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The world failed to end. The United States observed the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. Osama bin Laden was assassinated in Abbottabad, Pakistan, during a joint mission by U.S. Navy SEALs and CIA agents. The Iraq War ended. Protests across the Middle East led to revolutions in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, to uprisings in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen, and to at least 32,000 deaths. Libyan forces shot and killed deposed leader Muammar Qaddafi after finding him hidden in a drainage pipe in Sirte. Old male sparrows rap-battled in tough Ontario neighborhoods. Macaque armies fought New Delhi’s langur guard. Scientists blamed climate change for a rise in polar-bear cannibalism. At least 15,000 people died when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake erupted in northeast Japan and triggered a massive tsunami that triggered a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant. Floods killed thousands in the Philippines, China, Thailand, and the U.S. Southeast. A severe drought struck the Horn of Africa, causing a famine in Somalia that killed tens of thousands. The oil-rich region of South Sudan split from the North to form the world’s newest country. Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a mall in Tucson, shooting Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D., Ariz.) in the head with a Glock handgun. U.S. Glock sales surged. The Browning M1911 semiautomatic pistol was declared the state gun of Utah. Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people during bomb and gun attacks in Oslo. Researchers in Texas simulated schizophrenia in a computer, and the machine spontaneously took responsibility for a terrorist bombing. Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez was charged with attempting to assassinate President Barack Obama. “I am the modern-day Jesus Christ that you all have been waiting for,” Ortega-Hernandez said in an “Oprah” audition tape uncovered by journalists, adding, “When humans party, they party hard.”
Representative Anthony Weiner (D., N.Y.) tweeted a close-up photograph of his bulging underwear to a female college student. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi explained that he gave $65,000 to bellydancing prostitute Ruby the Heartbreaker, whom he mistook for Hosni Mubarak’s granddaughter, to help her open a beauty parlor. Chanting “Italy is not a brothel,” thousands of Italian women marched against Berlusconi, who resigned from political office, as did Mubarak, Weiner, and the Dalai Lama. The European Union attempted to address sovereign-debt crises in Greece and several other Eurozone countries. In the United States, a bipartisan congressional supercommittee created to reduce the federal deficit failed to reach an agreement, triggering $1.2 trillion in budget cuts that will take effect in 2013. Members of Congress were found to spend 27 percent of their time taunting one another. Congress reaffirmed “In God We Trust” as the national motto. A nine-foot-tall, 900-pound, $900,000 statue of Ronald Reagan debuted in Washington. The Washington Monument cracked. Scientists failed to differentiate DNA in sperm cocktails, and Michele Bachmann won the Republican straw poll in Ames, Iowa. After finishing poorly, Tim Pawlenty withdrew. Herman Cain pulled out. A Pennsylvania woman settled her groping lawsuit against Donald Duck. The Occupy Wall Street movement spread from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan to cities across the United States, many of which served protesters with eviction notices and pepper spray, and to more than 70 other countries. A one-armed Belarusian protester was arrested for clapping. Also arrested were Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Lindsay Lohan, Manny Ramirez, DMX, Soulja Boy, Meatball, Baby Shanks, Tony Bagels, Jimmy Gooch, Jello, Vinnie Carwash, and Jack the Whack. An Ohio grandmother was arrested for spraying her grandson with a high-powered hose because he’d eaten too much bacon, and a drunken Ohio mother lactating in Illinois was charged with assault after striking her husband, locking herself in her car, and spraying deputies with breast milk. A Pakistani woman attempted to cook and eat her husband. “There could be two factors behind her intention to cook the husband,” explained the local police chief. “One is to destroy the evidence and the other could be her immense hatred against him.”
Jack Kevorkian died, as did Kim Jong-Il, Vaclav Havel, Steve Jobs, Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Russell, Amy Winehouse, Christopher Hitchens, Betty Ford, “Smokin’” Joe Frazier, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Jack LaLanne, Andy Rooney, the last surviving American World War I veteran, the Western black rhino, Gil Scott-Heron, Heavy D, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and the inventors of cinéma vérité and Super Glue. In Tulare County, California, a man was killed by a rooster with a knife attached to its leg. In Virginia, a man beheaded himself with an SUV while towing a burning trailer. In Pontypridd, Wales, an 18-year-old girl with a rare heart condition died after being kissed for the first time. OMG was traced back to 1917. A woman fell asleep at the wheel on Vroom Street in Jersey City and crashed into a mattress store. Ukrainians vowed to stop forcing vodka on bears in roadside hotels. Three billion television viewers watched Prince William marry Catherine Middleton. The happiest man in America was identified as Alvin Wong, a tall, 69-year-old Chinese-American observant Jew who is married, has children, and lives in Honolulu. Ann Marie Kennedy, a resident of Effin in Limerick County, Ireland, complained that Facebook was blocking her from listing her hometown on her profile. She wanted to show pride in her parish, she said, along with “so many Effin people around the world.” The world’s largest sperm bank stopped accepting donations from redheads because of insufficient demand in all countries except Ireland; there, said director Ole Schou of Norway, redhead semen was selling “like hot cakes.” New York became the sixth and largest U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. “Sesame Street” denied that Bert and Ernie are a couple. Rainbow hunters filmed the elusive quadruple rainbow. Wood was found to be older than previously thought. Measurements confirmed that Tajikistan’s flagpole was taller than Azerbaijan’s. A Northwestern University professor apologized for having a man penetrate his fiancée with a “fucksaw” in front of 100 students. Former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested for molesting boys he’d met through his Second Mile foundation for at-risk youth. The father of the 5 Browns, a quintet of classical pianists, pleaded guilty to the sodomy of his three daughters. The hacker collective Anonymous named 1,500 pedophiles following a siege of Lolita City. Afghans blamed an Iranian pimp for tainting the number 39. Sex crimes against illegal immigrants were ignored in El Mirage, Arizona. A Louisiana man told police he exposed his penis to a Ford because he was aroused by Walmart. An Ohio man was caught having sex with an inflatable raft, nine years after he was caught having sex with an inflatable pumpkin. Citing evidence of a “live fast and die young” mentality among cephalopods, marine biologists reported that deep-sea squid shoot packets of sperm indiscriminately at members of both sexes. In California, researchers implicated bottlenose dolphins in a spate of porpoise killings, but couldn’t determine whether the mammals were venting sexual frustration or merely practicing infanticide. “We call them ‘porpitrators,’” said cetologist Thomas Jefferson.
More from Harper’s Magazine:
Official Business — March 17, 2015, 4:01 am
Listen to the broadcast version of “American Hustle,” Alexandra Starr’s story, for the April 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine, about how elite youth basketball exploits African athletes.
Official Business — January 8, 2015, 3:57 pm
We defend Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish its cartoons—and our right to critique them.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
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 naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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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.”