Weekly Review — August 19, 2003, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

The United States and parts of Canada suffered a massive blackout that left millions of people in 8 states without electricity; New York City, Detroit, Cleveland, and Toronto were all affected. Officials soon determined that the outage, the largest in American history, was caused by a failed line in Ohio. “We are a major superpower with a Third World electrical grid,” said Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico.New York Times“We’ll have time to look at it and determine whether or not our grid needs to be modernized,” said President George W. Bush, who has opposed legislation to improve the grid. “I happen to think it does, and have said so all along.”UndernewsA toy airplane made of balsa wood and Mylar and weighing less than 5 kilograms flew across the Atlantic Ocean.BBCIt was reported that a Marine Corps lance corporal was convicted of using a military credit card to buy a car, a motorcycle, furniture, and a breast lift.ABCNews.comIn Iraq, saboteurs blew up a large oil pipeline to Turkey three days after it reopened,New York Timesa water main was bombed in Baghdad, and U.S. soldiers “engaged” and killed a Reuters cameraman;Austin American Statesmanthe police chief of Mosul was shot and two other officers died in an ambush; a Danish soldier was killed, some American soldiers were shot as they left a restaurant, and a sewage plant was set on fire.BBC“Every American needs to believe this,” said General Ricardo Sanchez, the head of U.S. forces in Iraq, “that if we fail here in this environment, the next battlefield will be the streets of America.”Associated Press Wildlife workers in Hawaii asked for permission to exterminate up to 200 nonnative red-and-green parrots.New York Times

Idi Amin, the former tyrant of Uganda, under whose rule more than 400,000 people perished, was said to be looking for a kidney donor to save his life.He was apparently unsuccessful.BBCThe Middle East peace process continued as Israeli forces conducted a raid in Nablus, killing at least two Hamas members; Hamas retaliated with a suicide bombing, killing an Israeli settler.The Al Aksa Martyrs brigade also carried out a bombing, killing one Israeli.Israel killed an Islamic Jihad commander, and the group promised revenge attacks.New York TimesAn eight-year-old girl’s thumb was recovered from the stomach of a pit bull in Romeoville, Illinois.Chicago Sun-TimesSylvester Stallone’s mother said that her dogs, which she believes to be psychic, have predicted a victory for Arnold Schwarzenegger in the California recall election, and an apocalyptic Christian preacher named Jack Van Impe claimed that he had been contacted by Condoleezza Rice, who he said asked him for an outline of what the end of the world will be like.MSNBC.comFox News sued Al Franken, the comedian, because his new book includes the words “fair and balanced” in the title; Fox claims to own the commonly used phrase, which it uses to great ironic effect in its advertisements.Associated PressTwo hundred U.S. Marines landed in Liberia,New York Timesand government workers in Bristol, England, were told to stop calling people “dear” and “love.”New York Times

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts discovered a one-celled creature, which they called Strain 121, that can survive temperatures up to 121 degrees centigrade, the temperature used by medical sterilization equipment.Boston GlobeThe United States Army delayed the destruction of more than 1,200 tons of VX, a deadly nerve agent, at the Newport Chemical Depot, 30 miles north of Terre Haute, Indiana, because the plant has failed to meet environmental standards.Associated PressA Greek oil tanker sank off a popular Pakistani beach and dumped at least 12,000 metric tons of oil into the water. People were complaining of dead fish and “pungent smells” as the oil washed ashore.New York TimesPenthouse magazine’s parent company filed for bankruptcy protection.BloombergUp to 3,000 people were estimated to have died in the French heat wave.Canada.comOpium production was up in Afghanistan; Donald Rumsfeld described the situation as “one whale of a tough problem.”New York TimesIn Antarctica, researchers for the first time successfully photographed a whale passing gas.News.com.auIceland resumed its “scientific” whaling program.BBCThe Department of Defense was said to be developing new gamma-ray weapons that it says could “revolutionize all aspects of warfare.”New ScientistThe World Health Organization said that Asia needs about 24 billion condoms a year but that only 6 to 9 billion are being distributed.BBCVaginal-enhancement surgery was all the rage in Britain; women in New York City, who are fond of narrow shoes, were said to be having their toes shortened.Observer.co.ukChinese scientists developed hybrid human-rabbit embryos.New ScientistA leading zoologist said that “homosexuals are at the pinnacle of human evolution.”Planetout.comA sniper was on the loose in West Virginia.Local6.com

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

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.

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.

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.

A decorated veteran of the American wars in Vietnam and Iraq had his prosthetic limbs repossessed from his home in Mississippi when the VA declined to pay for them.

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