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I’ve posted several items over the past month on how Congressman John Murtha & friends have been supporting a controversial biodefense facility that would develop and manufacture “vaccines and other medical countermeasures.” When I first started looking into the project, I called all the key players — Murtha; the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), which donates heavily to the congressman; a lobby shop and private investment firm, both in which Murtha’s good friend Jim Ervin has a stake — but none of them provided much information.
Ervin failed to return phone calls, a lobbyist at his firm said the proposal was “in its infancy” and had little more to add, and the congressman’s office deferred questions to UPMC. The latter did reply to some questions, after several weeks, but was relatively tight-lipped. The spokesman there also said the program was only in its earliest stages, and said no decision had been made about where the facility would be built. I had been told by sources that it would be located in Murtha’s district.
But it turns out the facility is further along than any of these people cared to admit. And now another key player has been identified, new Democratic Senator Arlen Specter:
UPMC wants to build a $830 million vaccine manufacturing facility, of which about $580 million would come from the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense, which Specter said April 16 that he would help try to secure.
Not only is there a budget for the project, which was also denied by the people I spoke with, but there’s a proposed location as well. The story says the facility would be built in western Pennsylvania, a stretch of territory that includes Murtha’s district.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.
Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”
Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:
Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.
Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.
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Science’s crisis of faith