Weekly Review — November 20, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

A newspaper review of the ballots cast in Florida’s presidential election found that Al Gore probably received more votes than George W. Bush, who this week signed an executive order that will permit the government to use military courts to try foreigners accused of terrorism. Bush’s action was widely denounced as dictatorial and un-American, and law professors speculated that the administration was afraid that the evidence against Osama bin Laden was too weak to hold up in court. Vice President Dick Cheney said that suspected terrorists “don’t deserve to be treated as a prisoner of war. They don’t deserve the same guarantees and safeguards that would be used for an American citizen going through the normal judicial process.” Forty-five percent of Americans, according to a new poll, would not object to the use of torture to obtain information about terrorism. Three human rights groups charged that Israel has resumed the systematic torture of Palestinian detainees in violation of an order by the Israeli supreme court. American Special Forces were roaming the hills of Afghanistan on horseback searching for Osama bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar, who were on the run after the Taliban lost most of its territory. Oil prices were dropping. Foreign Taliban fighters in Kunduz executed more than 400 of their Afghan comrades to keep them from defecting. Refugees reported that they were killing civilians as well. In areas that have fallen to the Northern Alliance, Red Cross workers found bodies of Taliban soldiers, mostly foreigners, with bullet holes between their eyes. Northern Alliance forces entering Kabul were photographed beating and summarily executing a wounded Taliban soldier as he begged for his life. Reports of other such war crimes were unconfirmed. Presidents Bush and Putin had a fine time kidding around down on the ranch in Crawford, Texas, and they agreed to cut American and Russian nuclear arms by two thirds.President Bush announced that “the United States and Russia are in the midst of a transformationed relationship.”

A grave digger in Nigeria was arrested trying to sell two fresh human heads, which he was carrying in a bag; many Nigerians believe that human genitals, tongues, eyes, and skulls are good for casting spells. Members of the Liguria parliament in Genoa, Italy, banned the use of the word “member” to describe one another because it also means “penis,” which “is likely to cause a certain uneasiness among women”; henceforth, members will be known as “components” of parliament. A man stole 21 ceramic penises from an art exhibit in Boulder, Colorado, and left an American flag in their place. Schoolchildren in Indiavoted overwhelmingly to name a white tiger cub in the Lucknow Zoo Osama bin Laden; Hitler was another popular choice. Thousands of dead fish killed by industrial waste in a lake in Bangladesh were being collected and eaten by poor people. Pentagon officials were still trying to decide on a new color for food-aid packages; the current yellow color matches the one used for cluster bombs. Buildings were evacuated in Toronto when a cleaning woman mistook a vibrator that was hidden in a bathroom for a bomb. Iraq fired a mortar shell at Kuwait. Seven thousand virgins in Tanzania got together and promised not to have sex until marriage. Two hundred members of the Italian Association of Cuckolds gathered in Ruviano. In Singapore, hundreds of delegates were gathering for an international summit on the future of the toilet. China held its first conference on AIDS; an anonymous patient gave a brief speech from a dark stage lit only by green glow sticks.

Congress finally passed a bill to nationalize airport security; 28,000 federal passenger and baggage screeners will be deployed within a year. House Republicans insisted that some airports be given the option to hire private security companies after three years. Postal Service investigators found another anthrax letter. BioPort, the sole company approved by the government to make the anthrax vaccine, admitted that it still wasn’t able to pass inspection and begin producing the vaccine. Philip Morris announced that it will change its name to Altria and promptly registered derogatory Internet domain names such as altriakills.com. Retreating Al Qaedaterrorists in Afghanistan left behind nuclear designs written in Arabic, German, Urdu, and English; foul-smelling liquids; and a recipe for building a nuclear bomb that included detailed descriptions of how TNT can cause plutonium to begin its deadly chain reaction. Lists of Florida flight schools, a flight-simulator program, and a map showing power plants in Europe were also found. It later emerged that the atomic-bomb recipe was a parody that has been circulating on the Internet for years. A deranged homeless man pushed a woman in front of a No. 6 subway train in New York. Six men in South Africa were arrested for gang-raping a 10-month-old baby girl. A deranged woman in New York drowned her daughter Signifagance while trying to perform an exorcism on her. Prozac causes mice to become extremely aggressive, especially when they drink alcohol, researchers found, and brain scans can now reveal whether someone is lying. John C. Danforth, the American special envoy for Sudan, jumped over a dead cow. There were floods in Texas and Algeria, and wildfires were burning in southern Appalachia. Archaeologists in Syria found a 3,800-year-old recipe for beer.

Share
Single Page

More from Roger D. Hodge:

From the October 2010 issue

Speak, Money

Get access to 169 years of
Harper’s for only $23.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2020

Trumpism After Trump

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“My Gang Is Jesus”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Cancer Chair

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Birds

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Skinning Tree

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Interpretation of Dreams

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Dearest Lizzie

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Trumpism After Trump·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The city was not beautiful; no one made that claim for it. At the height of summer, people in suits, shellacked by the sun, moved like harassed insects to avoid the concentrated light. There was a civil war–like fracture in America—the president had said so—but little of it showed in the capital. Everyone was polite and smooth in their exchanges. The corridor between Dupont Circle and Georgetown was like the dream of Yugoslav planners: long blocks of uniform earth-toned buildings that made the classical edifices of the Hill seem the residue of ancestors straining for pedigree. Bunting, starched and perfectly ruffled in red-white-and-blue fans, hung everywhere—from air conditioners, from gutters, from statues of dead revolutionaries. Coming from Berlin, where the manual laborers are white, I felt as though I was entering the heart of a caste civilization. Untouchables in hard hats drilled into sidewalks, carried pylons, and ate lunch from metal boxes, while waiters in restaurants complimented old respectable bobbing heads on how well they were progressing with their rib eyes and iceberg wedges.

I had come to Washington to witness either the birth of an ideology or what may turn out to be the passing of a kidney stone through the Republican Party. There was a new movement afoot: National Conservatives, they called themselves, and they were gathering here, at the Ritz-Carlton, at 22nd Street and M. Disparate tribes had posted up for the potlatch: reformacons, blood-and-soilers, curious liberal nationalists, “Austrians,” repentant neocons, evangelical Christians, corporate raiders, cattle ranchers, Silicon Valley dissidents, Buckleyites, Straussians, Orthodox Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Tories, dark-web spiders, tradcons, Lone Conservatives, Fed-Socs, Young Republicans, Reaganites in amber. Most straddled more than one category.

Article
The Cancer Chair·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The second-worst thing about cancer chairs is that they are attached to televisions. Someone somewhere is always at war with silence. It’s impossible to read, so I answer email, or watch some cop drama on my computer, or, if it seems unavoidable, explore the lives of my nurses. A trip to Cozumel with old girlfriends, a costume party with political overtones, an advanced degree on the internet: they’re all the same, these lives, which is to say that the nurses tell me nothing, perhaps because amid the din and pain it’s impossible to say anything of substance, or perhaps because they know that nothing is precisely what we both expect. It’s the very currency of the place. Perhaps they are being excruciatingly candid.

There is a cancer camaraderie I’ve never felt. That I find inimical, in fact. Along with the official optimism that percolates out of pamphlets, the milestone celebrations that seem aimed at children, the lemonade people squeeze out of their tumors. My stoniness has not always served me well. Among the cancer staff, there is special affection for the jocular sufferer, the one who makes light of lousy bowel movements and extols the spiritual tonic of neuropathy. And why not? Spend your waking life in hell, and you too might cherish the soul who’d learned to praise the flames. I can’t do it. I’m not chipper by nature, and just hearing the word cancer makes me feel like I’m wearing a welder’s mask.

Article
“My Gang Is Jesus”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

When Demétrio Martins was ready to preach, he pushed a joystick that angled the seat of his wheelchair forward, slowly lifting him to a standing position. Restraints held his body upright. His atrophied right arm lay on an armrest, and with his left hand, he put a microphone to his lips. “Proverbs, chapter fourteen, verse twelve,” he said. “ ‘There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is . . .’ ”

The congregation finished: “ ‘Death.’ ”

The Assembly of God True Grapevine was little more than a fluorescent-lit room wedged between a bar and an empty lot in Jacaré, a poor neighborhood on Rio de Janeiro’s north side. A few dozen people sat in the rows of plastic lawn chairs that served as pews, while shuddering wall fans circulated hot air. The congregation was largely female; of the few men in attendance, most wore collared shirts and old leather shoes. Now and then, Martins veered from Portuguese into celestial tongues. People rose from their seats, thrust their hands into the air, and shouted, “Hallelujah!”

Article
The Birds·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On December 7, 2016, a drone departed from an Amazon warehouse in the United Kingdom, ascended to an altitude of four hundred feet, and flew to a nearby farm. There it glided down to the front lawn and released from its clutches a small box containing an Amazon streaming device and a bag of popcorn. This was the first successful flight of Prime Air, Amazon’s drone delivery program. If instituted as a regular service, it would slash the costs of “last-mile delivery,” the shortest and most expensive leg of a package’s journey from warehouse to doorstep. Drones don’t get into fender benders, don’t hit rush-hour traffic, and don’t need humans to accompany them, all of which, Amazon says, could enable it to offer thirty-minute delivery for up to 90 percent of domestic shipments while also reducing carbon emissions. After years of testing, Amazon wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration last summer to ask for permission to conduct limited commercial deliveries with its drones, attaching this diagram to show how the system would work. (Amazon insisted that we note that the diagram is not to scale.) Amazon is not the only company working toward such an automated future—­UPS, FedEx, Uber, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, have similar programs—­but its plans offer the most detailed vision of what seems to be an impending reality, one in which parce­l-toting drones are a constant presence in the sky, doing much more than just delivering popcorn.

Article
The Skinning Tree·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Every year in Lusk, Wyoming, during the second week of July, locals gather to reenact a day in 1849 when members of a nearby band of Sioux are said to have skinned a white man alive. None of the actors are Native American. The white participants dress up like Indians and redden their skin with body paint made from iron ore.

The town prepares all year, and the performance, The Legend of Rawhide, has a cast and crew of hundreds, almost all local volunteers, including elementary school children. There are six generations of Rawhide actors in one family; three or four generations seems to be the average. The show is performed twice, on Friday and Saturday night.

The plot is based on an event that, as local legend has it, occurred fifteen miles south of Lusk, in Rawhide Buttes. It goes like this: Clyde Pickett is traveling with a wagon train to California. He tells the other Pioneers: “The only good Injun’s a dead Injun.” Clyde loves Kate Farley, and to impress her, he shoots the first Indian he sees, who happens to be an Indian Princess. The Indians approach the Pioneers and ask that the murderer give himself up. Clyde won’t admit he did it. The Indians attack the wagon train and, eventually, Clyde surrenders. The Indians tie Clyde to the Skinning Tree and flay him alive. Later, Kate retrieves her dead lover’s body and the wagon train continues west.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

In response to a major volcanic eruption, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines vowed he would “eat that ashfall. I’m even going to pee on Taal, that goddamned volcano.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Jesus Plus Nothing

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

Subscribe Today