Commentary

Commentary — September 4, 2012, 9:01 am

Christopher Hitchens’s Very Personal Handbook on Cancer Etiquette

It is strangely humbling to read the last writings of a dying atheist whose opinions seemed of near-stratospheric condescension, and who stood among a group of modern anticlerics who consider empiricism a virtue, disparage religion without consulting theological texts, and in general exercise the same merciless rigidity they despise in their opponents. Humbling because these are the words of a man who was dying. To gripe with his ideas seems petty, irreverent even. And there is, after all, a difference between a man and his beliefs. Christopher Hitchens, who died on December 11, 2011, is the author of the posthumous …

Commentary — August 21, 2012, 9:23 am

The Citizen Kane Era Returns

David Sirota is a Denver-based syndicated newspaper columnist, radio host, and the author of three books, including Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now. His article “The Only Game in Town: An unlikely comeback for dying newspapers” appears in the September 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine. Last month, the Denver Business Journal showed that international banking scandals can be a major focus of local reporting. In its article “LIBOR scandal may cost Denver schools money,” the low-circulation trade magazine documented how the interest-rate scandal, which originated in the United Kingdom, could end up …

Commentary — August 17, 2012, 9:11 am

Pyramid Insurance

Why are multilevel-marketing companies making big donations to state attorney-general candidates?

Commentary — August 8, 2012, 10:21 am

Decoding the Syrian Propaganda War

Anand Gopal writes frequently about the Middle East and South Asia. He is the author of “Welcome to Free Syria,” in the August 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine. His book about the war in Afghanistan is forthcoming from Henry Holt. Last month, video emerged from the Syrian town of Tremseh showing scores of blood-sodden bodies of children and adults, some with cracked skulls and slit throats, all of them purported victims of the Syrian army. As the camera panned across the grisly tableau, an anguished commentator read out the names of the dead and cried, “God is greater!” The Syrian …

Commentary — August 6, 2012, 12:58 pm

A Q&A with Sue Savage-Rumbaugh

In 2011, Time magazine recognized Sue Savage-Rumbaugh as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World for her research into language among bonobo apes, which has profoundly altered our understanding of language, learning, social behavior, and cognition in primates. I write about Savage-Rumbaugh in an essay on the history of ape language research in the current issue of Harper’s Magazine. When her work with bonobos began, Sue and her colleagues were trying to get Matata, an adult female, to understand a system of lexigrams—arbitrary, nonrepresentative pictures indicating everyday meanings. Matata did not learn them, but her adopted infant …

Commentary — August 1, 2012, 10:21 am

On Libya’s Missing Men

All images © Guy Martin/Panos   In the spring of 2011, photographer Guy Martin came across a wall covered with photographs of missing men outside the central courthouse in Benghazi, Libya. They were images of men who had disappeared during the forty years that Muammar Qaddafi had ruled the country, whether during the conflict then taking place or during decades of arrests and kidnappings. At the time Martin was there, fierce fighting was still underway between rebels and government forces, with months to go before Qaddafi would be overthrown. The pictures have since been removed. The August 2012 issue of …

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A multidisciplinary team detected cardiac arrhythmia in the works of Beethoven.

There was a run on cases of 5.56mm M855 green-tip rifle bullets, after the White House moved to ban their manufacture and sale because they can pierce police armor.

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