidding process, admitted that its employees in Iraq have accepted $6.3 million in kickbacks.CNNPeople at the Conservative Political Action Conference were grumbling that President Bush’s fiscal policies, which have led to giant budget deficits, have been anything but conservative; they alsoNew York Timesdenounced the USA Patriot Act and complained that “big-government Republicans,” who seem to think government is the solution rather than the problem, have been too busy “baby-sitting the nanny state.”New York Times
Republican staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were still under investigation for improperly infiltratingDemocratic computers and reading strategy memos, which were then leaked to the press. Several computers, including a server from Senator Bill Frist’s office, have been confiscated by the Senate’s Sergeant-at-Arms.Boston GlobeAn expert panel that was asked to review a Pentagon-funded Internet voting system declared that the system was fundamentally flawed. “Using a voting system based on the Internet,” said one of the experts, “poses a serious and unacceptable risk for election fraud.” The Pentagon nonetheless said that it “stands by” the program, which will be used in several primaries this year. “We feel it’s right on,” said a spokesman, “and we’re going to use it.”New York TimesNewly released documents revealed that the U.S. Census Bureau gave information on millions of Americans to NASA for a study on the feasibility of mining such data to look for potential terrorists, and itWashington Timeswas reported that American intelligence officials have compiled a list of five million potential terrorists worldwide.Toronto SunPresident Pervez Musharraf admitted that some of Pakistan’s top nuclear scientists had sold nuclear technology to other countries but denied that the government was involved; Musharraf was accused of scapegoating the scientists to appease the United States.Christian Science MonitorArt Garfunkel got busted with pot.Associated PressRussian soldiers rescued 10 tons of beer kegs that became trapped under the ice of a frozen Siberian river; after divers from the Ministry of Emergency Situations failed to dislodge the kegs, a T-72 tank saved the day.New York TimesSenator John Kerry won the Iowa caucuses.ReutersHoward Dean decided to tone down his campaign persona after the media became alarmed at his “nutty” Iowa concession speech.New York TimesThere was speculation that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon might soon be indicted for taking bribes.New York TimesA Mexican man reportedly hacked open his father’s head with a machete, drank his blood, and then ate his brains.Agence France-Presse
The European Mars Express mission made the first direct measurement of ice on Mars; aNew Scientistsecond American Mars rover, called Opportunity, landed on the planet; and newNew York Timesresearch suggested that astronauts sent to Mars might be paralyzed by the prolonged lack of gravity.Globe and MailScientists found that the Ebola virus can spread from dead animals such as gorillas to human beings, and genetic analysis suggested that the five recent outbreaks of the disease were caused by five distinct strains of the virus, which is among the most contagious known, rather than one strain that had mutated. “If Ebola is popping up randomly,” said one scientist, “then things are pretty hopeless.”Nature.comAvian influenza was spreading across Asia; the World Health Organization said it was the largest outbreak in history.New ScientistIndonesia said that millions of chickens had died of the flu in recent weeks, and workers in Thailand were bagging live chickens and burying them in pits.New York TimesIndonesia’s agriculture minister said that his government can’t afford to dispose of the dead chickens.Laksamana.netWomen who have used dark hair dye for at least 24 years have a greater chance of developing cancer, a study found, andReutersfrequent underarm shaving together with deodorant use could increase the risk of breast cancer.New ScientistSaudi Arabia’s highest-ranking cleric said that women’s rights are anti-Islamic, and anNew York TimesAmerican diplomat in London declared that referring to the American Jewish lobby is anti-Semitic.IndependentThe Salvation Army received a $1.5 billion donation, and anNew York TimesIndian diamond seller who had hidden $900 worth of small diamonds in a pile of hay was busy feeding laxatives to his cow.ReutersThere were new massacres in Congo,ReutersRwanda’s former minister for higher education was given a life sentence for genocide, and aAl-Jazeerasniper was still shooting cars in Ohio.Associated PressCaptain Kangaroo died.Washington PostBritain’s naked rambler completed his 900-mile journey and put on some clothes.GuardianA Japanese scientist created a belly-dancing robot.Nature.com
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.
Number of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD in 2011 for “furtive movements”:
The faces of Lego people were growing angrier.
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