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Approximately eight million people turned out to vote in Iraq. International monitors gave the election their seal of approval, though all 129 of them stayed inside Baghdad’s Green Zone.The New York TimesSecurity measures included sealing the country’s borders, banning travel between provinces, prohibiting private vehicle traffic, and imposing curfews in cities.ReutersFake polling stations were set up with snipers positioned to guard the real ones, which were revealed 24 hours before opening. Many of the candidates kept their identities secret until election day, though two had made it known they were direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed.The New York TimesIraqi insurgents, who had been promising death to anyone who came within five hundred yards of a polling station,The New York Timessucceeded in carrying out nine suicide bombings, one of which was performed by a handicapped child.Associated PressProminent Sunni leaders who boycotted the election said they would be happy to help the elected National Assembly draft the new constitution.The New York Times“Two of the great ironies of history,” said President George W. Bush, “is there will be a Palestinian state and a democratic Iraq.”New York Times World leaders gathered in Poland to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, where Dick Cheney was criticized for wearing a green parka with fur trim instead of the more somber black coats everyone else had on.The Chicago Sun TimesVladimir Putin noted that “as there were no good and bad fascists, there cannot be good and bad terrorists. Any double standards here are absolutely unacceptable and deadly dangerous for civilization.”The Globe and MailA group of Russian legislators demanded that Jewish organizations be investigated, and possibly closed down, for carrying out ritual killings and hate crimes against themselves.The New York TimesCommercial flights opened between China and Taiwan for the first time in 55 years,Reutersand the government of Nepal shut down the Dalai Lama’s offices in Kathmandu.BBC NewsMore than 250 people were trampled or burned to death during a Hindu festival in western India when a stampeding riot was triggered by pilgrims slipping on spilled coconut milk.The New York TimesChina overtook the United States as Japan’s biggest trading partner,The Washington Postand scientists discovered that drinking green tea turns mice into better swimmers.CBC News
An international task force of scientists, politicians, and business leaders warned that the world has about ten years before global warming becomes irreversible. By then, average global temperatures will have risen two degrees Celsius since the start of the Industrial Revolution, resulting in major droughts, increased disease, and the termination of the North Atlantic Gulf Stream.New Zealand HeraldMeteorologists were forecasting record thinning of northern Europe’s ozone layer in the coming weeks,BBC Newsand astronomers concluded that Saturn’s largest moon had all the ingredients for life.Associated PressSenate Majority Leader Bill Frist declared that biological warfare is “the greatest existential threat we face today.”ReutersThe world’s first mad goat was diagnosed in France.United Press InternationalAt the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tony Blair and Bill Gates shared the stage with Bono and Bill Clinton and called for more aid to Africa.The New York TimesSharon Stone raised a million dollars for mosquito nets,BBC News and a special dinner was organized to promote dialogue between the U.S. and Iran; the idea backfired when Senator Joseph Biden, the American representative, showed up an hour and a half late, and wine was served to the Muslim guests.CNNScientists solved the mystery of the Venus Flytrap.The Boston GlobeSwaziland’s King Mswati chose his thirteenth wife and sent her to South Africa for an AIDS test.BBC NewsResearchers found that fidgety people are less likely to be obese,The New York Timespolice in Rome were cracking down on unlicensed tour guides,The New York Timesand Joseph Massino, the “Last Don” of New York, snitched on the mob.The New York Times
President Bush ordered his cabinet to stop paying off journalists after syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher admitted she had a $21,500 contract with the Health and Human Services Department to endorse the agency’s marriage initiative.The Washington PostTwo days later, another columnist admitted he’d been paid $10,000 for the same purpose.The Globe and MailScientists synthesized a pheromone produced by young women that helps post-menopausal ladies attract men.The Globe and MailSocial Security Administration workers testified that they had been ordered “to promote the idea that Social Security is in crisis and that Social Security privatization is the answer.”ReutersChristian groups were threatening to withdraw their support from any privatization scheme whatsoever unless Bush tries harder to ban gay marriage,The New York Timesand chimpanzees were found to have a sense of fair play.BBC News Condoleezza Rice was sworn in as secretary of state, despite Senator Mark Dayton’s objection during her confirmation hearing that “I really don’t like being lied to repeatedly, flagrantly, intentionally.”The New York TimesThe Justice Department threw a going away party for John Ashcroft. His term in office, said one assistant, “served as a full employment program for cartoonists and pundits.”The New York TimesThe Bush Administration requested an additional $80 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year,The New York Timestotaling 13 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s allotment,Swissinfoand making the 2005 budget deficit the biggest in history.The New York TimesThe State Department offended Mexico by issuing a travel warning along the border;CNNU.S. Ambassador Tony Garza tried to ease tensions by clarifying that “the wave of border violence is a result of successful efforts by President Fox’s administration in the fight against organized crime.”ReutersThe Sudanese government dropped bombs on women and children in Darfur,Reutersand the European Union reestablished diplomatic ties with Sudan for the first time since 1990.The New york TimesCommercial airlines were told they should be worrying about shoulder-fired missile attacks,The New York TimesHuman Rights Watch declared meatpacking to be “the most dangerous factory job in America,”The New York Timesand Ringo Starr was planning to become a cartoon superhero.The Guardian
More from Arno Kopecky:
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.”