Weekly Review — April 29, 2003, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

United States officials met in China with their North Korean counterparts and warned them that talks would cease if they did not stop issuing “bellicose” statements. The North Koreans admitted they already have nuclear weapons and may test, export, or use them depending on U.S. actions; Donald Rumsfeld thought this might present an opportunity for another “regime change.” The U.S. warned Iran not to meddle in Iraq’s political affairs and accused the country of sending agents into the south to promote an Iranian model of government; to counter the damage, troops and intelligence officers were asking Iraqi clerics to please issue fatwas in support of the American administration of the country. The U.S. warned Iraqis not to exploit their country’s power vacuum by appointing themselves to political positions, and American soldiers arrested the former exile who announced that he was the mayor of Baghdad. Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister, negotiated a surrender to Diane Sawyer of ABC News but changed his mind and turned himself in to military officials, who were also holding the former liaison to U.N. weapons inspectors and a quarter of the 55 “most wanted” Iraqi fugitives. Bush was feeling nostalgic for Iraq’s former information minister, who famously overstated the Baathist defense of Baghdad: “He’s my man; he was great. He was a classic,” said the president. NASAresearchers were planning to fire bunker-buster missiles at the moon, to look for ice. Donald Rumsfeld denied that the Bush Administration wishes to establish military bases in postwar Iraq and worried that the widely reported story might give other countries the wrong impression. President Bush told a group of Arab Americans that Iraqis will be free to choose whatever form of government they like, as long as it’s a democracy. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites traveled to Karbala to flagellate themselves in commemoration of the death of Hussein, Muhammad’s grandson. The pilgrims, gathering for the first time since 1977 because “the government used to shoot us when we tried this in the past,” chanted, wailed, beat themselves with whips, cut their heads open with swords, and asked the Americans to go home. White House officials said they had underestimated the Shiites’ level of organization and fervor and were unprepared to deal with growing enthusiasm for the installation of an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist government. An Iranian fatwa warned that the Great Satan “will incite lust by allowing easy access to stimulating satellite channels.”

Gay rights groups were calling for the resignation of Senator Rick Santorum, who told the Associated Press that if the Supreme Court overturns a Texas ban on sodomy, “then you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.” The senator went on to reassure voters that “I have no problem with homosexuality” but “I have a problem with homosexual acts.” An Iranian film actress was sentenced to public flogging for kissing a male director on the forehead at an awards ceremony. An ABC News closed-captioning typist informed viewers that Alan Greenspan was “in the hospital for an enlarged prostitute“; viewers later that evening were advised that in fact the Federal Reserve chairman was having prostate problems. In an effort to contain the SARS epidemic, the Chinese government sealed dozens of hospitals and closed all movie theaters, bars, public libraries, and churches in Beijing, quarantined more than 7,500 people, and closed all of the city’s primary and secondary schools for at least two weeks, suggesting that the affected 1.7 million students study at home instead. Researchers warned that the disease was mutating and becoming more virulent, and concluded that at least 10 percent of victims are dying, not the 4 percent they had previously estimated. A Taiwanese man hanged himself because he incorrectly thought his wife had the disease. Airports in Singapore, Tokyo, and Hong Kong began using thermal imaging cameras to root out flushed faces, a sign of fever. Workers at LaGuardia Airport were arrested at the conclusion of “Operation Swig Swag” and charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of mini-bottles of airline liquor worth $1.5 million. Four American soldiers were arrested for stealing $900,000 from the $800 million they happened upon near abandoned Baghdad palaces and dog kennels. Customs agents detained journalists and soldiers who tried to bring contraband souvenirs back from the war, including paintings, artifacts, gold-plated firearms, swords, and now-worthless bonds. A Japanese businessman was selling gold-coated lumps of human excrement as lucky charms. China started producing beer made from cows’ milk. Pope John Paul beatified the 17th-century friar who invented cappuccino. The White House was pondering ways to punish France for opposing its invasion of Iraq, and noted that when President Bush attends an economic summit meeting in the French Alps in June, he will sleep in Switzerland.

President Bush’s advisers were busy planning his re-election and plotted to start the campaign later than any other in the 148-year history of the Republican Party, to capitalize on the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks. After former congressman Newt Gingrich accused Colin Powell and his staff of a string of diplomatic failures, an assistant secretary of state responded, “He is an idiot and you can publish that.” Scientists concluded that humans “are truly not that far in genetic complexity from the common bread mold.” Primate expert Jane Goodall pant-hooted like a chimpanzee at a federal hearing to bring attention to the problem of deforestation. “That may be the first time that the voice of the chimpanzee has been heard in the State Department,” she pointed out. Four hunger-crazed lions were shot dead by U.S. soldiers after escaping from the otherwise empty Baghdad zoo. President Bush prophesized that the U.S. would find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but rejected international calls for United Nations inspectors to augment the search. “Forget it,” said one administration official. “On principle, we don’t want the United Nations running around Iraq.” Hans Blix, the U.N. weapons inspector, pointed out that “We found as little, but with less cost.” Military officials admitted that they were holding children in the high-security prison for terrorists at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, even though they have not been accused of any offense, and said that they would be detained “until we ensure that they’re no longer a threat to the United States.” A Florida mother said she accidentally stabbed her 19-year-old son in the buttocks with a 12-inch knife when he wouldn’t get out of bed for work. National SpankOut Day was marked by parents who refrained from hitting their children for a day. Dozens of children in Pennsylvania were hospitalized after a chemical plant released a sticky cloud of glue into the air. Residents of Dagestan feared they were under nuclear attack after a thick layer of salt covered their city. Researchers determined that Ukrainian worms were having more sex since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. A foul odor was floating through western Japan. Parts of Louisiana and Mississippi were sinking.

Share
Single Page

More from Margaret Cordi:

Weekly Review May 10, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Weekly Review March 15, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Weekly Review February 1, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

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

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

January 2020

Click Here to Kill

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Vicious Cycles

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Oceans Apart

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Forty-Year Rehearsal

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Whale Mother

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Click Here to Kill·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On a sunny July day in 2018, Alexis Stern was sitting behind the wheel of the red Ford Fusion her parents had given her the previous year when she’d learned to drive. Robbie Olsen, the boy she’d recently started dating, was in the passenger seat. They were in the kind of high spirits unique to teenagers on summer vacation with nothing much to do and nowhere in particular to go. They were about to take a drive, maybe get some food, when Stern’s phone buzzed. It was the police. An officer with the local department told her to come down to the station immediately. She had no idea what the cops might want with her. “I was like, am I going to get arrested?” she said.

Stern had graduated from high school the month before, in Big Lake, Minnesota, a former resort town turned exurb, forty miles northwest of the Twin Cities. So far she had spent the summer visiting family, hanging out with her new boyfriend, and writing what she describes as “action-packed and brutal sci-fi fantasy fiction.” At sixteen, she’d self-published her first novel, Inner Monster, about a secret agent named Justin Redfield whose mind has been invaded by a malevolent alter ego that puts the lives of his loved ones at risk. “It isn’t until his inner demon returns that he realizes how much trouble he really is in,” the synopsis reads. “Facing issues with his girlfriend and attempting to gain control of his dark side, the tension intensifies. Being the best agent comes at a price, a price of kidnapping, torture and even death.”

Article
Oceans Apart·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I had been in Domoni—an ancient, ramshackle trading town on the volcanic island of Anjouan—for only a few summer days in 2018 when Onzardine Attoumane, a local English teacher, offered to show me around the medina. Already I had gotten lost several times trying to navigate the dozens of narrow, seemingly indistinguishable alleyways that zigzagged around the old town’s crumbling, lava-rock homes. But Onzardine had grown up in Domoni and was intimately familiar with its contours.

Stocky in build, with small, deep-set eyes and neatly trimmed stubble, Onzardine led me through the backstreets, our route flanked by ferns and weeds sprouting from cracks in the walls and marked by occasional piles of rubble. After a few minutes, we emerged onto a sunlit cliff offering views of the mustard-colored hills that surround the town, dotted with mango, palm, and breadfruit trees. We clambered down a trail, past scrawny goats foraging through piles of discarded plastic bottles, broken flip-flops, and corroded aluminum cans, toward a ledge where a dozen young men were waiting for the fishing boats to return to shore, gazing blankly out across the sea.

Article
Vicious Cycles·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

This is what I feared, that she would speak about the news . . . about how her father always said that the news exists so it can disappear, this is the point of news, whatever story, wherever it is happening. We depend on the news to disappear . . .
—Don DeLillo, “Hammer and Sickle”

What a story. What a fucking story.
—Dean Baquet, on the election of Donald Trump

a circular conversation

What is the news? That which is new. But everything is new: a flower blooms; a man hugs his daughter, not for the first time, but for the first time this time . . . That which is important and new. Important in what sense? In being consequential. And this has been measured? What? The relationship between what is covered in the news and what is consequential. Not measured. Why? Its consequence is ensured. Ensured. . . ? It’s in the news. But then who makes it news? Editors. Editors dictate consequence? Not entirely. Not entirely? It matters what people read and watch—you can’t bore them. Then boredom decides? Boredom and a sense of what’s important. But what is important? What’s in the news.

Article
The Forty-Year Rehearsal·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On the evening of May 8, just after eight o’clock, Kate Valk stepped onstage and faced the audience. The little playhouse was packed with hardcore fans, theater people and artists, but Kate was performing, most of all, for one person, hidden among them, a small, fine-boned, black-clad woman, her blond-gray hair up in a clip, who smiled, laughed, and nodded along with every word, swaying to the music and mirroring the emotions of the performers while whispering into the ear of the tall, bearded fellow who sat beside her madly scribbling notes. The woman was Elizabeth LeCompte—known to all as Liz—the director of the Wooster Group, watching the first open performance of the company’s new piece, Since I Can Remember.

It had been a tense day, full of opening-night drama. Gareth Hobbs, who would be playing a leading role, had been sick in bed for days with a 103-degree fever, and he’d only arrived at the theater, still shaky, at three-thirty that afternoon. During the final closed rehearsal, performer Suzzy Roche fell on her elbow, then felt faint and had to lie prone while her colleagues fanned her and fetched ice. At one point, Erin Mullin, the stage manager as well as a performer, shouted: “We have one hour left, and we’re on page eight of fifty!” Not to mention that the piece still had no ending.

Article
Election Bias·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the spring of 2018, Tequila Johnson, an African-American administrator at Tennessee State University, led a mass voter-registration drive organized by a coalition of activist groups called the Tennessee Black Voter Project. Turnout in Tennessee regularly ranks near the bottom among U.S. states, just ahead of Texas. At the time, only 65 percent of the state’s voting-age population was registered to vote, the shortfall largely among black and low-income citizens. “The African-American community has been shut out of the process, and voter suppression has really widened that gap,” Johnson told me. “I felt I had to do something.”

The drive generated ninety thousand applications. Though large numbers of the forms were promptly rejected by election officials, allegedly because they were incomplete or contained errors, turnout surged in that year’s elections, especially in the areas around Memphis and Nashville, two of the cities specifically targeted by the registration drive. Progressive candidates and causes achieved notable successes, capturing the mayor’s office in heavily populated Shelby County as well as several seats on the county commission. In Nashville, a local measure was passed introducing a police-accountability board.

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.

The Chevrolet Suburban sport utility vehicle was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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