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Car bombs in Damascus killed more than 50 people in advance of nationwide Internet and telecommunications blackouts, attributed by many to President Bashar al-Assad’s administration, that crippled Syrians’ capacity to self-report on the country’s civil war. Hacker collective Anonymous attacked the websites of Syrian embassies, and the Syrian military relocated chemical-weapons stockpiles, prompting the United States to threaten intervention. In Hillah, Iraq, bombings at a roadside campsite for Shia pilgrims left at least 29 dead, and in Bahrain police fired teargas on protesters condemning Kim Kardashian’s visit to promote a new branch of her milkshake franchise. The United Nations held a day of solidarity with Palestinians, on which its general assembly voted 138–9 to recognize the state of Palestine. In response, Israel announced that it would build 3,000 new homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and would withhold more than $100 million in tax revenue raised for the Palestinian government, dealing what U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called an “almost fatal blow” to the prospect of peace. The U.S. Navy was planning to reduce its reliance on dolphin labor, and an international coalition of researchers concluded that more than 4 trillion tons of ice in Greenland and Antarctica have melted in the past twenty years, causing the world’s sea level to rise by 11 millimeters. Iceland exported over two tons of ram penis to China, and North Korea’s state news agency reported the discovery of a unicorn lair in Pyongyang.
President Barack Obama introduced a proposal to prevent the United States from falling over the “fiscal cliff.” The plan, which includes such measures as higher tax rates on wealthy citizens and a $400-billion cut to federal health programs, caused Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) to burst into laughter. “Right now, I would say we’re nowhere, period,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), outside whose office nude activists protested potential cuts to HIV programs. “I think it’s important Congress acts now, I mean right now,” said Vice President Joe Biden at the opening day of the first Costco in Washington, D.C. “I’m looking for pies.” Obama and Mitt Romney met for the first time since the U.S. presidential election, over a luncheon of turkey chili at the White House. eBay pulled a listing for Obama in Pee Pee, an artwork by conservative television host Glenn Beck that features a bobblehead of the president purportedly submerged in Beck’s urine, and Bill Clinton disclosed that during his presidency he sent only two emails, one to troops in the Balkans and the other in response to a message sent from space by astronaut John Glenn. “We have gone almost a third of the way around the world in the time it has taken me to write this letter,” wrote Glenn. “The rest of the crew is waiting.”
Scientists determined that lying increases the temperature of one’s nose, that having a lot of Facebook friends leads to anxiety, and that hyperparasitic wasps, which lay eggs in parasitic wasps that lay eggs in caterpillars, are sometimes parasitized by other hyperparasitic wasps. Germany moved to criminalize sex with animals, leading zoophilia lobbyist Michael Kiok, who lives with an Alsatian named Cessie, to threaten legal action. “We see animals as partners and not as a means of gratification,” said Kiok. “We don’t force them to do anything.” A Florida woman was arrested after she assaulted her boyfriend for climaxing first. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge[*] announced that they were expecting a royal baby, and a lexicographer published arguments that Robert Burchfield, a former Oxford English Dictionary editor popularly credited with overcoming the dictionary’s Anglocentrism during the 1970s and 1980s, had actually expunged thousands of English words with foreign origins. “If a word gets into the OED, it never leaves,” said the lexicographer. “If it becomes obsolete, we put a dagger beside it, but it never leaves.” The Associated Press eliminated homophobia from its stylebook, and four gay men filed suit against JONAH, a Jewish conversion-therapy office in Jersey City, New Jersey, for defrauding them of thousands of dollars spent on such allegedly curative techniques as visiting bathhouses and beating effigies of their mothers with a tennis racket. “Our therapy,” said JONAH’s co-director, “is very conventional.”
Dear Harper’s Magazine,
I am a fervent subscriber (if there can be such a thing) to your excellent magazine: we have nothing equivalent in England, and I am very grateful to you for being so challenging and thought-provoking.
However, the English pedant in me is reeling at your otherwise excellent Harper’s Weekly in which you announce that “Prince WIlliam and Princess Kate” are having a baby. Yikes! They’re the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. She’s not Princess Kate, as she’s not a princess in her own right; she’s Princess William of Wales, otherwise known as the Duchess of Cambridge, until the Prince of Wales dies, when she’ll be the Princess of Wales, and not Kate, Princess of Wales.
Sigh. I know I am fighting a long and hopeless battle. Even British journalists can’t get it right these days.
Yours sincerely, and with much admiration for your continued superlative magazinistic efforts,
More from Justin Stone:
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Average speed of Heinz ketchup, from the mouth of an upended bottle, in miles per year:
After studying the fall of 64,000 individual raindrops, scientists found that some small raindrops fall faster than they ought to.
The Playboy mansion in California was bought by the heir to the Twinkie fortune, and a New Mexico man set fire to his apartment to protest his neighbors’ loud lovemaking.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”