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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:
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.”