Papal preparations, Polish diacritics, and Norwegian wood critics
SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
Papal preparations, Polish diacritics, and Norwegian wood critics
The government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad denied responsibility for a car bombing in central Damascus that killed 53 people and a Scud-missile explosion in Aleppo that killed 58, blaming “America, Zionism, and some Gulf states” for their support of opposition terrorists. The United Nations rejected a year-old demand from Haiti for compensation of victims of a cholera epidemic that has infected 620,000 people, killed 7,750, and was likely introduced by U.N. peacekeepers following the January 2010 earthquake. “The claims,” said a U.N. spokesman, “are not receivable.” Benedict XVI gave his final Sunday blessing as Pope from a window in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. “Praying does not mean isolating oneself from the world and its contradictions,” he said. “We’ve come for the rugby,” said a woman in St. Peter’s Square. Benedict, whose philosophy a Vatican newspaperman likened to that of Tintin, delivered his address several days after the publication of an article in Italy’s La Repubblica that linked his resignation to an internal Vatican report concerning a group of high-ranking gay prelates who organize sex parties in and around Rome. “Age,” said Nobel laureate Dario Fo, “certainly isn’t the only thing that burdens him.” American cardinals Timothy Dolan and Roger Mahony, who were questioned separately about child sexual abuse committed by clergymen under their supervision, prepared to travel to the Vatican, where they will take part in a conclave in the Sistine Chapel to elect Benedict’s successor; British cardinal Keith O’Brien, who was accused by four priests of having made inappropriate advances toward them, announced he would resign rather than attend the conclave. “Will be tweeting often from Rome,” tweeted Mahony. “Prayers!” “The Church is beautiful,” said one of O’Brien’s accusers, “but it has a dark side.” Elderly Catholics in the Ukrainian town of Perekhody attended mass in a cistern chapel.
The Obama Administration formally requested that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously upheld a Florida state law treating a narcotics-detection dog’s alert as reasonable grounds for a police search. “A sniff,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan, “is up to snuff.” A South African magistrate released Olympic sprinter and double leg amputee Oscar Pistorius, who has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend, on bail. “What kind of life would he lead, a person who has to use prostheses, if he has to flee?” asked the magistrate. “A life not in prison,” replied the lead prosecutor. Polish language experts launched “Je,zyk polski jest a,-e,” a campaign to preserve diacritical marks, and the Académie Française elected its first British-born member, poet Michael Edwards. “The French do like to purify,” said Edwards. French agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll announced that three horse carcasses from the United Kingdom had “probably” entered France’s food chain labeled as beef, and a Welsh hamburger tested positive for horse DNA. “Something else has been put in the boxes,” said the hamburger’s producer. “We’re the piggy in the middle.” The Chinese government declared its intent to curtail air pollution through a ban on “barbecue-related activities”; officials in Iceland reported record numbers of imprisoned pedophiles and unregistered cats; and Norwegians questioned the stacking methods employed in a 12-hour television program about firewood. “One thing that really divides Norway,” said a firewood expert, “is bark.” A judicial panel ruled that the New York Yankees are baseball’s sole evil empire. Frankenstein Momin, Billykid Sangma, Field Marshal Mawphniang, and Adolf Lu Hitler ran for the assembly of the northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya, where legislators were formulating a bill to ban the employment of children in rat-hole mines. An Athenian pleaded not guilty to stealing a Salvador Dalí painting from a Manhattan art gallery. “How this theft was committed,” said New York County district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., “was almost surreal.”
A Welsh boy reported missing was discovered napping under a beanbag chair, a Florida woman was shot in the leg by the oven in which she planned to heat her waffles, and 200 Belgians returned from a boar cull with one wild boar.  Members of a London jury were dismissed for asking questions the presiding judge said showed a “fundamental deficit in understanding.” “Can you define what is a reasonable doubt?” wrote the jury. “A reasonable doubt is a doubt which is reasonable,” wrote the judge. “Can a juror come to a verdict based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it?” wrote the jury. “No,” wrote the judge. Bumblebees were found capable of sensing the electrostatic fields of e-flowers. Physicists studying the subatomic particle presumed to be the Higgs boson suggested that its mass, estimated at 126 gigaelectronvolts, needs to be measured more accurately before they can establish whether the cosmos is a stable vacuum or a false vacuum that will be destroyed without warning. “It’s bad news,” said one theoretician. Common moles and female golden Hottentot moles were found to sniff in stereo and to prefer large penises, respectively. “Suffice to say,” said one zoologist, “it’s probably every mole for himself.” American researchers unveiled a smartphone test for leprosy. “This,” said a doctor, “will bring leprosy management out of the Dark Ages.”
Sign up and get the Weekly Review delivered to your inbox every Tuesday morning.
More from Anthony Lydgate:
Weekly Review — April 8, 2014, 8:00 am
Afghanistan votes, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of wealthy political donors, and China standardizes its pets
Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.
Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.
Average duration of a Japanese prime minister’s tenure since August 1993, in months:
Brain shrinkage has no effect on cognition.
An Indianapolis fertility doctor was accused of using his own sperm to artificially inseminate patients, and a Delaware man pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing his former psychiatrist.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“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.'”